With less than a month until the referendum on whether Scotland will remain a part of the United Kingdom we should all have as much information available as possible to show what the issues currently are and how the vote is likely to go.
A. The key question “Should Scotland be an Independent Country?” is being asked of the general public of Scotland. This appears to be because of where decisions affecting Scotland should be made. Alex Salmond as the First Minister for Scotland argues that the decisions for Scotland should be made in Scotland.
- A1. The advantage of self-governance is displayed most clearly by how the NHS is run in Scotland. As oppose to in the United Kingdom, with its constant reorganisation and potential privatisation.
- A2. With all responsibility being devolved to Scotland, the NHS can be run effectively for a country of 5 million people rather than 60 million in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Money is allocated to the treasury for the specific purpose of running the NHS and thus the budget cuts which have affected the NHS in England do not harm Scotland’s NHS.
B. Another argument being presented by the “Yes Camp” arguing for independence is that whilst Scotland would gain independence, not all that much would change for the county. They would keep most of the benefits that they hold currently as part of the UK.
- B2. Salmond argues that Scotland would keep the pound thus they would not have to mint a new currency. This would mean that Scotland would essentially maintain the benefit of a strong currency.
- B3. The Queen would still be the official head of state meaning that Scotland would not have to decide on a figurehead for their government.
- B4. Scotland will remain in the EU, maintaining the current UK opt outs and the border with England would remain open.
C. Alex Salmond also argues that Westminster is scaremongering in an attempt to prevent the devolution of power away from the UK parliament. Salmond argues that this is done by using the pound, border posts, immigration and the economy as opportunities to scare Scotland away from independence.
A. The arguments that the United Kingdom is better if it is kept whole begins with the idea that Scotland benefits from being part of a larger political and monetary state than if they were alone. Economic risks are shared and would therefore prevent one country from doing something radical which would affect the value of the pound; which is happening currently with the value of the pound sinking fast.
- A1. The international political power is maximised when a larger more powerful state can be used to affect change or impose sanctions against foreign powers.
- A2. The capability for defence remains intact, Scotland would need to fund and build its own military forces without the union.
B. If Scotland were to vote against the referendum all of the major parties in England have already added plans to devolve power further in Scotland within their manifestos for the next election cycle.
- B1. Scotland, provided it votes no to the referendum will gain more power over tax policy and the Scottish parliament will become more powerful.
- B2. Salmond suggest that voting for him will be the only way to bring about change; however a vote against independence now is also a vote against the status quo. Change is coming to Scotland with or without a vote for independence.
C. The economics simply do not add up favourably when Scottish independence is being discussed.
- C1. Salmond’s policy has not been effectively checked against what a solely Scottish budget would like without the aid of the union. This simply comes from not knowing how much money will be available to Scotland should they vote for independence.
- C2. This could result in massive tax hikes for Scotland across all economic spectrums. Alongside a large amount of cuts which could even potentially come from the NHS which is being run comfortably and effectively currently provided the money comes from Westminster.
- C3. There is also the fact that should Scotland gain independence they become far more vulnerable to the fluctuation of oil prices as well as other imports on a large scale. This is due to being part of a far smaller economy than the one in which they have been participating for several hundred years.
Alex Salmond, prior to the debates held against Alistair Darling, had been pushing for a debate to be held against the British Prime Minister David Cameron. The debates instead were held against Darling and the first debate appeared to go against Salmond. He had no answer for the minister’s question on the use of the pound an issue which Salmond was not prepared to answer; other than to say ““I want what is best for Scotland – keeping the pound.”. Darling went on to say that Scotland should not make this deeply important decision based upon “guesswork and the blind faith” of the First Minister.
Darling, according to polling, had won the first of the televised debates; however the First Minister would strike back. Following his failure to answer what a valid alternative to the pound was Salmond came back with “three Plan Bs” using sterling outside of the Union, the Euro or a Scottish currency. 71% believed that Salmond had won the second debate according to exit polling however Professor John Curtice, from Strathclyde University stated “What was remarkable about tonight’s debate was how little time was spent on the issues we know are likely to switch voters’ minds”. This seems to suggest that the debates, although important for visibility, have become more about political point scoring rather than tackling the issues which have become important in Scotland.
The final verdict however does not lie with the politicians holding these debates nor with the economists who suggest that the Scottish departure from the union would harm the pound, the final decision rests with the people. The problem with that, from the position of the Scottish National Party, is that all polls seem to indicate that the vote will go against independence. Amongst young people 52% believe Scotland should remain part of the union and in nationwide polling 51% believe Scotland should remain in the union whilst 42% would vote for independence.
All indicators which we have available seems to show that Scotland will remain a part of the union. This referendum now depends almost entirely on how well both sides campaign in the coming month. Scotland’s future and the future of the United Kingdom as all of us have known it will irrevocably change in the coming months no matter the decision on September 18th. Let us hope, whatever the outcome, that the change wrought will be for the good. Let us hope that either as one nation or as two, we can still help lead the world and make this land the best we can for those who call it home.