Over the last decade or so of often fractious debate, the views of many in Scotland have become increasingly hardened on Scotland’s big question - that is, whether we should remain in or leave the UK. Many of us have become rather adept at criticising the opposing view, and have sometimes lost sight of the importance of what we do agree on, and that whatever else we cannot be sure of, we will nevertheless be sharing our futures together.

This is an introduction to a new series of articles called the “ ’20/’21 series”, on the pros and cons of Scottish independence. Holyrood elections in May 2021 look set to be followed by a new push for a second independence referendum, so this series of articles seeks to address some of the many issues that are relevant to that debate.

Ironically, Scotland’s future will likely be decided by a relatively small minority in the centre ground of public opinion, perhaps some 20 per cent or so of the total, who are either undecided about where our best future lies, or else are still capable of being convinced to change their view.

In this new series of articles, I do not seek to hide my preference for Scotland remaining in the UK. Yet I hope I recognise the importance of showing respect for the opinions of those who do not agree with me. Whether they be in that centre ground of opinion, or indeed, hold the polar opposite view to me and prefer Scotland to find it’s own way as an independent country.

‘Health’ warning

Before embarking on these new articles, it seems only right that I should begin with a ‘health’ warning for readers, wherever they currently sit on the broad spectrum of opinion on Scotland’s big question:

For those who believe we should leave the UK

If you are among those convinced that only independence will take us to the future that we deserve, I freely admit that what follows is biased. I write as someone that does not share your view. Instead, I believe on balance we would all be better, in all the ways that matter, not just financial, by remaining in the UK.

So, in the first of the articles, where I look into the future of an independent Scotland, I do so with that inbuilt preference colouring the picture that I paint of where we might all find ourselves one day. I appreciate you could do the same thing and envisage an outcome that is in every respect more favourable than the one that I have portrayed.

For those who are not yet fully convinced by either side of Scotland’s big question

For those still capable of being persuaded in either direction, in what follows I do not hide where my ultimate preference lies. However, having become increasingly uncomfortable with the divisive nature of the prolonged arguments over Scottish independence, I will try to address the positives as well as the negatives of the case for independence.

As one of the undecided, your opinion will play a critical part in deciding Scotland’s future. I hope to show that, even taking into account the more persuasive aspects of the case for independence, there is a better alternative through continuing to work within the UK.

For those who want to remain in the UK

I have not changed my opinion from the position I held during and after the 2014 independence referendum campaign. I believe strongly that on balance we who live in Scotland should remain in the UK, and that we have much to lose if we give up on the UK. Yet simply saying that to those who are so far unconvinced does not really further the debate. Still less does criticising the position of those who favour independence in a disrespectful tone. That is more likely to harden opinion than change it.

While I cannot claim to be at all neutral on the subject of Scotland’s constitutional future, in what follows I am aiming for a slightly less partial tone. I want to better understand what drives those who oppose Scotland’s place in the UK, preferring to counter with reason rather than falling into the trap of appearing to merely mirror nationalist dogma.


I do not intend to antagonise with the words written here. Those who nevertheless feel aggrieved should remember that while I favour remaining in the UK, there are many issues that could go differently along the way. Amongst other things, one key will be the extent to which the SNP leadership pursue independence at any cost, rather than taking a more reasoned and moderate approach.

Finally, I would like to say that for all the economic, social and cultural arguments that can be deployed on the subject of Scotland’s big question, for me the most telling is to reflect on all that the peoples of these four nations of the UK have achieved together and can continue to do so in the future. A famous Scot once reminded us that you should never forget those who mean the most to you...

“Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And never brought to mind?
Should auld acquaintance be forgot,
And auld lang syne?”

‐ Robert Burns, 1788