Scottish Independence Essay
“The beauty of independence, departure, actions that rely on themselves” -Walt Whitman
Currently Scotland is part of the United Kingdom. Scottish Independence is “a political aim for some political parties, advocacy groups, and individuals in Scotland for the country to once again become an independent sovereign state.” A Referendum (“A general vote by the electorate on a single political question which has been referred to them for a direct decision.”) will be held on Thursday, 18 September, 2014 to decide whether Scotland should become an independent country. I am for Scotland being an independent country primarily because of, but not limited to, the points listed below.
Scotland will be more prosperous and economically better off as an independent country. In any society, one of the main questions asked before any sort of political decision, whether it be by the prime minister or just an electorate deciding who to vote for, is if I decide on this option, will I or the country be better off because of it. It is no surprise then that this is one of the main points brought up in the referendum debate. Objectively it seems that Scotland and subsequently the people of Scotland will be financially better off if Scotland were to become independent. A lot of people say this is primarily because of the North Sea oil. Although North Sea oil is important and is in itself another point of discussion/concern for the Scottish government and its people, even without it Scotland’s economic output per head is 99 percent of the UK average- and with oil it is 118 percent.
This means that over the last 30 years we’ve paid more than our share of tax.. This isn’t a recent or random occurrence either, for decades the amount of tax revenue generated in Scotland per person has been greater than the figure for the UK as a whole. In the most recent year, Scotland contributed £56.9 Billion in tax revenue. That’s equivalent to £10,700 for every person in Scotland. In Comparison the average tax revenue in the UK as a whole was just £9000 pound per person. If you do the math then Scotland has been paying £1,700 a head extra in taxes. As mentioned previously however, this isn’t a recent thing and has been going on for decades. As a matter of fact since 1981 Scotland has paid £222 billion more than we would have done if we had just matched the contribution made per head by the UK as a whole. This all equates to almost £45,000 extra paid for every person living in Scotland.
Scotland makes up 8.4 percent of the United Kingdom’s population and generates 9.9 percent of its taxes, but only gets back 9.3 percent back again to spend on essential services. Scotland’s finances were stronger than uks by £4.4 billion, this means if Scotland got independence we would have £4.4 billion extra to spend and still be in the same financial position as the UK is now. All this leads up to the fact that if Scotland were to become an independent country we would be 8th in the OECD league table of the world’s advanced economies in terms of GDP per head. By contrast, the UK would only be in 17th place. Scotland’s wealth per head was £27,211. The UK figure was £23,002 per head. Public Spending in Scotland only accounts for 42.7 percent of Scotland’s gdp compared to 45.5 percent for the uk as a whole. Withdrawing the nuclear weapons from the Clyde will save £163 each year and if the current government introduce the proposed new nuclear missiles then that means saving £250 million a year. oil and gas revenue would flow to Scotland and expect to contribute £48 billion in next six years.
An independent Scotland would mean a renewed and fairer democracy. If you refer back to the definition of Scottish independence, then you see that the aim is for Scotland to become an independent sovereign state. a sovereign state is “a nonphysical juridical entity of the international legal system that is represented by a centralized government that has supreme independent authority over a geographic area” all sovereign states are countries but not all countries are sovereign states. Scotland is classified as a country however it is currently part of the sovereign state known as the United Kingdom. If you apply the definition to this context then the centralized government is Westminster and the geographic area is the whole of the UK. If you think about it like that it doesn’t really seem fair that Scotland has to abide by the laws and policies brought in by a different country.
Scotland does have mps in westminster but this usually does little the change the verdict due to the following fact: After the 2010 general election 650 mps were elected, 553 from England, 59 from Scotland, 40 from Wales and 18 from northern Ireland, This means that no matter if every mp from Scotland votes against a policy all it would take is one tenth of the rest of the mps to vote for it and it would be passed. An example would be the recent bedroom tax, 9% of Scottish mps voted for and 91% against it but the tax still went through, another example would be the welfare cuts, 19% Scottish mps voted for and 81% voted against and it but it went ahead and will force, experts believe, 60,000 more Scottish children into poverty.
This has also happened with austerity cuts VAT increases and many more policies were Scotland’s mps have voted against it yet it still affects Scotland because more mps from different countries vote for it. This affects Scotland politically but as a result of and possibly even more importantly economically, this is represented well by the previous statistics and also by the fact that the UK government has placed trident missiles at faslane on the Clyde, even though the majority of Scottish citizens are against it, yet were paying £163 million extra a year to keep weapons we don’t want in a place where we don’t want it to be kept.
However, with regard to the above arguments, not everything about Scottish independence would be easy sailing and clear skies, it couldn’t be or the majority of the population wouldn’t be voting against independence. The Scotsman polls Yes at 33-34% and No at 52-57%. The Daily Mail puts it at 27% for Yes and 56% for No. Herald Scotland says 27% will vote Yes and 41% will vote No. It seems that the consensus among people is that Scotland will remain part of the UK. Below are some reasons why people may be deciding against independence
Scotland’s future seems uncertain if we get independence. Alot of things about the referendum and Scotland’s future are very cloudy and even after the release of the white paper, which was meant to clear up a lot of these issues so that the people could make their own informed decision, there are still a lot of points which people and even the government are unsure about. An example of this would be the amount of debt which Scotland would take on if it were to get independence. The UK has a debt of 88.7% of their GDP (as of 2012, its expected to have risen to around 90%) and if scotland were to become independent then it is expected that Scotland would take on anywhere from 0 to £140 billion of this or even more,its just not clear enough yet how much debt Scotland would take on.Another question is what currency Scotland would employ after they gained Independence.
Alex Salmond vows that he will keep the pound however no official agreement has taken place. According to the Scotsman Alex Salmond held “technical” discussions on the proposal with the former Bank Governor, Mervyn King,last year.Many people, like George Osborne and Alistair Carmichael, think it is unlikely that the two countries will share the pound sterling, with george osborne even going as far to say that he will block scotland from retaining the pound.This is discussed in further detail below.If Scotland were to get independence they would have to leave the EU, according to the spanish prime minister, who is dealing with a similar situation with catalonia’s proposed independence, he said “If a part of the territory of a member state ceases to be a part of that state because that territory becomes a new independent state, treaties will no longer apply to that territory, In other words, a new independent state would, by the fact of its independence, become a third country with respect to the Union and the treaties would, from the day of its independence, not apply anymore on its territory.” they can re-apply for membership, which is what Alex Salmond would intend to do, however all of the countries would have to accept/agree with Scotland joining the EU.
Scotland would have problems with the currency. No matter if Scotland retain the pound or not, they will run into consequences with whatever option they choose. As it stands there are 3 options Scotland has in terms of currency: 1.Keep the pound, this is what Alex Salmond wants,however if Scotland and England were going to agree to a “Currency Union” (“where two or more states share the same currency, though without there necessarily having any further integration”) then it would ultimately put Constraints on an independent Scotland’s economic policies: even if it could be agreed, a formal currency union would severely limit an independent Scotland’s economic freedom – to ensure that risks to the rest of the UK were managed an independent Scotland would lose some of its power over decisions on its own “fiscal policy” (for example, how much it could spend on health, education, and so on) with the Bank of England also determining interest rates and the cost of borrowing in Scotland and would have to accept the rest of the UK having oversight of its tax and spending plans.
This all in a way defeats one of the main points of Scottish Independence, which is for Scotland to have complete economic independence and to have full control over taxes, public expenditure etc. As you can see this would not be the case if an Independent Scotland were to adopt the Pound. Another option would be to join the Euro. This would possibly be the worst decision as all the problems associated with adopting the pound would be present in adopting the Euro, just worse. Many more countries in the eurozone are running into debt and having to accept bailouts, primarily because of fact that one shoe doesnt fit all in terms of the politics of the eurozone, theres not really any way to tell if an Independent Scotland would benefit from the policies and regulations set in by the european union in terms of the euro. The last option would be that Scotland creates its own currency. On the outside it seems to dissolve the problems of another country/set of counties having a large influence and in some instances complete control of many of the economic policies and taxings within Scotland.
While this is probably the best option, starting a new currency is no easy task. Apart from the decisions to be made on the actual currency like what would be printed on the currency, what materials the coins/notes would be made from in terms of percentages, what the new currency would be called, however these are just minor problems, the real problems would be figuring out how to get the new currency into the system, with rules possibly having to be put in place to prevent large amounts of Pounds Sterling leaving the country.
Laws would have to be formed to grant the new currency status of legal tender, as well as laws which define and control the use of the currency. All of these laws would also have to be approved by parliament.To change the currency would take about 6 months minimum, but in reality it would probably take alot longer. The actual printing of the money could possibly run into tens of millions of pounds, but the actual process of the currency swap would be the most costly. All of this would have to be highly scrutinized,as if there was any uncertainty over the details of the currency it could potentially drive away countries or businesses looking to invest in scotland or its new currency.
To sum up, even though a lot of the details about scottish independence are still cloudy and a lot of people are scared about what might happen if we gain independence and if such a small country could support itself, the bottom line seems to be with complete political and possibly economic independence, we would get to make decisions based on our own needs, and not the whole UK’s. Even though we do still rely quite heavily on Oil, its still a while to go before it runs out, and in that time hopefully the money generated by it will be invested into different economic sectors to fuel Scotlands powerful economy. With Reference to the quote by Walt Whitman, we must take action and rely upon ourselves to make the right decision in relation to this countrys economic and political well being, even if it might seem scary, no-one ever got anywhere by running away from a situation and sitting on their hands just because the idea scared them. Alex Salmond described the referendum as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” and it would be such a shame to see this opportunity wasted due to the sheer pride and prejudice of people.