Published on September 12th, 2014 |
by Charles Fleetham
Image © Flicktickr 2013
Let me get one thing straight before I get into the quandary that is Scottish independence. If the yes campaign had been run by someone different to Mr. Salmond, if the campaign had answered the critical questions with satisfactory answers and if there had even been a minimum level of confidence in a stable Scottish future post-independence, then I would have been pro-independence. The right to self-determination is enshrined in the UN doctrine and is a crucial human right – the Scottish people have a right to this. However, it is my opinion that there is so much ambiguity surrounding the crucial issues of currency, the Scottish economy and EU membership that I find it impossible to support independence at this time. I believe that Mr. Salmond has squandered Scotland’s chance at independence through mismanagement. Scotland will not be offered a referendum every 5 years, a fact that most likely has forced people to desire to vote for independence regardless of the potential fallout. For the time being, I would prefer that Scotland remain better together as an integral and well-loved part of the United Kingdom. Until a better leader emerges who can strategize an independent Scotland in a more convincing manner.
With every major political party in Westminster refusing to accept a monetary union it is clear that there will be no easy solution for currency in the event of independence. We have heard reports on all sides on this issue; Mr. Salmond has stated that the pound will be used regardless of what Westminster says. EU officials have said that this policy will not fly with them when Scotland applies for EU membership.
In a post-independence world the strength of Scotland’s economy is subject to dispute as well. Ownership of North Sea Oil reserves is up for negotiation, it is unlikely that the UK will cede such profitable resources without a significant trade. A number of Scottish businesses have already stated that they will relocate to England if Scotland becomes independent. RBS has confirmed recently that they will move their headquarters to London, Standard Life has signalled that they will move parts of their business out of Scotland, Alliance Trust has already begun by setting up companies registered in England – preparing for a possible independent Scotland and a move to England. The damage to the economy from these companies changing their headquarters is significant, whilst the issue of employment is of course connected to this. Jobs may be lost because of this, not to mention the possible closure of the Trident base in Faslane. On the other hand some Scottish businesses have said independence will boost the Scottish economy. British Airways and RyanAir are in support of independence mainly due to the possibility of the abolition of Air Passenger duty.
On the subject of EU membership, if Scotland were to become an independent nation then they would have to reapply for EU membership as a sovereign state. It has been over two decades since Turkey applied for EU membership and they have yet to be accepted. With Italy and Spain both facing secessionist movements within their borders, it is likely that they will make Scotland’s entrance to the EU difficult so as to send a message to their own fractious citizens.
I find it important to remind readers of a fundamental fact of politics at this point. Campaigns are about a politician’s beliefs, governance is about pragmatism. A politician will campaign on his best scenario, that he will be able to achieve all his desired policies. Retrospectively we can look at every government after an election and see the true story of compromise. If the yes campaign wins the referendum, there will be an extended period of negotiation before Scotland actually becomes independent. During this period compromises would be made, perhaps Trident would remain in Scotland in return for a concession from Westminster. The EU could strike an aggressive stance and demand Scotland uses the Euro if they wish to join. No matter what Mr. Salmond or Mr. Darling said during the campaign, attitudes will change due to necessity.
The possibility of compromises underlines the necessity for backup plans. It is impossible that in the scenario of Scottish independence that Mr. Salmond would get every single thing he wants. Thus, the lack of a plan B on currency or a plan B on difficult entry to the EU is just incredibly worrying for me. If the Scottish people vote yes next week, do not expect an easy walk to independence – Mr. Salmond will have to concede to some unpleasant compromises to get what he wants. The uncertainty and the lack of planning are just too alarming.
So, better together. For now at least.
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