Tuesday, 12 February 2008

Berwick and borders

I have a stat counter on my blog, which allows me to see how many visitors the blog has had, and interestingly, where in the world they have logged on to the computer. I appear to have a regular reader in Toronto for example, and visitors from all corners of the world. I would like to welcome the latest visitor, from Oxford University, to these pages and I hope they make interesting reading ;o)

I now turn to the point of this post...

I grew up in the Scottish Borders, and I have a certain fondness for Berwick-upon-Tweed. As the nearest town with a train station, arguably the best selection of shops that could be accessed without going all the way into Edinburgh, and the seaside - we spent a lot of time there as a family when I was growing up. So, it is very strange to see it hitting the headlines, with all this discussion about Berwick becoming part of Scotland.


Personally, I don't see a problem with it from Scotland's point of view, but it really is for the people of the area to decide. One of the arguments put forward for the move is that people in Scotland are benefiting from better public policies than people living in England. Free personal care for the elderly, free prescriptions, the abolition of tuition fees, the freezing of Council Tax - all desirable and all happening in Scotland.

I don't subscribe to the view that public policy developments in Scotland will necessarily result in increased resentment towards Scotland from people in England, or Wales and Northern Ireland for that matter. Surely improvements in Scotland give people in the other constituent parts of the UK the evidence and leverage for other political institutions to follow suit? In the same way that Scottish politicians were able to point to the experience of Wales when they abolished prescription charges, the Scottish Government's decision now provides English MPs with the evidence they need to push for similar improvements in England. Apparently, improvements in the way that children from asylum seeking families are being treated in Scotland are also informing progress across the UK.

I believe that Scotland will be better off independent, but that doesn't mean that my concern for people ends at the border. Until we achieve independence, and after we achieve independence, I firmly believe that all the nations that make up the UK can learn from each other, and use differences in public policy to improve the governance of each nation. Obviously, the EU provides a wider opportunity to compare polices and raise standards - but there will always be a special relationship between those countries that currently constitute the UK.


Jeff said...

Aha, independence by stealth.

So when the SNP are done taking other bits of the UK, Scotland will be independent and have about 60million inhabitants. And the 'chair at the EU' problem will be sorted too ;)

But seriously, I think this Berwick plan is deeply flawed. So what if parts of Berwick want to be Scottish? Just because another country has better living standards or policies you can't just chop and change who governs you on a whim.

Berwick has changed country 13 times and it's about time someone told them to make their bloody mind up!

Southerner in the Great White North said...

Toronto here! Had no idea I'd become such a statistic... I'm an SNP supporter in North America who found some of the activist blogs around the time of the (rather glorious) May election. I still read a few favourites to get perspectives outside of the usual Herald/BBC Scotland/Scotsman realm. Keep up the thoughtful posts, and roll on [insert date of phantom Westminster election]...

Julie Hepburn said...

Hi there Toronto - mystery solved! Thanks for posting, and for the compliment of being one of your favourites :o)