The Case Against Scottish Independence

By Hannah Bettsworth

In light of the Jubilee weekend and the Olympic Torch beginning its journey around Scotland, it could be argued that now is a great time to be British. With #proudtobebritish trending worldwide on Twitter just after the Jubilee concert, it seems those who call for Scotland to be freed from what they perceive to be the oppressive yoke of Westminster may in fact be a noisy minority.

Indeed, large holes are appearing in pro-independence arguments. Much of the little detail that has been revealed about an independent Scotland has in fact been invented by the SNP without consulting the relevant authorities on the issue. They are adamant that, as a successor state of the United Kingdom, an independent Scotland would be automatically admitted to the European Union. However, during a televised debate, Ruth Davidson produced a letter from the European Commission showing that the SNP had never asked them whether Scotland would have successor status or not.

Europe has been a key issue in the independence debate. At a time of economic turmoil in the Eurozone, advocates of independence are keen to avoid any insinuation that an independent Scotland would join the Euro. Instead, they have decided that they will continue to use the Pound Sterling as the currency of an independent Scotland, ironically creating another currency union and giving them no influence over monetary policy. This was another of Salmond’s half-formed ideas for the future of Scotland, and he had again not checked it with the Bank of England.

As such, there is an underlying uncertainty with regard to the whole issue of independence. I have a Scottish mother and an English father, but I have not lived in England since I was five. This puts me in the position of not knowing whether I will be able to apply for British citizenship or not. The future of our nation cannot be left to those who have the mentality that we should vote Yes now to get rid of the nasty Tories, and work out the detail later.

Overall, it is hard to be convinced of the necessity for Scotland to become independent. The ball is firmly in the court of independence supporters, and they simply have not made their case. Greater power could be given to Scotland in the form of devolution max – providing Scotland with the ability to fully control its own budgets and raise its own taxes, while retaining the benefits of the Union with regard to foreign policy influence and defence. As it stands, we are being given the choice to sacrifice a country with great influence on the world stage for something that is as yet undefined, but asserted to be automatically better. Until the Yes campaign provides convincing reasons why we would be better off outside the UK, they cannot expect the people of Scotland to blindly follow them.

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3 thoughts on “The Case Against Scottish Independence

  1. “The future of our nation cannot be left to those who have the mentality that we should vote Yes now to get rid of the nasty Tories, and work out the detail later.” Hmm. Perhaps. Then again, perhaps the future of our nation cannot be left to those who have the mentality that we should vote No now to get rid of the nasty nationalists, and work out the detail later. Our stance on Scotland’s future has more to do with antipathy towards the SNP than it does any democratic or liberal values. As for the Better Together campaign, it is disjointed and gives no clear projection of what a post-referendum future would look like. You mention further devolution, something not exactly supported by our “allies” in Better Together, so quite how this is to be achieved is open to question. The most obvious way to achieve this kind of change is to collaborate closely with the SNP and ensure an option roughly representing our preferred view is presented to the electorate…but we know what happened there.

    You do make a useful point about the currency. It’s a tough one for the nationalists and you’re right to draw attention to it. Economic credibility will, after all, be central to the outcome of the referendum. I don’t accept either the nationalist argument that energy reserves guarantee some economic utopia or the unionist view that an independent view that Scotland would be too small and vulnerable, and is currently too heavily subsidised to go it alone. I’m not convinced independence will have more than a marginal effect on Scotland’s economy, but what the economy does need is a fiscal union where there is a monetary one. In that sense, the Euro is probably a more sensible option than the pound, but that carries political risk. So too does commitment to a new currency, but these are not necessarily against independence rather than considerations that any new nation must take with care.

    I’m also not too sure that “foreign policy influence and defence” are benefits of the Union – especially in regards the former. I would add that coalition spending cuts on defence are likely to have a disproportionately negative influence on Scotland, something likely to be considered by voters in areas where the local economy and communities have historically been dependent upon nearby military bases.

  2. The problem with these so-called “uncertainties” is that most of them really deserve a “so what” or are equally applicable to the status quo.

    Our position in the EU is far from certain as part of the UK. There might not even BE a Euro to speak of by the time Scotland becomes independent. There’s nothing special about Scottish independence that is any more uncertain than being part of the UK at the current stage.

    You’re absolutely right to say that the SNP have failed to get clarification on our international legal status, particularly as regards the EU. But that’s not an argument against independence. In political reality, we’re guaranteed to be able to join the EEA/EFTA with little hassle, and the EU isn’t exactly going to turn us away. The only issue is related Euro obligations but given how that currency is just now there’s no reason to think they’d force us to join it. Anything else would almost certainly fall to negotiation if we weren’t seen as a successor state and we could walk away if the EU decided to be unreasonable. It’s not like the EU won’t have to renegotiate the details of our membership *anyway*.

    In any case, part of the benefit of being an independent country is that you get to negotiate membership of international organisations on your own terms rather than being bundled into another. A lot of Lib Dems are against Trident, for example. An independent Scotland can decide whether or not to have nuclear weapons on our soil (more north of the border are against it than down south). We could choose whether we actually wanted to be part of NATO etc, and could have our own representation in things like CFP talks in the EU, and our own seat at the UN which didn’t force us to go along with the rest of the UK on the international stage with illegitimate wars like Iraq. How we project ourselves onto the rest of the world is one of the most important parts of community and of statehood.

    The argument over monetary policy is a bit of a smokescreen from all sides. What influence, exactly, does Scotland have over the MPC of the Bank of England just now? The answer is zero. Even if we continued to use the pound, there is no way the UK could sustain its long-term value without Scottish oil revenues helping with the balance of payments. There is an argument that with independence and its fiscal powers, the two economies would diverge, but the crux of the “Unionist” argument seems to be how terribly similar we all are. I happen to think that an independent Scotland should adopt its own currency, but that’s slightly beside the point. The point of independence is you get to self-determine: to DECIDE as a country what currency you want to be a part of, rather than having a bigger entity set it for you. Independence is not about what the SNP’s policies are. Voting for independence is not voting for a perpetual SNP government.

    The question about citizenship is easily answered. Look at what we did when the Irish seceded from the Union. People can hold dual nationality by virtue of being a citizen of the UK state, or can choose between them. This isn’t an issue.

    I’m also not buying the idea that our international presence would be diminished. If we agree on something, our countries can continue to work together on them. But we work as equals, not as surly neighbours herded in the same direction all the time.

    It’s about democracy and it’s about how we do our politics. It’s not about the SNP, much as both sides would like to think.

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