Scottish Independence – Stick to the Facts
In summary I believe that Independence may well be good for Scotland, but it will most definitely be bad for the rest of the UK as a whole. So what are the facts? Can we find any without spin?
Voting on Scottish Independence
My primary issue is that I am a Scot but I don’t get a vote on Scottish Independence because I don’t live there. As I see it when a partnership is going to be broken up all the members of that partnership should get a say. So why are only residents of Scotland voting? I can see it most directly affects them, and I wouldn’t disenfranchise anyone living there, whether a 16 or 17 year old or a foreign national. But those of us who were forced to leave for economic reasons may well return on independence, what I do for the UK Government isn’t devolved, so a newly independent Scotland will need my skills and I could probably enjoy a similar standard of living in Scotland rather than the South East of England.
My ties to Scotland aren’t just historical, I visit family there two to three times a year. Politically I am neutral, but have a strong belief in public service and the welfare state. Something Scotland seems to value more than the rest of the UK. That said, I have a better standard of living now than I would likely have if I returned to Scotland. I have a greater earnings potential in London than in Scotland. Also, my family is pretty happily settled here, so moving isn’t that likely in the near term, unless things change drastically.
This is, in my opinion, a red herring. The level of oil revenue has fallen from its highs in the 1970s and 1980s when it could have made a real difference to budgeting and taxation for a Scottish Government. Now all it is likely to be is a bargaining chip for Westminster to offload sovereign debt onto the newly independent Scotland. In the good years oil revenue will contribute to Government coffers, in the leaner years it will merely offset the debt interest. The Channel 4 Fact Check team did a good job on this.
Scotlands Economic Stability
There is nothing that I have seen to suggest that the Scottish economy cannot support the spending choices of the Scottish Government. Independence will bring additional pressures, but there are choices a government can make that will alleviate those without necessarily putting up taxes or cutting social spending. For example, the level of Defence spending is completely controllable.
There is no need for a full spectrum capability as there is no strategic threat to Scotland, nor is there any need to pay the former UK MoD for a share in a strategic deterrent. Scotland could take a similar path to Ireland and specialise in humanitarian interventions under UN auspices. We could still have a world class armoured force with air support and get paid to deploy it to offset the cost while still providing employment for many Scots and retaining our proud military heritage. Careful choice of interventions could also work wonders for diplomacy and even international trade. What it needs is a steer that we aren’t ignorant of local sensibilities and that we genuinely seek to help people.
Mostly this is already devolved to Scotland, and the difference in approach with the rest of the UK is becoming apparent. Already Scotland is clearly a different country because of the choices its people and government have made. There are two almost equally likely outcomes when the rest realise this. Either way they are going to clobber politicians that have made what they see as the wrong choice so that the difference is eroded. Either standards will rise elsewhere, or funding for Scotland will be cut. Perhaps both, although I don’t see the former happening any time soon.
One of the things that Scotland currently provides the UK is a semblance of political balance. England on its own is a Conservative country. Scotland (and Wales) balance that to the extent that it is possible for the party of government to change every few elections or so. Without Scots MPs Westminster would remain resolutely blue for at least a couple of decades.
I also think that Scotland keeps the UK in Europe, most of the Eurosceptics seem to be from the South of England. The likes of UKIP never seem to have any effect on Scotland, I doubt that they’ve ever run a candidate in an election north of the border, yet with a name like UKIP you’d expect them to cover the whole of the UK!