Brian Monteith: positive about our Great Britain

British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks with soldiers during his visit to the Walcheren Barracks in Glasgow. Pic: Russell Cheyne - WPA Pool /Getty Images
British Prime Minister David Cameron speaks with soldiers during his visit to the Walcheren Barracks in Glasgow. Pic: Russell Cheyne - WPA Pool /Getty Images
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I take my hat off to David Cameron. Ever since he became leader of the Conservative Party he has made it his business to visit Scotland with a regularity that would suggest this is a Tory stronghold.

But of course it’s not. There is only one Tory member of parliament, which is a great injustice considering there were 412,000 Tory votes in the general election of 2010, compared to the six Nationalist MPs elected from 491,000 votes.

Since Cameron became prime minister he has kept up those visits, recognising that as head of a coalition government he has a further 11 Liberal Democrats (from 466,000 votes) giving him support.

While Scotland voted Labour (41 MPs on 1,035,000 votes) it also voted unionist – with 53 MPs and 1,912,000 votes for parties committed to the UK. So when he comes to Scotland to say he wants Scotland to keep making Great Britain great – he is fully entitled to do so.

And this upbeat optimistic speech that he has just made is not the first – by my reckoning it is at least the third time he has laid out the positive case for the Union in the past year.

But here’s the funny thing, the positivity that he exudes has rarely been given recognition, for no sooner does he step foot across the Border and the tirade of abuse and rejection starts and fabricated assertions are made about unionist scaremongering before he’s spoken one syllable. For when it comes to negativity, the masters of the art are in fact the Yes campaign in general and the SNP in particular. The whole premise of the Yes campaign is being built upon a divisiveness that seeks to find fault with Great Britain at every turn.

Just this week the SNP argued that Scots were losing out on pensions because they have a marginally shorter life expectancy than people in England – but when you looked at the statistics what had been done was to take Scotland’s constituency with the lowest average lifespan and compare it with the English constituency with the highest. How absurd!

The same effect could be found by comparing Glasgow with Edinburgh or Inverness – but should that mean Glaswegians should have an earlier retiral age than people in Edinburgh or Inverness?

And why do they die earlier? Is it not in the main because the wrong lifestyle choices of people determine so many needlessly die young.

And here’s another thing – the proportion of Scots of pensionable age is in fact higher than it is in the rest of the UK, and were we to have an earlier retiral age that proportion would be higher still. This means that the cost of the Scottish state pensions is subsidised by our other UK partners – as they are having to transfer funds to a greater number of Scots than if the proportions were all equal. Needless to say, the Yes campaign did not want to talk about that – because the ­subsidy we receive is a positive benefit of being in the UK.

When nations share their sovereignty it means they have to accept that from time to time they may not get their way, they may not be the first priority or they may get a different political leader than who they hoped for. But what applies to Scotland also applies to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The reason nations decide to enter into such an agreement is because they reason that the benefits that will accrue from working together are worth the cost of sometimes not getting their way.

And what are those benefits? Well they include greater opportunities in employment, business, and advancement both at home and abroad. Few countries have the vast network of international relationships, embassies and institutions that Great Britain has built up and developed over centuries.

They include the sharing of risk so that the costs of pensions, welfare, dealing with emergencies and calamities are spread between everyone. In this respect a country of nearly 65 ­million is better placed to absorb the costs of care than a country of barely five million.

They include the stronger security and greater ability to be a force for good in the world. They include the solidarity that can be vital when the country is threatened by an external force. For although Great Britain is not a superpower, it remains a strong force with international reach – but probably more importantly through all of the development work, academic reputation and institutional contacts, it is believed to be ranked first ahead of all other countries as the world’s leading soft power.

Why should we want to give up all of those benefits because we might not have wanted David Cameron as prime minister – a here today, gone tomorrow politician?

And why, if sharing sovereignty with our Great British family is so wrong, does Alex Salmond want to share it with the even more out-of-touch and undemocratic European Union?

There is no consistency, no logic, to the Yes campaign. As Cameron said, Scots have indeed put the great into Great Britain and I would like my sons and (hopefully) my grandchildren to have the same chance.