A wee comparison

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Warning: may contain politics

Here’s a pretty picture you may well be familiar with. It’s a picture of the British Mainland taken from space showing all the lights at night.
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It’s not just a pretty picture though, it illustrates a point I’ve made to a number of people over the years when they discover I believe Scotland should be Independent. Look at this wee nation in that picture, or rather, have a squint and see how much of it is actually illuminated at night. Not that much really, is there? Nothing like as much as England, or even most of Wales. Aye, the Central belt is bright enough, but can you even make out the Solway Coast? Let alone most of the Highlands. I don’t think the picture includes the islands at all, but it’s a bit hard to tell.
What’s my point then? It’s actually a pretty simple one. The reason we don’t light up the night sky like England does is because under all of that darkness is countryside, and lots of it. Our country is largely rural, and so is our economy. Take the oil out and we’re left with whisky, food and tourism, all of which need that unilluminated rural expanse to thrive. England, on the other hand is a service driven, urban economy, evidenced above by the mass of city lights across it’s length and breadth.
Now, obviously there is a large population difference between Scotland and England, which goes some way to explaining the greater urbanisation of our southern neighbours. The untold story though is about the difference in infrastructure. Let’s start by looking at the road and rail networks of our respective countries.

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Starting with the road networks, taken from Google maps. It’s quite startling to see how little of Scotland is serviced by major roads.

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That’s the rail networks, which much the same as the road networks leave large parts of Scotland very poorly serviced.
Of course it would be very easy to say that given our smaller population it makes sense, but I don’t believe that really cuts it. Let’s look at another near neighbour to illustrate why.

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There we have the road network of France, which has large urban and rural areas, and an economy as reliant on food, drink and tourism as Scotland has.
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This is the French rail network, interestingly including high speed rail links.
So, in France we can see a much more even service of transport links than in the severely unbalanced infrastructure of the UK, where connectivity is concentrated in the south-east. France is a full six places above the UK in the UN’s recent Human Development Index, which ranks countries on the inequality in their societies, and although I oversimplify by focusing  exclusively on infrastructure here, it is easy to see that Scotland’s infrastructure has been left behind England’s. I’m not going to go into any detail about HS2 here, but the fact that Scotland is a long way down the priority list for this project, in spite of being named third best country to visit by Lonely Planet this year, gives a little perspective on Westminster’s infrastructure priorities. It should go without saying that a rural, food and tourism based economy benefits from good transport infrastructure. The real problem here is that two such different economies are very difficult to cater to under one stewardship, and Scotland, with it’s lower population and low representation in Westminster, is always going to lose out.
So, in short,  Scotland needs to be independent to be able to take the correct level of care of her economy and infrastructure. The UK is clearly uneven and unequal in both of these areas, and England and Scotland have clearly divergent needs and circumstances. Better Together? Honestly, for both nations, I think not.

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