In her speech to the SNP’s spring conference yesterday, Nicola Sturgeon said:
Scotland isn’t full up. If you are as appalled as we are at the path this Westminster government is taking, come and join us.
Come here to live, work, invest or study. Come to Scotland and be part of building a modern, progressive, outward-looking, compassionate country.
I think this was a wonderful thing to say. Firstly, it’s true, and secondly, it shows the world that Scottish nationalism (or sovereigntism or independentism as I prefer to call it) isn’t racist in the slightest, but progressive and open to the world.
If the rUK continues moving towards a hard Brexit, and Scotland as a consequence votes for independence within Nicola’s window of late 2018 to early 2019 to escape the madhouse, I find it quite likely that many people from the rUK (both natives and EU citizens desperate to remain within the Internal Market), will take up the offer to join us in Scotland. They’ll be joined by many companies that need to remain within the EU and reckon the move to Scotland is easier than moving to a place outside the old UK.
As a consequence, Scotland's population might grow rapidly soon, perhaps by 10% in less than a decade.
That’s great in a lot of ways, but where do we house them? The Central Belt is already busy and congested, and although I'm sure there'll be space for a few more, I think a more radical solution will be needed.
At the same time, the Highland Clearances were a horrible and dark part of Scottish history, and it would be nice to right the wrong by reversing them in some way.
So I'm thinking we should start planning for a few new towns and cities in the Highlands. In some cases, existing towns can be expanded a bit, but sometimes it’d be good to think big.
For instance, I was looking at a map, and I thought Durness would be a nice candidate for expansion: It’s a beautiful place, there isn’t any large town in the vicinity, and from a historical point of view, it was the location of the Durness Riots of 1846 (when the women of Ceann na Beinne area defied the Sheriff's Officer sent to deliver the summons of eviction as part of the Clearances).
If we built a new town there the size of Milton Keynes (population 230k), the Highland council area would double in size, practically overnight (the current population of the whole area is 230k, too).
A new town could be built in a modern way, incorporating the area’s stunning nature as green areas, and building modern infrastructure such as trams at the same time as everything else. The houses should be built to environmentally friendly standards, and of course every house should have ultra-fast Internet as standard. The city should also be designed to be carbon-neutral from day one.
There has been a lot of talk about English universities setting up campuses abroad to maintain a presence within the EU, and Durness could become the best location for them, because their campuses could be designed and built at the same time as the rest of the city.
Given that Durness is almost as close to Reykjavík as it is to London (1050km vs 900km as the crow flies), it could also easily become a very attractive location for American companies needed a foothold in the EU if it had its own airport.
Some people would perhaps say that Durness would be a ridiculously northern location, but of course it’s further south than both Oslo and Stockholm.
If done right, the City of Durness could become one of the most attractive places to live in Scotland, and a real magnet for people moving to Scotland after independence.
Independence changes everything. We need to think big.