Life is funny (peculiar) isn’t it? I’m an admirer of cynic wit and one phrase that makes me smile is this: “Humans are the only creatures on the planet with the intelligence to build the Empire State Building. And the only (non flying) creatures on the planet stupid enough to jump off the top of it!”
That I think says a lot about the human condition. Our capacity for genius matched only by our capacity for stupidity.
That brings us to the image above. It is of Lake Chagan. Lake Chagan (or Lake Balapan) is in Kazakhstan. It is unusual as it is an artificial lake created by detonating a thermonuclear device back in the days of the USSR. OK you ask: What has this to do with Scottish Independence?
Well you see Russia and Scotland are very different. Scotland is a small country with lots of mountains and Russia is a big country with relatively not so much in the way of mountains. Yes they have the Urals and there are lots of mountains in the world’s largest open prison, AKA Siberia. But in the areas where most Russians live (when they are not chained up in gulags) is flat. Flat for miles and miles and miles. Now whilst this may seem like heaven to cyclists, it brings with it its own problems. Reservoirs being one of them. You see, it you have a human population you need to keep them supplied with water. A few conveniently placed hills here and there are very useful when putting up a dam to collect water. But what do you do if you haven’t any hills? Well one answer is to dig a hole near a freshwater source such as a river. Of course the hole has to be big and big holes have to be dug. And if you’re Russian and the hole is not to be dug in Siberia you have a problem as you have to pay the workforce.
So back in 1964 a Russian – probably called Alexander – had what he thought was a brilliant idea: How about putting a few of the thousands of H bombs they had to constructive use by digging a shaft, burying said H bomb, detonating it and creating a really big hole that would fill with water so people could have a reservoir? Well, “Alexander” put this brainwave up to the Central Committee. Now you would have thought that when presented with this plan the committee would have turned it down sending it back with a note suggesting that whoever came up with it needs psychiatric help. But not a bit if it! They gave it the green light. Well the fish didn’t like it. They demonstrated this by dying. The people didn’t like it. They demonstrated it by getting sick. So you won’t be surprised Dear Reader if we tell you that the Russians did not proceed further with this idea. The KGB might have given “Alexander” plastic surgery and sent him to Scotland however. Or maybe not.
Well now we have the spectacle of another lunatic suggesting another loony idea. That Scotland secedes from the Union. Why is this a loony idea? Well look at the map below (Click on the image to expand):You will see that we have marked two black lines on it. One runs due East from the Scottish-English border that is a quarter mile north of the northern tip of Marshall Meadows Bay on the Northumberland coast (it is a very nice part of the world – but then I’m biased as my mother although a Yorkshire lass is from an old Northumberland family). The other line is at the half way point in the Pentland Firth that separates Orkney from the Caithness coast.
These two lines are rather important as they delineate what oil and gas Scotland gets if it becomes independent. As you can see, England gets to keep a fair amount of it. It is however the northern black line that should worry Mr Salmond as that is the line north of which lies the oil and gas which Orkney and Shetland would claim were they to become independent.
British Gazette readers will of course realise that much of the rose tinted future Mr Salmond paints for his audience is predicated on the North Sea oil revenues flowing into the Scottish Treasury instead of the British Treasury. His spending plans rely on this. Now he might have factored in England taking its share, but from his statements, that appears in doubt. But it seems he has singularly failed to recognise the huge danger inherent in the rumblings in Orkney and Shetland.
You see, whilst the economic prosperity of an independent Scotland is open to doubt, there is no doubt whatsoever about the economic viability of an independent Commonwealth Realm of Orkney (380 sq miles/21,000 pop) and Shetland (567 sq miles/23,000 pop). With a combined population of 44,000 and 947 square miles, they compare favourably with the much poorer St. Kitts and Nevis 104 square miles and 51,538 population.
Economically the case could not be stronger and the economic first steps could not be more obvious:
Revenues would pour in from Day One. There would be no need for a shift in operations away from Aberdeen. The oil companies would simply wire transfer the money to a different account. Scotland is fretting about continued EU membership. No such worries would accompany an independent Orkney and Shetland – joining the EU would be nearly as daft as using an H bomb to create another reservoir. Any new European state has some choices to make: Do we begin to seek entry into the EU? Do we seek entry into the European Economic Area? Do we seek entry into EFTA? For an independent Orkney and Shetland the answers would be: No; No; and If you want. You see, the new state would be like Bahrain – but without the desert, the camels and the 120 Fahrenheit. Then we have the currency. Scotland is fretting about Sterling. Again, for the new state the answer is obvious: the US $. Just use the currency. Don’t even bother setting up your own. Why? Because oil is traded in the US $. Public Sector Borrowing requirement? Orkney and Shetland would inherit a proportion of the UK Sovereign Debt – in proportion to its population. They would have no problem paying it all off within a year. Links to the UK and elsewhere? No problem. Commonwealth membership would be a given. Ditto NATO (necessary from keeping the USA from fretting) and the UNO. One more thing: If the new state decided to ignore EFTA as well, it would probably do a very nice retail trade as they could probably start selling all manner of retail goods at prices found in New York. This would mean that Scots (who we know love a bargain) could make the relatively cheap crossing of the Pentland Firth in place of flying to New York for shopping trips.
Sounds like a plan?
The Orkney and Shetland islanders think so!