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Can Scotland make it on its own, or does it need Westminster?


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Can Scotland make it on its own, or does it need Westminster?

August 23, 2021
Scotland and Independence
By Michael Curtis


The argument for Scottish independence has historic overtones.

The issue of Scottish identity and national self-determination, a mixture of historical, emotional, political, and financial factors, has now reemerged as a pressing political issue, as recent political polls have shown.

In 1997, the Labor government agreed to proposals for a Scottish parliament and devolution and a referendum in the same year.  As a result, an elected Scottish parliament, Holyrood, of 129 members came into existence in 1999 with legislative authority over most domestic policy, all non-reserved matters relating to Scotland, and limited power on business rates and income taxes.  One of its members, of the party controlling a majority, is appointed first minister.  At present, that is Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) since November 2014, the first woman to hold these positions.

Indications in recent public opinion polls show that support for independence is increasing.  Most show that between 50 and 55% favor leaving the U.K., and about 45% prefer to remain.  There is no one overriding factor, but various issues are mentioned.  First, independence means that the people of Scotland would make more of its decisions, which they are best placed to make.  The U.K. is governed by the Conservative Party, but the Tories have not won a Scotland-wide election for over 70 years.  The SNP has been critical of the Conservatives' handling of current problems — COVID-19, lockdown, quarantine.  Nicola Sturgeon, unlike Prime Minister Boris Johnson, is personally popular and appears on television every day.

More practically, one argument is that Trident nuclear missiles would be removed, and the money saved could be devoted to education, health care, and housing.  Though the argument "it's Scotland's oil" is not as pungent as it once was, it still provokes the responses that only an independent Scotland can fully obtain the financial benefits of the North Sea resources.

In the ongoing issue, two factors are controversial.  One is the exact nature of the desired break with the U.K. and the precise meaning of self-determination.  Many in the SNP want to keep the monarchy and for Scotland to become a Commonwealth country like Canada and Australia.  Others suggest a federal system.  More extremist nationalists want an independent republic with full powers.  Would this require a new currency?

The second debatable issue is whether Scotland can prosper on its own, financially and in managerial terms.  North Sea oil and gas extraction is falling, as are prices.  Can an independent country cope with the persisting COVID-19 epidemic?  Can it manage without the usual subsidies provided of between 10 billion and 12 billion pounds annually to fund public services?  Or would the country need to raise taxes in order to sustain levels of public spending?

Scotland benefits from the U.K.'s presence in NATO and the G8 and as a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and is unlikely to have any considerable influence in the E.U. on its own.  On the contrary, it is more stable as part of a larger state.  Realistically, because of COVID-19, Scottish GDP has declined substantially, and if Scotland were independent, it would likely have a weaker growth rate than the U.K. as a whole.  Statistics already show that the economy is declining in recovery in dominant services industries, construction, agriculture, and business activity generally except in the manufacturing section.  The country is less able to sustain a significant national debt or to borrow.  Already, 65,000 Scottish firms are getting $2.6 billion in loans to survive the lockdown.

Yet Nicola Sturgeon wants a second vote on independence.  The vital question is whether this is the best way to preserve the Scottish heritage and creative excellence and to play a bigger role in Europe and the rest of the world, or whether it would be divisive.  One can ask, should auld acquaintance be forgot and never brought to mind?

Full article here with a history class thrown in

Brad Sallows

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Short answer: yes.  Every independent country out there is making it on its own.  But "making it" is a spectrum.