The Case for Scottish independence
From the outset of the referendum campaign two years ago the case for independence has been based on ideology as much as political matters. People’s heritage has been as influential in their choice as the economic and social policies an independent Scotland would have. In this piece I aim to examine both ideological and political arguments and the influence of individuals in the Scottish independence debate.
Scotland’s economic wealth
The Yes campaign has published what it believes to be the vast sources of wealth that Scotland has available and can use to establish itself as a major economic power in the world. They often speak of the oil reserves in the North Sea. The Yes campaign estimate that there is £1.5 trillion of oil that can be extracted from the North Sea and used as a major Scottish export. The No campaign has said that the Yes campaign’s estimates about the amount of oil is far too high and say Scotland’s oil revenues would be far lower. The Scottish government maintain that Scotland, already Europe’s biggest oil producer, would be able to use oil as a source of revenue and jobs until at least 2055.
The National Health Service
Part of the Yes campaign’s argument about the public services being at risk has been the threat of privatisation in the NHS. They have often stated that the Conservative party are leading the NHS towards privatisation and believe they need to leave the Union before the NHS in Scotland is destroyed by the Westminster government. Recently Gordon Brown has stated that the Labour party would ever allow the free health service in either England or the United Kingdom to be compromised or pushed towards privatisation. The Yes campaign have predictably rejected this and pointed to the fact that 6% of NHS funding now comes from private investors and the percentage has risen slowly but steadily over recent years.
The Currency in Scotland
The Yes campaign have repeated on several occasions that Scotland would be able to create a currency union with the remaining part of the United Kingdom to share the pound. The main three Westminster parties have said this wouldn’t be possible. This issue has been of major influence to the debate and has still not been resolved. This is a weak point in the Yes campaign’s argument for independence and the No campaign has exploited this to show the uncertainty of independence. The Yes campaign has often changed its mind about the currency Scotland would have. They’ve alternated between being able to join the Euro, creating their own currency and sharing the pound several times but now seem determined to keep the pound. Whether this will happen remains hotly debated and the issue is key to most voters in Scotland.
The Scottish National Party, being in government in Scotland, have been the ones who arguably made the referendum possible and therefore a lot of people who vote for the SNP will also be voting for independence. The SNP have often stated that it would be patriotic decision to vote yes. Patriotism has been a constant factor in the debate and in recent days and the No campaign have tried to counter act the Yes campaign’s patriotism argument by getting Alistair Darling to say that it would be a patriotic decision to say no to independence. This is one of the areas of the debate where it comes down to a person’s feelings of patriotism and it will be almost impossible change someone’s subjective national identity.
As the First Minister of Scotland since 2007 and the leader of the SNP Alex Salmond has been at the forefront of the push for independence and if Scotland does vote yes it is likely he will be remembered by the history books as a Scottish national hero. Salmond certainly knows about the oil located in the North Sea having been involved in the business as Oiil Economist for the Royal Bank of Scotland. Some have said that Salmond wants independence only so he can have full control over the oil and make as much money as possible from it for the Scottish economy. Salmond however has attempted to project the persona of a man of the people. As a Scot himself he has spoken passionately about wanting only what is best for Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon is the Deputy First Minister of Scotland and has therefore been often in the public eye talking about how Scottish independence is something all Scots should want and how well Scotland would be able to cope on its own. She often says things about Scotland taking responsibility for its own decisions and how Scots will finally have the government they voted for. Sturgeon and the rest of the Yes campaign have said repeatedly that the only way for Scots to get the government they want and the only way to get complete power over their country is independence and have dismissed the proposed devolution of powers by Westminster should Scotland vote no. They have said this was a desperate and last-ditch attempt to get Scotland to stay and the only people who know what is best for Scotland is the people of Scotland.
What Will Happen?
With recent polls showing that it is too close to call and that the Yes campaign have made massive gains into the huge lead the No campaign once had. Turn out to vote is expected to be incredibly high with 97% of eligible voters registered to vote. Some have already voted via postal vote and with sixteen and seventeen year old’s able to vote the vote on Scottish independence will be an extremely important one not just for Scotland but also for the rest of the UK. Some have stated that this referendum could encourage Northern Ireland to push for joining the Republic of Ireland. If it’s a no vote and Scotland gain more powers through independence, Wales may ask for more devolution of powers if they feel left out.
Whether a Yes or No vote, or conceivably a draw, the referendum will change the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in some way or another.