Friday, 12 September 2014

Scottish independence - a struggle for power

With a week to go until the vote on the Scottish Referendum the polls couldn’t be closer. Over the past two years Alex Salmond has been trying to convince the people of Scotland to vote Yes on September 18th. Both of my parents have lived in Scotland during their lives and currently I have other relatives living there, this is why the vote is very important to me and why I don’t think Scotland should become independent. At the moment it seems like the voters are split in half, those living in Edinburgh and Glasgow don’t seem to want independence whilst those living in the Highlands seem to be voting yes. The question is what are the risks?

At the start it didn’t seem as though it would be possible as only 32% wanted independence. The last set of polls to be published showed that 51% of people would vote yes whilst 49% would vote no, this is the first ever poll in the campaigns history in which the yes vote won. This poll triggered a decrease in the pound sterling as well as a reduction in the share prices of Standard Life, RBS and Lloyds Bank, all of which are Scottish or are in control of Scottish companies. This shows what could happen if Scotland were to vote yes on the 18th.  Opinion polls are the only indication as to which way the vote will go, however the only poll that really matters is the one on the 18th. Alex Salmond and Alistair Darling have both said that every vote will count as the results will be very close. It seems quite similar to the campaign for independence for the Canadian state of Quebec when the public of Quebec voted against independence by only 51%, this caused riots in the streets.

Currency has been the most talked about topic in this campaign as Alex Salmond wants a currency union with the UK. This means that the UK and Scotland would share the pound Sterling, the only problem being that George Osborne has rejected this and has stated that he will not let Scotland have the currency union. The Plan B for Salmond is to use the Sterling anyway as it is an international tradable currency and the UK can’t stop Scotland using it. A similar situation currently exists in Hong Kong which uses the American Dollar. The only problem is that without a currency union Scotland can’t have the assets of the Bank of England. This means that company’s like RBS and Standard Life won’t be able to survive in Scotland and will have to move to elsewhere in the UK. The concerning issue for the UK is that without the currency union Scotland will not contribute towards pay the debts from the banking crisis, leaving the UK to pay it all off. This crisis was partly caused by RBS and HBOS both of which are very large Scottish banks which were rescued by the Bank of England and Lloyds TSB respectively.

Despite the fact that Scotland says the government they get is not the government they voted for, if they become independent the UK government will substantially change. This is because the majority of the Scottish seats are held by Labour and without these 41 seats it would mean a higher chance of a Conservative government. Even though the UK would have an increased chance of a tory government, David Cameron is supporting the Better Together campaign by visiting Scotland instead of Prime Minister's Question time. All three parties in fact are going on a campaign across Scotland.

Of course Scotland wants to be in the EU and the UN however, it doesn’t seem as easy as it sounds. They will have to reapply, which is estimated to take 20+ years which is too long to be out of the EU and not receiving the benefits of being a member. This is a big risk for Scotland because if they do fail economically, then there isn’t a backup from the EU.

The North Sea Oil seems to be the focus point of the income for Scotland, with an estimated 120 Billion barrels left, it doesn’t seem as though it will contribute greatly to the economy as only 10-20% of the money made on oil is given to the government. As well as this oil is very volatile and it does not seem sensible to me if the country’s economy is based on a volatile source. Despite having Norway as a model for the country’s future it does not seem as though they will be able to achieve this without risk and possible failure. Oil is not something you can give an exact price or estimate how long it will last which is why Scotland shouldn’t be so reliant on it.

The problem with the proposed government is that although it will be able to change all of the laws that they deem unsuitable, for example the Bedroom tax, they won’t be able to have as big a budget as before. From the referendum document it seems as though Alex Salmond wants to spend his money on lowering and removing taxes as well as supporting small businesses and increasing pensions. He also believes the NHS can continue to be free as well as having free education. The sums don’t quite seem to add up and this white paper is just a vision, it does not provide any evidence of a sustainable country. The Scottish National Party can promise all they like but the fact is if there is a yes vote on the 18th the SNP will disband. The reason being that they were solely created for the purpose of gaining independence for Scotland. This means that the SNP will not be responsible for managing the country and therefore can make irrational statements without suffering the consequences. The fact is that it just seems like Alex Salmond wants to put his name in the history books rather than see the consequences of independence.

Trident is another word which bring shivers to those living in Scotland and one of the strong argument for the yes campaign. The idea that the UK will always have a submarine with Trident nuclear missiles has always been a defensive tactic however, it seem as though it is very unpopular with the Scottish people and that they have to look after something they don’t want.  In this situation you have to ask, what will Scotland’s defence be?

Generation 2014 is the name of those voting who are 16 and 17 years old, for the first time in history they will be able to vote yes or no to the referendum. This may seem a good idea to enable the next generation to get involved as it will be their Independent Scotland that they will have to live in if there is a yes vote. To me it seems like Alex Salmond wanted to do this in order to get more yes voters as it would be easy to convince them that an independent Scotland is the way forward however, as the day comes closer it seems as though the youth do not want to see their country at risk when it does not have to be.

Overall I do not believe that an independent Scotland should be the way forward as there are too many unanswered questions by the leaders. It isn’t clearly set out and even the white paper doesn’t show all of the figures. To me it seems like there are too many risks involved with the independence and with the UK willing to devolve powers such as income tax it seems more sensible to vote no because the UK is better together.


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