I was speaking briefly to a friend yesterday who said he was a reluctant yes voter but feels very reluctant to leave the North of England to the ravages of Conservatives, I have actually heard this a few times and I totally understand the sentiment.
You won’t be surprised however to see that I don’t accept it as a reason to vote no. In my lifetime Scotland has always voted Labour in Westminster elections in the main, yeah there is normally around nine Liberal Democrat MPs and six or seven SNP MPs but in the main Scotland elects Labour for UK elections. In all that time, 45 years, I have seen three recessions, no real improvement in life expectancy, high unemployment masked by fiddles to the way it is measured, high child, adult and elderly poverty, diminishing public services to name a few. In around 30 of those 45 years I have been governed by Conservative governments that I did not vote for or Scotland voted for, my vote simply does not matter.
Now some will argue that devolution has made things better and in some ways it has but it hasn’t in many ways and never can be enough. Yes we have control over health, education, some transport etc but this is based on the amount of money we receive from Westminster within the Barnett formula. Now the Barnett formula is very complicated but basically if England cut health funding we receive a cut in the Scottish budget, if England cuts education spending we receive a cut in the Scottish budget. So while we might control how we spend the money we have in the these areas, in reality Westminster does as it can cut the Scottish budget simply be funding their own services in different ways, cutting them or privatising them. More recently we have seen massive investment being announced on high-speed rail and the London sewer system, in the past we would receive an adjustment up as they were seen as spending so would affect Barnett but what you have now, under both Labour and Tory governments is these projects being named national projects, so while our taxes contribute to paying for them we actually receive no financial benefit in any shape or form. The historical story of our taxes flowing South to fund parts of mainly England continues after 300 years.
But what does this have to with the north of England, well it does as it demonstrates that leaving English voters to vote for the parties they believe in, as they always have, will not be changed by Scotland leaving the political union with the rest of the UK. Our votes rarely have anything to do with the make up of a Westminster Government, take our votes away and the Governments for the last 100 years at least would have remained the same. English voters , as the larger populated country, decide who we get as our Government. That cannot continue anymore, the days of our vote not counting have to stop, leaving the north to the Conservatives is a choice that English voters already take with or without us. Remaining within the current system for sentimental reasons is not good enough, if we truly want to protect our children, do things a different way, have the government we voted for and get rid of nuclear weapons then you have to vote yes.
I actually believe our voting for independence is the best thing that can ever happen to England, our leaving the UK will encourage England and its people to have their own conversation about how they want to be governed, if they are happy to continue to be dominated by a London and elitist government and parties that is their choice to make, we have an opportunity to make a different choice and on this I will be leaving all sentiment behind when I cast my vote.