It is with some disbelief that I read the news that the ‘No’ campaign (anti-independence) seriously attempted to argue that people should reject a self-governing Scotland because if Scots ever visited England they would have to pay punitive mobile roaming charges. As the SNP have pointed out this morning, the UK government department that made this claim already approved a Europe-wide agreement to remove roaming charges some two weeks ago.
Not that that’s the point. What’s of more concern is the fact that it reinforces the entirely negative, fear-mongering of the unionists. We’ve had piles of these stories and the aim is not necessarily to win the argument on any one, but rather to create a more general belief that the whole project would be so complex and with so many repercussions for ordinary day-to-day life that it isn’t worth it. That’s the saddest part of all; that there is no positive case for maintaining the union. But of course, if the result of next year’s referendum is indeed ‘no’, then just wait for the triumphalism being used to dismantle what little self-government (and self-respect) we have. Powers would be rescinded and perhaps the whole Parliament wound down with time. That’s the real plan of those parties: “You’ve had your fun. Now it’s time to come back to the fold.” And why? Not just massive losses to the Westminster exchequer, but also the embarrassment of having a border with a successful, socially-just and left-leaning country that demonstrates vividly the possibility of an alternative to the market-led consensus of Westminster.
But another aspect of this story is that it shows the extent to which unionist politicians are genuinely ignorant about the situation vis-a-vis Ireland and the UK. The Republic, being a sovereign independent country is actually classified in legal terms as ‘not foreign’. In practical terms this means that those of us who chose to live in each other’s country can vote in elections, need no passports and freely move as we chose just as we can around the rest of the EU. As for roaming charges? Well, funnily enough my Irish mobile company doesn’t charge those for the UK, but Vince Cable wouldn’t want you to know that.