Published on June 13th, 2014 |
by Lorna Carnegie
Having just passed the 100 day count down to the Scottish Independence referendum both the Yes and No campaigns are doing all that they can to try and sway the remaining undecided voters. Despite efforts on both sides to persuade and dissuade people either way there is still much ambiguity surrounding the debate. This means that around 20% of the voting population don’t feel that they have enough information about post-independence plans to make their decision. For example, Alex Salmond, Scotland’s First Minister, has not provided a currency alternative in the event that Scotland cannot continue using the Pound. There is also still no evidence as to why independence is better for Scotland than devolution which would allow the Scottish government more control over the economy. And finally an independent Scotland’s reliance on oil means that no reliable predictions about the future of Scotland’s economy can be made.
Alex Salmond claimed, in an interview with the BBC recently, that the only way to guarantee that the Scottish government would gain more power is to vote Yes on the 18th of September, however there are still many risks and unknowns associated with this choice, and the First Minister has given little help to ease them. He has proposed no currency back-up in the event that Scotland does not secure the Pound. A recent poll showed that over 60% of English and Welsh voters would reject Scotland’s claim to keep the Pound and in order to secure a currency union all those involved must be in agreement. The lack of certainty about the currency translates into uncertainties in other areas, as it will impact on exchange rates, interest rates and, in turn, the securing of foreign investments.
While a Pro-Union Minister claimed that Scotland would of course keep the Pound, even after going independent. Since the UK wants to keep Trident weapons in Scotland and Scotland wants to keep the Pound he claimed that a deal would most likely have to be struck. Yet the removal of Trident weapons is one of the founding arguments used to promote Scottish Independence and therefore the SNP would have to choose which is of these are more important.
It has become clear throughout this debate that the people of Scotland want the Scottish government to have more powers in areas such as the economy. Most other Scottish parties are therefore now campaigning for Scotland to remain a part of the UK but to have a greater degree of devolution. Devo-Max was initially proposed by Alex Salmond along with Independence; however he later binned the Devo-Max option and focused solely on Scottish Independence. With a more devolved Scottish government surely everyone wins? Surely it’s a satisfactory compromise for all sides?
Nationalists claim that these proposals for a more devolved Scottish government are simply being spouted because the other parties feel threatened and are therefore desperately trying to pull back support. Is this not a good thing? Other parties are now aware that many people do want Scotland to have more power surely showing that the parties are listening to the people?
We can draw parallels between the support for the Yes campaign and UKIP’s increased support in the last European Parliamentary elections. As UKIP began to gain support and attention the other parties realized that the people were dissatisfied with the running of the country, particularly with immigration, and therefore began to propose new ideas to tackle the problem. Instead of immigration, it’s the power of the Scottish government that people are dissatisfied with.
UKIP, many claimed, was a protest vote- a way to show the government that they were not happy with the current situation in the country. The support for Scottish Independence could well be claimed to be something similar. The people are not happy with the power of Westminster in Scotland and want the Scottish government to have more power. However this no longer requires independence, as Alistair Darling has rightly pointed out, due to the shift in position of the Unionist parties the “No” vote is no longer a “No Change” vote.
The future of the Scottish economy is still vulnerable as it is dependent on a number of uncontrollable factors. Key issues still remain ambiguous such as the proportion of UK debt which Scotland will inherit after independence, and the revenue which will be generated by oil, both of which are difficult to predict. For example, when interviewed about the future Scottish economy, economists could not give clear answers about the stability and success, rather they said that much depended on the level of oil revenue, debt interest payments and borrowing premiums, among other factors, and therefore any figures produced were only one in a number of outcomes.
Also when questioned on the ability of future Scottish governments to set up an Oil Saving Fund, economists claimed that in order to do so the government would first have to reorder public finances, in short create an austerity program, to ensure that it would be a success. Given that on the one hand, oil is what many Nationalist have pinned their hopes on for securing a more prosperous Scotland, and on the other hand the idea of a more supportive Welfare state is what has secured much support for independence, there is surely a contradiction being made here by the SNP. Both on arguments for and against independence the economists continued to state that much of the speculation was just that, and that nothing could be guaranteed.
The SNP are ultimately looking like a catch all party. They are trying to secure more Labour votes with the promise of free child care and the scrapping of the bedroom tax, and yet Salmond has also proposed to cut corporation tax to secure the support of businesses, but who is going to pay for all of this? There must be a compromise somewhere but the First Minister has been sure to leave that out of debates. This has resulted in around one fifth of the voting population unsure on whether or not they believe Scotland could, and should become an independent country.
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