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Ian Miller (front) at EU Elections

#IndyRef: We’re Better Together

Nationalism isn’t a new thing in Scotland. There has always been a minority of people who say we should go it alone, writes Ian Milller from the Midlothian Labour Party and Midlothian Co-Operative Party.

But people who know me know that I like a blether. And from the people around the place who I’ve been talking with about the Referendum, I can honestly say that the vast majority of folk want to stick together in the UK – just like before this long debate even started.

And why not? We get the best of both worlds in Scotland just now. We have our own Scottish Parliament that is in charge of Healthcare, Education and most other everyday priorities, but we’re also part of the UK, which helps bring jobs to Scotland and gives us a say at the top table. 1 in 5 Scottish employees works for a company with its HQ in a different part of the UK – why would we want to leave that all behind and put up barriers on our small island that could cost jobs?

Despite being in politics his whole life with the main aim of splitting up the country, it’s frightening that we’re less than 2 months away from this massive decision and Alex Salmond doesn’t seem to have the answers to the most basic questions.

On the subject of Scotland joining the EU, he tells us it will be absolutely fine. Nothing to worry about. The problem is: he has no idea if that’s true or not. Alex Salmond has spent £20,000 of taxpayers money to cover up the fact that he didn’t even have any legal advice about the situation. That leaves me worrying about what would happen if Scotland was forced to adopt the Euro, which has helped to wreck the economies of Greece, Spain and Italy? Even Alex Salmond’s own economic adviser has said:

“All new members of the EU are required to join the Euro eventually and it is not clear that there are grounds to argue that Scotland has the right to inherit the UK’s current Euro opt out.”

What if we had to spend a long time on the sidelines, waiting for our membership of the EU to be approved as a new, independent member? How many jobs and businesses would that cost us? And yet, despite the high stakes, Alex Salmond has no idea what would happen to our EU membership if Scotland became separate from the UK. On a question this big, I genuinely feel that folk deserved an honest answer from the people who want to split us up, but it doesn’t look like we will get that.

Another major benefit of being in the UK that splitting up could throw away is our stake in the British Pound. This one should be obvious – and it used to be for Nationalists. Separate countries have separate currencies, don’t they?

But after the financial crash, when taxpayers from all over the UK helped bail out the Royal Bank of Scotland – which we couldn’t have done alone – the SNP realised it was less fashionable to ditch the Pound. Now they insist there would be a “currency union”, which has already been ruled out. I’m worried that if we break away, we will be stuck either joining the Euro or using the pound that we have given up any control over. This is what happens in small countries like Panama – surely Scotland deserves better than that? We should stick together in a political union with the UK, where we send Scottish MPs to Westminster that have a say on how the Pound is run. I don’t want to split up and piggy back on another nation’s currency – I want to stay in the UK and continue sharing the pound.

These are hugely important questions for jobs, pensions and public services, but unfortunately we haven’t been given the facts by Alex Salmond. In fact, his insistence that “nothing much would change” in relation to our currency after Independence has been called “a huge deception” by two of the leading financial experts. Again, we are left to guess what would really happen to the Pound, because the Scottish Government hasn’t provided the answers to people.

So I would definitely be worried about jobs and pensions if Mr Salmond gets his way. But there is something more. I’m very proud to be British and Scottish (and – obviously – a Penicuik resident) and I don’t see why we would want to break away in the first place. I’m a carpet fitter by trade and I’ve got more in common with a carpet-fitter or a joiner or any other tradesman in Newcastle or Liverpool than I do with an oil executive in Aberdeen, so why would I want to split myself away from working people in England or Wales or Northern Ireland.

The Nationalists have a plan to use Independence as a way to cut tax for big businesses by 3%. This goes against everything I believe in, because it would end up with Scotland competing against the rest of the UK to see who could offer businesses the lowest tax. What next? The weakest regulation, the lowest wages, the weakest unions? I don’t want to compete with my friends in the UK on that basis. I’d rather co-operate and see standards of living increase for all of us. When Labour win the General Election in May, the super wealthy will be asked to pay a 50% rate of tax, to help support all of us. If we split up, Alex Salmond won’t move ahead unless he gets the OK from London first. What kind of Independence is that, really?

I hate the idea that the Nationalists can duck the difficult questions by saying “oh, it’s scaremongering” to ask them in the first place. It’s not scaremongering – it’s common decency to tell someone what the plan is for after you break up their country, and the Nationalists have done Scotland a disservice by keeping these facts from us.

But even though I am worried about jobs, pensions and the currency if Scotland broke away, what it really comes down to for me is solidarity.

I would much rather stick together with working people across the UK than draw a line at Berwick and say “forget about the dinner lady in Durham or the welder in Portsmouth.” I want Scotland to remain a proud, outward looking nation, not a shy and unconfident one that has to shut itself away from its neighbours. I want us to work together to help each other. It’s one of the reasons I’m a Labour Party and Co-operative member.

What would it say about Scotland to the rest of the world if – on an island only 600 miles long – we can’t live in the same United Kingdom as our friends south of Berwick?

It would say that we’re only worried about “us, not them” and that we lack the confidence to be part of something bigger than just ourselves. I’m a proud Scot – and a proud British Citizen. I can be – and am – both. The Nationalists don’t seem to agree, but thankfully the vast majority of people who I’ve spoken to in Penicuik say “No thanks” to splitting our country in half.

The Penicuik Cuckoo’s #IndyRef Series continues on Friday 8 August with Yes Scotland’s article.