Scottish nationals who are leading figures in the North East today branded an independent Scotland “dangerous” and a “political system of 300 years ago”.
Speaking after the Scottish National Party (SNP) launched its blueprint for independence, leading cultural, political and business figures across the region expressed their fear if Scotland was to leave the UK.
The SNP’s white paper on independence outlined how it believes a Yes vote in next year’s referendum could pave the way for a new era for the nation.
It claimed independence will create a more democratic Scotland, as well as a country that is both more prosperous and fairer.
The 670-page paper sets out how independence could have an impact on all areas of life, including currency, taxation, childcare and education, pensions, welfare, defence and broadcasting.
But Lanarkshire-born Alastair Balls, who is chair of the Northern Rock Foundation and has lived in the North East for the past 30 years, says Scotland will suffer as an independent country.
“I think we’re better together,” he said. “I don’t really see how Scotland will benefit. The country has its own character and has retained that successfully over the past four centuries.
“I certainly don’t think it has lost out in terms of its identity and I think it has gained from being part of a bigger set of institutions. We need to re-assert the importance of major centre in the UK. Cities like Newcastle need to be seen as economic powerhouses.
“The North East is small and in some ways isolated and we have to constantly battle against that. One way to do that is to forge links with Edinburgh.
“They say HS2 isn’t coming to Newcastle, well I think there’s a very strong case to be made for high speed rail between Newcastle, Edinburgh and Glasgow. But we need to argue that as a country together.”
The Scottish independence referendum, to be held on September 18 next year, gives voters “a choice between two futures”, the paper states.
However, Scotsman Lorne Campbell – who runs Northern Stage in Newcastle – said breaking up countries harks back to previous centuries.
He said: “I don’t see the immediate value of being independent and I don’t see what can’t be achieved by being part of the UK.
“For me, nationalism is a political system of 300 years ago. We need to be moving on from that. People are really concerned and upset by increasing social disenfranchisement and I don’t think nationalism is the answer to that.
“I’m scared of nationalism as a concept. My partner is Croatian and lived through the break-up of Yugoslavia - an extremely stable and civilised country, which quickly developed into something else.”
Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond told voters that the country’s future was now in their hands.
He said his Scottish Government had set out its “mission statement” on how creating a separate Scotland could help build a better nation.
Published some 10 months before the independence referendum on September 18 2014, the document details how leaving the UK - and the policies the SNP would hope to pursue if Scotland were to do so - would impact on all aspects of life.
But it was quickly dismissed by those campaigning to keep Scotland in the United Kingdom as a “wish list” which failed to answer the big questions.
It also makes a series of pledges to be fulfilled if the SNP forms the first government in a newly-independent Scotland, including scrapping the so-called “bedroom tax”, simplifying the tax system, cutting corporation tax and removing Trident nuclear weapons from Scotland.