The issue of Scottish independence may dominate the landscape of the next British parliamentary term, but is it a fight that either the coalition government or the Scottish National Party need to be fighting?
What is clear is that David Cameron and the Liberal Democrats do not want an independent Scotland. What is also clear is that Alex Salmond and the SNP need to win their independence referendum by the end of this parliament. Added to this, the English would be happy for Scotland to leave the union, but the Scots are less in favour of seceding than the party that represents them. It is a mess and the coalition might be well advised to steer well clear of the divisive issue.
SNP leader Alex Salmond, after winning a landslide victory in May, has promised a referendum on independence before the end of the current parliament but as of yet has given no indication to the date or what the terms of the question will be.
The Guardian reports that Thursday night the chief secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said in a speech to the CBI's annual Scottish dinner in Glasgow that going it alone would be bad for Scotland. He said that a separate Scotland would have a national debt of around £65 billion, without taking in the cost of bailing out RBS and HBOS, reports the newspaper.
"Following the Quad meeting on Monday, senior government ministers are getting on the front foot in making the case for Scotland's place in the UK. We are determined to take the arguments head on and lay out the benefits for Scotland and the UK of Scotland being in the UK," a government source said.
The SNP is a one-issue party, and Cameron and his government should stand back and allow the Scottish people to make the decision on their own future. There can be no doubt that the SNP under Salmond's leadership has the mandate to call a referendum and that must always be respected, but under what ground can they campaign for a yes vote?
It is this writer's belief that the May election victory was more a vote against Labour and the Liberal Democrats than a vote for Scottish independence. There are those who do not support independence, but recognised Salmond was the best candidate for first minister, knowing they have the safety cushion of voting "No" in the referendum.
Scotland is a nation that prides itself on political activity, but thanks to the actions of both the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats, there is a growing feeling of disillusionment amongst Scottish voters.
An ICM poll in 2006 claimed that 56 per cent of English voters wanted Scotland to leave the UK. A 2011 poll in the Sun showed that 41 per cent of Britons wanted Scotland to leave the UK. There is a sentiment in England, rightly or wrongly, that the Scots have been living off the English taxpayer and should be made to go it alone. Figures from 2003-04 showed that £7,346 per head was spent on Scots whilst only £5,940 was spent on English taxpayers.
For 30 years the argument for Scottish independence has always raised the issue of North Sea oil. Some believe that Scotland can survive on a diminishing asset. What right does the SNP have to claim the full North Sea Oil revenues? Surely London would be entitled to some of the tax revenues; London would fight for a share of the ailing industry.
A deeper and more worrying consequence of Scottish independence would no doubt be a rise in anti-Catholic sentiment.
Mr McBride, a Scottish QC, described the situation as the "most serious social issue in the country today."
His comments were, however, rebuked by Catholic Labour MSP Michael McMahon.
"As a Catholic, my fears about independence are not in this regard but are more about how Scotland would be weaker economically, socially and politically under independence," he added.
What is questionable is whether Scotland has the resources to be able to govern on its own. It would not be able to deal with a banking crisis nor have the SNP given any indication of how many people will need to be trained to protect borders and other national security posts. Would the Scots join the euro or stay with the pound? These are questions that the SNP as of yet do not have answers for.
If a referendum vote were rejected that would have to signal the end of the SNP and both the Labour Party and Liberal Democrats in Scotland must look to prepare for such an outcome. But England must not interfere with the will of the Scots people; it would only breed contempt.