Margo MacDonald: We’d have the best of order with our border

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Recently, just for fun, I tried to spot the topics most likely to be gone over with fine tooth combs before a good proportion of my fellow citizens decide they are either for (more likely) or against taking control over them here in Scotland.

OK, so is there nothing about which you’re a bit of an anorak?

I decided pensions, private and state; housing, including the bedroom tax; currency, preferably Scots as soon as possible; and the EU, in or out deserves thinking about as there is at least one attractive alternative. I could be wrong, but the debate on the volume and composition of the thousands of people whose countries are members of the EU who exercise their right to stay in the UK will bump into the independence debate.

For example, Scottish people pride themselves on extending the hand of friendship to people who make Scotland their home. Nobody here anticipated the number of east Europeans there are now in Scotland. But the ratio of incomers to indigenous Scots allows for them to be judged as 
individuals.

Neither was it anticipated that England would become a very different country because of the scale of the challenges and difficulties to be tackled south of the Border. The pressure of numbers on English resources and services is much greater and more complex than the changes Scottish society has to accommodate. Sometimes the difference is so wide as to demand a different response from services, like the NHS and housing, on each side of the Border.

Politicians hesitate to enter into a discussion on who is allowed to enter their country in case, by stating a preference for one category rather than another, they could be accused of racism. With an awareness of that and without the sort of pressures being experienced in England, in Scotland we should be able to debate how our border security will be maintained and what sort of control should be exercised over the movement of people wishing to stay in Scotland.

For example, many of the fruit farmers in Scotland say that they could not operate without their staff originating from several countries in eastern Europe. Some of them are here for the season only, others are trying to make a life for themselves and their families here in Scotland.

Without planning, we are not in the same situation as New Zealand and Canada. Our Commonwealth cousins advertise in places where 
unemployment is very high for workers and they specify education, skills, age and abilities, which are scored on sliding scales according to the host country’s needs at that time. Is such a restrictive, selective system compatible with Scotland’s generous attitude towards incomers? We are lucky, we can afford to be generous as our population could increase by almost 50 per cent and still maintain the quality of life and services we enjoy, and create a substantial increase in our GDP.

We can feel relatively pleased at the goodwill shown towards Polish people and other eastern citizens. We should have confidence that we will be able to plan for the ways in which young people born in Scotland will have the chance of the best education and training the Scottish economy can support. But young people who start off life in countries other than Scotland but who share the ambition of their Scots-born workmates or fellow students can also build careers here.

Popular support for a population policy might exist on both sides of the Border but could prove much harder and longer to implement in England. The difficulties there have been compounded by the years of recession and the gap that has developed between different layers of English society.

But it’s difficult to see how the Better Together campaign can argue that Scotland will be better served by sticking with Westminster when we can clearly see that we would manage the growth rates in the Scottish population much better from Edinburgh. I think grandparents will find it hardest to vote against their youngsters’ best interests because of their traditional feelings of Britishness.

Classy Davie is a big loss

David McLetchie’s premature death has robbed him of what could turn out to be the best years the Scottish Tories have had recently.

But in this very sad period following his death, it’s only natural we should look back and savour Davie McLetchie’s classy style in debates and special events in and around parliament.

Mind you, the streetwise experience of the confirmed Jambo could break out and throw an opposition speaker completely off guard. But it was done in the best possible taste without unkindness or venom.

All of us will miss him