Last week, a debate broke out over whether Scotland should have a referendum on independence and, if so, when.

Although England and Scotland have shared a sovereign since 1603, the United Kingdom only came into being in 1707 when the Scottish Parliament voted to dissolve itself and merge with the English Parliament in Westminster.

Since then, the UK has proved to be the most successful political partnership in history.  It has brought unprecedented economic and cultural prosperity, and global influence, to the people of these islands.

The Union is a mutual relationship and we respect the right of one of the constituent nations to leave it if their people want to.  The Scottish Parliament and the Welsh Assembly were formed after referenda in 1999 and have been broadly successful for the people there.

Alex Salmond's Nationalist Government in Scotland claim a mandate for independence but have been extraordinarily reticent about putting this to a vote. 

The continuing uncertainty about Scotland's future is damaging the economic recovery there.  While we welcome any inward investment into Scotland, the firms that are doing so are investing in spite of the constitutional uncertainty.

The Prime Minister is right to say that the SNP cannot continue to string along the question for their political advantage.  It is only right that the issues around independence should be resolved, and resolved quickly.

I also welcome the Government's new commission, set up this week to look at the West Lothian Question.  This is the anomaly whereby a Scottish MP can vote on closing a hospital in West Sussex, while a West Sussex MP has no say on hospitals north of the border.

I hope the Commission comes up with a satisfactory resolution to these problems because I am a strong Unionist but I also believe in fairness and accountability.

Concerns have also been expressed about the Barnett formula for allocating public expenditure between England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.  The Coalition Agreement says that "any change to the system must await the stabilisation of the public finances."

Scotland is entitled to its say on independence but I hope that they will decide to stay with us.  I have always believed that the UK is greater than the sum of its four parts.  Like millions of others I am proud to be a British citizen and I hope I that the Union will remain.

Christopher N Howarth