27 February 2012

Scotland may vote on independence

From a story at the Washington Post:
Appealing to the force of tartan pride, the Scottish National Party won surprise control of the regional Parliament last year, which thrust the separatist fantasy of hearing “Scots Wha Hae” on the bagpipes as the national anthem into the realm of distinct possibility. The British government, boxed into a precarious corner, has opened formal negotiations with the Scots to set a date for an independence referendum...

Scotland’s independence crusade is emerging as the greatest threat to the cohesion of the United Kingdom since Ireland achieved independence — a ­three-decade process that culminated in 1949, when Ireland left the Commonwealth.

Scotland won the right to a “devolved” Parliament in the late 1990s and has sweeping powers over, for example, its judicial system and government spending. But full independence would give the SNP the authority to fulfill a wide array of pledges, including expelling the British nuclear fleet from Scottish waters, withdrawing from NATO and unwinding Scottish regiments from Britain’s military forces overseas...

The push here is being watched with nervous eyes across Europe, particularly in countries that have long struggled with powerful separatist movements, such as Spain and Belgium...

[The nationalists] argue that an independent Scotland would be the world’s sixth-richest nation as measured by income per person. With an economy larger than Denmark’s and a population of 5 million, they maintain, an independent Scotland would be a tartan utopia always able to afford the kinds of progressive perks already enjoyed by the Scots but not the English — including free university education, prescription drugs and home health care for the elderly.
I bet this will be the key to the decision-making:
That dream, however, is based on one big calculation: North Sea oil. Most agree that a majority of energy reserves in Scottish waters would need to be ceded by the British to make independence viable. But with analysts predicting the North Sea could be depleted by the 2030s, even a predominant share of that revenue might buy the Scots only a few decades to come up with an economically sustainable plan.
I would welcome commentary from readers across the pond.


  1. It isn't clear that the Scots want independence otherwise Salmond would already have held the referendum. He is biding his time, hoping to use his platform as leader of the Scottish Parliament to persuade more voters to his cause. The British government want him to commit to an early referendum for exactly the same reason: they think the result would be 'No'.

  2. British citizen here, though safely ensconced in Australia:

    1) Although I agree that people should be able to choose the destiny of their country, I think both the UK and Scotland would be worse off if they did go for independence. The UK because it would be smaller and even less important in the world, Scotland because it will be a tiny country on the edge of Europe, but also because their politicians seem even more incompetent/corrupt than average:

    Both projects have had their costs increase twenty-fold from the estimated cost.

    2) The main complaint of the Scottish that the parliament in Westminster doesn't represent them well is a complaint that almost everyone in the UK could agree with. e.g. see the huge protests against the war in Iraq, followed by invading Iraq, the liberal democrats being elected on a platform which they promptly abandoned after being elected etc. It would be much better if we could figure out how to make politicians actually serve the will of the voters, rather than the Scottish going off and probably electing a Scottish bunch of politicians who will also ignore what votes want.

    3) The Scottish economy would be absolutely buggered if they chose independence. Currently Scotland receives about $3000 more per head in spending than it generates in tax, and the GDP per head is something like $35,000 (sorry don't have exact figures for either to hand). Having 10% of the economy just disappear overnight is going to be tough.

    4) If they do go for independence I hope that they televise the negotiations that there will be between the UK government and the Scottish one over how to apportion the existing debt held by UK government.

    5) The Venn Diagrams that show the different terms for countries/regions/political unions for the 'UK' will need to be updated e.g. http://www.londonrelocationservices.com/blog/london-relocation-moving-to-london-tips/relocation-uk-the-less-lazy-expat%E2%80%99s-way-to-understand-united-kingdom-vs-great-britain-etc.html That should also prove interesting.

  3. Thank you both. I really appreciate informed comments.

  4. Danack is giving the unionist side of the story. To take his points on:

    1) The idea that Scottish politicians are more corrupt than English ones is laughable. Danack should have a look at the amount of money that private healthcare companies are paying to the Tories (both individually and corporately) to kill the NHS in England:
    Which are just two examples. Corruption over a tram system and a building pales in comparison to the corruption which is taking money to kill the best healthcare system in the world.

    2) There is a particular issue of London bias; Westminster policies don't just ignore the people, but they are skewed in favour of London. There is a significant possibility that should Scotland gain independence the same will happen with Edinburgh, but most people who live in Scotland would take that as an improvement.

    3) The question of whether Scotland is subsidised is arguable - here's the opposing view: http://www.newstatesman.com/blogs/the-staggers/2011/11/scotland-12288-union-public

    4) No disagreements on that one, would be great telly!

    5) What? Scotland remains part of Great Britain and the British Isles as those are terms relating to the physical geography; it is removed from the United Kingdom as that relates to the political geography. What's so hard about that?

    I'm English, lived in Scotland for over a decade now. I support independence because I think it will be good for Scotland to govern itself on its own terms, rather than being at the mercy of dictates from a city in the south of England which has almost no interest in the good governance of the area. Scotland has different priorities to England - for example, it's generally more left-leaning. Yes, there are economic issues, and while I'm hopeful about things like renewables generating revenue I'm not about to say this would be easy. But devolution has shown just how different Scotland's priorities are to England, and how this can be made to work.


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