Tuesday, 20 August 2013

"This is how neighbours become strangers"

The perennially sensible Hugo Rifkind (God's way of showing you the perhaps surprising fact that Giles Coren would have been much nicer with a Conservative Cabinet Minister instead of a humorist for a father) makes this point:

"This week, as you’ll probably have gathered by now from the bouncing chests of beaming triplets in vests, is A-level week. So as people across England collect the results that may perhaps send them off to university, consider this: when they get there, they are less likely to meet Scots than ever before. In 2012, Scottish applications to English universities slumped and they have stayed slumped. This year, barely 3 per cent of Scottish 18-year-olds applied to go to university outside Scotland. This compares with around a quarter of Welsh students seeking to study outside Wales, and almost a third of Northern Irish students wishing to do so outside Northern Ireland.

Scottish students, it’s true, have always vastly preferred to stay at home, not least because Scotland has excellent universities of its own. But the numbers are now dwindling into a highly significant insignificance, and for one simple reason. Tuition fees. Today, Scots who cross the border pay £9,000 a year, and Scots who stay at home pay nothing at all.

I’m not one for conspiracy theories. I do believe that when Alex Salmond said that ‘rocks would melt in the sun’ before Scottish students would be asked to pay for their education, his principles were sincere and his political calculations were short term. But this is how neighbours become strangers. This is a whole generation of educated, affluent, middle-class Scots hitting adulthood without experience of England, or close English friends, or a sense of the south being in any way theirs at all. Even in such a world, probably, Unionism can survive as a political ideal. But it will never go to the bone.

Like so many things, Scottish independence will come very very slowly and then all at once.

Also in the Spectator this week, a consultant in the NHS tells us that "we import 40 per cent of our doctors [:] ... the General Medical Council registers approximately 13,000 new doctors every year; 7,000 come from British medical schools, and the remainder come from other EU countries and from outside the EU". In my experience, about 40% of British doctors want to emigrate to Canada or the Antipodes, so perhaps a lot of those imports are just to make up for the Brits whose dreams have come true, but there's more to it than just that.

What is the chance of the average English person coming across a Scottish doctor (a) now and (b) in 20 years' time? Probably lower than the chance that, in 20 years' time, English people will say to each other " did you know, Scotland has still got an NHS just like the one we used to have?" in the same way that we tell each other than women only got the vote in Switzerland in 1971, laughing at the cute old-fashionednesses of foreigners.

No comments:

Post a Comment