11:20 Wednesday 20th August 2014
BBC Radio Cambridgeshire
[A]NDIE HARPER: This morning we’re talking about Scottish independence, not which way people are going to vote, but generally looking at it in terms of business. Because if people do have concerns, north and south of the border, it is all to do with finance, the pound, membership of the EU and how business would thrive. Ross Clark the commentator thought that it wouldn’t have too much effect . On the other hand we heard from one of our listeners Richard a few minutes ago who felt that he’d got it completely wrong, and it could be a catastrophe. Simon says “In the Times on 18th of this month it showed that if Scotland voted for independence, the size of the Scottish economy would rank 43rd in the world. They would be behind the Philippines, Finland and Greece, and just ahead of Pakistan in 44th place, Portugal 45th and Ireland 46th. So much for independent Scotland being a major player in the world.” That was Simon’s take on it. Well let’s talk shall we to Rupert Read from the Green Party in the East of England who gave us a call. Rupert, good morning to you.
RUPERT READ: Morning Andie.
ANDIE HARPER: Do you feel that it would be disastrous for the countries both sides of the border if Scotland were to vote yes? And I’m talking now in purely business terms.
RUPERT READ: I don’t think it would be disastrous. Not at all. I think we have to calm the debate down a little bit here. I think some people on both sides are getting a bit het up. The first thing really I’d like to say as a Green Party person about this issue is I do think it’s a matter for the Scottish people, and we in the Greens think that if the Scots decide they want to go their own way, then well, good luck to them. And I think we should be looking on the bright side of that, and not just on the dark side. I think it could have all sorts of positive consequences.
ANDIE HARPER: And those would be what?
RUPERT READ: Well for example, the Scottish devolved Parliament has already done some quite interesting things that people in England have looked on enviously. For example the way they’ve managed to hold down student tuition fees for university is one famous example. If they were to go independent, they would have more power still, obviously, to go their own way. So what about if they were to make big changes to the welfare system. for example? We in the Greens have been calling for a citizen’s income. That means that everybody gets a guaranteed income. You get rid of all the particular benefits that you have at the moment. You get rid of all of those. It simplifies the system drastically. It makes it a lot cheaper. Everyone gets the same basic benefit, to enable them to live off. Now I’m not saying that Scotland would bring that in, but it might bring it in. The Scottish Greens would certainly be arguing for bringing it in. And that would just be one example of something that Scotland might decide to try, that people in England again might then start to look on and think, hmm, maybe that’s a good idea. I think that Scotland, if it does decide to go its own way, will have the opportunity to do all sorts of potentially positive things like that.
ANDIE HARPER: There is a feeling south of the border, rightly or wrongly, that the reason Scotland can have no tuition fees, can very much help when it comes to health and general welfare issues, is because we, England, the bulk of the country, are paying for it. Is that a misconception? Are they not paying for these things with a handout from the richer south?
RUPERT READ: Well the figures as far as I can tell are fairly equivocal. It’s not really clear. There’s arguments on both sides on that one. I think what is clear is that the Scottish people are willing to pay more tax to have a stronger and a better state, with better social security benefits, better care for the old, better care for the young. That’s a good thing. So I would say again if Scotland decides to go their own way, and they take that even further, that would probably have, on balance, positive consequences for them. And I think people in England will look at Scotland then and they’ll think, OK, they pay a little bit more tax, and they get this and this and this for it. Well, maybe we should think about doing that as well. We should really be thinking of the state as something positive in our lives, and not just as something negative. Think about the National Health Service for example. If Scotland goes independent, I think that they will decide to fund the NHS very very strongly. Now the NHS is going through a serious funding crisis, I think that could be very appealing to citizens both north and south of the border.
ANDIE HARPER: Rupert, it’s good to talk to you. Thank you very much for your call. That’s Rupert Read from the Green party in the East of England.