Published On: Sun, Nov 4th, 2012

Scottish Independence – Facts and Debate

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Scotland, which was first founded as an independent country in the early middle ages, joined with England and Wales to create the United Kingdom (UK) in 1707. The country still retained its own national identity, however, and in recent year there has been a sustained campaign from Scottish nationalists to dissolve the Union, allowing Scotland to become an independent country once more. In 1997 the Labour government of the UK took the first step down this road by offering ‘devolution‘ to Scotland, as well as Wales (but not England). Under this system a range of powers were transferred from the UK parliament in London to a new parliament in Edinburgh. The Scottish National Party (SNP) won a majority in this parliament at the last election on a platform which called for a referendum on full independence. In mid-October 2012 SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond signed an agreement with UK Prime Minister David Cameron for this referendum to be held in Autumn 2014.

The Facts Which Frame the Debate -What Would An Independent Scotland Look Like?

  • An independent Scotland would its connection with the British Monarchy under SNP leadership, meaning that Queen Elizabeth would remain the head of state.
  • An independent Scotland would retain the Pound Sterling as its currency, unless the country decided in a subsequent vote to join the Euro.
  • Despite its current membership of the EU as part of the UK, an independent Scotland would have to reapply for membership as a newly independent country. Although it is likely that this application would be accepted, it is not guaranteed. The SNP have also said that they would apply for membership of Nato.
  • The SNP have said that they would create their own independent military, but would have no nuclear weapons on Scottish soil. Some defense capabilities which the SNP would like the country to have would require cooperation with the UK, and it is uncertain whether such cooperation would be offered.
  • The people of Scotland have much more socialist political leanings than the rest of the United Kingdom, so independence would allow for the implementation of more socialist policies.
  • There is considerable uncertainty over the future of shared cultural institutions. For example, Scotland would no longer be covered by the British Broadcasting Company (BBC)
  • The SNP believes that they would have the rights to 90% of North Sea oil tax revenues which currently goes to the UK government, however this would have to be negotiated between the two countries after the referendum.

The Economics of Scottish Independence

The economics of separation play a big part in the debate, and it is very difficult to say with any certainty whether Scotland would be better of worse off as a result of separation. Currently Scotland takes a bigger share of UK government spending that England or Wales, and government spending exceeds tax receipts. This does not include oil revenues, however, which the SNP claims would more than cover the difference. Critics claim that these oil revenues will dry up over the next decade or so, leaving the country significantly worse off. Here is a nice infographic comparing spending, tax receipts and oil revenues in recent years:

The grey bars show spending. The Red line shows tax receipts excluding oil revenue. The Blue lines shows tax receipts including oil revenues from the estimated geographical share that Scotland would take.

 

A Summary of Pro-Independence Campaign

The pro-Independence campaign is called ‘Yes Scotland’ and uses the #yesscott hashtag. Here is a selection websites, blog and social media posts, and videos from the Yes campaign:

 

A Summary of the Anti-Independence Campaign and its Main Arguments

The Pro-Union / Anti-Independence campaign is called Better Together, and uses the #bettertogether hashtag. Here is a selection of websites, blog and social media posts and videos from the No Campaign.

 

The State of Debate: Public Opinion Polls

There have been many polls over the year asking the people of Scotland whether or not they support Independence. The results of these polls tend to fluctuate quite a lot, showing that many people have not made a definite decision, but almost always show that there is no majority support for separation from the Union. One of the latest polls was conducted by YouGov, who found that 52% of people north of the border think that their country would be worse off financially if they left the union.

About the Author

- Dean Walsh is the owner and editor of World News Curator. He also owns and runs Ourly News and a range of other online publications.

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  1. Tamas Marcuis says:

    I suppose I need to begin by challenging the list of FACT you state before. For the most part these are assertions not facts. The principal points are where you wander into areas of International Treaty Law. Here I must refer you to the Vienna Convention on Treaty Law which has for the past 42 years underpinned treaty negotiations around the world particularly NATO and the EU. It is now well understood how the breakup of Unitary states generally proceeds, Denmark-Greenland, USSR, Czechoslovakia. The subsequent successor states are bound by the treaties of the defunct state. For example Kazakhstan was still bound by USSR-USA START treaty of the 1970′s with regards to nuclear weapons. This is the main reason it handed back all atomic weapons to Russia. Asserting that Scotland would be immediately outside ALL treaties is contradictory to all current understanding of treaty law. What about all the other treaty, extradition, slavery, copyright, anti-piracy, aviation? By the reasoning of your assertions none of these would apply to Scotland, an extreme position.
    To extend this point in consideration of the North Sea resources, refer to the UN Treaty on the Law of the Sea. The UK government uses this treaty to mark out the sea territorial boundary between English and Scots Law. The rules used and clearly defined in the treaty guarantee Scots an “Exclusive Economic Zone” which does in fact cover about 92% of the known resources. To ignore this treaty the UK would cause international outrage unrelated to any sympathy for Scotland. Particularly with other European states and to such a level that future losses would more than out weigh any gains.
    The rUK would lose international creditability and it’s ability to negotiate future treaties would be undermined. Really why do you think politicians abide by treaties, out of goodness, no it’s because they are forced.
    I have worked for diplomatic agencies and can talk with some authority on these matters but on others I am as much a layman as anyone.

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