Lord Bilimoria participated in a major debate on Scottish independence, which was moved by the former Scottish Secretary, Lord Lang of Monkton. In his speech – Lord Bilimoria noted the tremendous benefits and potential that comes from the historic Union between England and Scotland, as well as the fiscal risks associated with the proposals for an independent Scotland to become part of the Stirling Zone;
My Lords, the leading Cambridge historian, Dr Clare Jackson, says that politicians on both sides of the Scottish independence debate could learn from King James VI of Scotland, who also became King James I of England. He dedicated his life to creating a truly united kingdom that would see Scotland, England—including the Principality of Wales—and Ireland share more than just a crown. The main thing is that he engaged in a huge public relations exercise using emotive rhetoric, and he knew how to compromise. He made the first attempt at creating a new flag. Dr Jackson said:
“It shrinks the tendency to assume that everything happening now has never been thought of before”— a point made by the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth. She added:
“Now exactly 300 years after Queen Anne’s death, the 2014 referendum will decide if the settlement she made will last or if Scotland will once again become an independent country sharing a monarch with England, just as it did throughout the Stuart century”.
I thank the noble Lord, Lord Lang, for his excellent speech in leading this debate. We have heard all the arguments so far and we will continue to hear them. We have heard about Alex Salmond and his SNP’s wish list and the serious consequences. As the noble Lord, Lord Robertson, said, Scotland is tiny. It has 8.4% of the population of Britain and contributes 8.1% of the GDP. From the noble Lord, Lord Forsyth, we heard about the famous Scots in every field imaginable, not just today but historically, always doing brilliantly. Scotland has so much that we need and it has so many hidden gems. Wearing my Cobra Beer hat, Heriot-Watt University very kindly gave me an honorary doctorate. The university has the International Centre for Brewing and Distilling, one of the three finest in the world, and it must remain not just Scottish but British.
Alistair Darling clearly pointed out that Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England, had said that,
“the failings of the Eurozone show that to have a successful monetary union you require fiscal and political union”.
I have said that time and time again. Mr Darling said that,
“the Governor’s judgement on currency unions is devastating for Alex Salmond’s currency plans. Why? Because the whole point of independence is to break the fiscal and political union that makes monetary union possible”.
Of course, Scotland has always had its own bank-notes—and long may they keep them.
Let us remind Alex Salmond about 2008. I have just returned from my annual week at the Harvard Business School. In March 2008, Alex Salmond made a speech at Harvard University and spoke about the “arc of prosperity” through Ireland, Iceland and Norway. He referred to,
“the lesson we draw from our neighbours in Ireland—the Celtic Tiger economy”.
He went on:
“With RBS and HBOS—two of the world’s biggest banks—Scotland has global leaders today, tomorrow and for the long-term”.
We are discovering the strength of that Scottish financial sector—but look at what London has done.
Let us keep this in perspective. In a currency union, Scotland has 10% of GDP and Britain has 90%. If it ever breaks up, we know who will call the shots. Losing the strength and security of the UK pound would have a profound impact on the Scots. The noble and learned Lord, Lord Wallace, as Advocate-General for Scotland, sent us a letter which clearly stated:
“The UK Government’s position is clear—Scotland benefits from being part of the UK, and the UK benefits from having Scotland within it”.
The letter gave a list of the “Top 20 Benefits of the UK”. He very clearly spelled out the Government’s stance on the matter.
One prediction following the assumption made by the House of Lords Select Committee on Economic Affairs was that it would result in Scotland accruing around 90% of oil revenues. Its report described this as the,
“economic bridge over which Scotland would pass to independence”,
and expected it to make up for all the loss of finances allocated by our Treasury under the Barnett formula. However, as has been said, the impact of prices in the oil market could just throw this, as could the length of time that oil will last. It would be a very unpredictable source of revenue.
Looking ahead, the university sector in Scotland is strong and we are proud of it. The Scottish Government are maintaining free access to higher education for Scots and people from the EU—except for people from England and Wales. In research funding, to this day, 15% of research for Scottish universities comes from UK charities. If Scotland breaks away, that will not last.
The Prime Minister has assured Mr Salmond that the reform of the Barnett formula, which gives Scots £1,364 per head more spending than the UK average, was “not on the horizon”. He did not say that it will never happen but Scotland has the assurance that that is not on the horizon. On 27 November 2013, YouGov published a poll which asked British citizens how they would vote—if they were able to—on whether Scotland should be an independent country. The response, by political party, was: Conservative, 65% no; Labour, 60% no; Liberal Democrat, 62% no; and even UKIP respondents voted 55% no. The response by gender was: males 57% no and females 54% no. It is overwhelming that the people of Britain, let alone the people of Scotland, do not want this.
Let us look back at history. Adam Smith, the great economic theorist and moral philosopher, never saw himself as Scottish. He was north British. Edinburgh, the Athens of the north, was a great centre of learning and at the heart of the Scottish Enlightenment. The wonderful Balmoral Hotel, where I have stayed, was known as the North British Hotel until the 1980s.
I will draw on my experience in India. The partition of India into India and Pakistan was a huge mistake. It did not last. My father fought for the liberation of Bangladesh. The united India of 1947—despite many attempts by parts of India to break away—has stayed united, and it is stronger united. Scotland today has the best of both worlds, being an independent country but being part of the United Kingdom.
Any Government will have many priorities, but the top four are: first, the security of citizens, both external and internal. If Scotland breaks away, we have heard that defence will go for a six. The second and third priorities are health and education, which the Scots have anyway. The fourth is the economy, and Scotland would be far weaker by being outside the UK.
The key issues are not just practical but the emotional. King James played on the emotional to get unity, and the noble Baroness, Lady Goldie, in her excellent maiden speech, said that she was equally proud to be both Scottish and British. My father’s regiment, the 5th Gurkhas shared battle honours with the Cameron and Gordon Highlanders. As a colonel, he made a pilgrimage to Inverness to visit the regiment because it meant so much. These are emotional identities.
In conclusion, my friend Amartya Sen, the Nobel laureate, speaks of identity. We have multiple identities. I am proud to be a Zoroastrian Parsi; I am proud to be an Asian in Britain; I am proud to be Indian; and I am really proud to be British. In the same way, I think that the Scottish are proud to be Scots and proud to be British. David Torrance published a book entitled The Battle for Britain: Scotland and the Independence Referendum. This is not about Scottish independence; this is a battle for Britain and a battle for the United Kingdom, which must stay united.