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:
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.