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Does separation entail independence?

Chapter summary

  • The right to make one’s own laws is the chief pretext for separation. Yet the majority of Scotland’s laws originate in the EU, while very few originate at Westminster. Scotland, therefore, is not being offered independence. It is being offered mere separation from its nearest and dearest neighbour.
  • The UK stands with France and Germany as a major EU power. A separated Scotland would represent just 1% of the EU population. Its ability to influence legislation affecting it would, at best, be minimal.
  • As to currency, the Scottish administration says it wants to keep Sterling. If it were to do so, it would have no say in monetary policy and would not have the protection provided by a credible lender of last resort. It would be obliged to run a very similar fiscal policy to the rest of the UK or face monetary disaster sooner rather than later. The Scottish administration’s current proposals for the future of the currency do not constitute independence. Scotland would be forced to pay the piper, but also forced to let the piper pick the tune and then to dance to it. Whatever else that is, it is not independence.
  • As to oil and gas, even supposing the most favourable geographical settlement on the ownership of the UK’s oil reserves, Scotland would have no control over the fluctuating price of oil: yet that price would largely dictate the scale of tax receipts. In contrast to Norway, which has a substantial sovereign wealth fund (as does Shetland), Scotland would need to tread a parsimonious fiscal line, squirreling away reserves in the good years. That implies spending cuts now. In this respect, too, Scotland would be less independent than now.
  • As to energy, a separated Scotland would be dependent on England both as a customer for its surplus wind power and as a supplier of base-load power when the wind was not blowing. In either direction, Scotland would have no control over price and, therefore, no energy independence.
  • As to defence, Britain remains one the world’s most significant military and diplomatic powers. This influence is effected through a number of channels, whether military or through its position as a permanent member of the Security Council, or through membership of other global organisations.
  • As to cultural influence, the cultural reach of the UK is significant via the media, its diplomatic assets and its trade networks. Scotland, as a separated country, could not match that influence. Scotland would become a smaller, lesser place.
  • As to real sovereignty, the notion of “independence” may be superficially beguiling, but it is not on offer. The people of Scotland should appreciate that real independence and sovereignty are most completely achieved by full and equal partnership in the United Kingdom, where Scotland has significant influence, rather than by separation and a consequent reduction in status to that of a notionally sovereign nation that cannot prosecute policy independently and cannot even make the vast majority of its own laws.

Don’t call it ‘independence’: it would be no such thing

Scotland would face substantial economic risks if it were to separate from the rest of the UK. Those primary economic risks lie with currency, national debt, tax shortfall, dependence on a narrow and cyclical business base and an over-large, dependent public sector.

The risks of separation have not been addressed in the Scottish Government’s “white paper” entitled Scotland’s Future. That paper is not a plan: it is a wish-list of vague aspirations based on the so-called success of the Scandinavian social model – a model that Sweden, in particular, is abandoning.

How independent would a separated Scotland really be? As to lawmaking, the chief pretext for separation, some 17 in 20 of Scotland’s laws are made behind closed doors in Brussels by commissioners whom the people of Scotland and of Europe do not elect, while only 1 in 20 of Scotland’s laws are made at Westminster. Scotland, therefore, is not being offered independence. It is being offered mere separation from its nearest and dearest neighbour.

As to continental influence, the UK stands with France and Germany as a major EU power. A separated Scotland would represent just 1% of the EU population, and its ability to influence legislation would, at best, be minimal. Scotland would most probably be reduced to the role of a cheer-leader for EU integration, faithfully enacting the will of Brussels.

As to currency, the Scottish government has said it wishes to keep Sterling. If it were to do so, it would have no say in monetary policy and would not have the protection provided by a credible lender of last resort. It would be obliged to run a very similar fiscal policy to the rest of the UK or face monetary disaster sooner rather than later. The Scottish administration’s current proposals for the future of the currency do not constitute independence: it would be forced to pay the piper, but also forced to let the piper pick the tune and then to dance to it.

As to oil, even supposing the most favourable geographical settlement on the ownership of the oil reserves of the UK, Scotland would have no control over the fluctuating value of oil: yet that value would largely dictate the scale of tax receipts. In contrast to Norway, which enjoys the benefit of a substantial sovereign wealth fund, Scotland would need to tread a very careful fiscal line, squirreling away reserves in the good years. That implies spending cuts now. In this respect, Scotland would be less independent than it is now.

As to energy, a separated Scotland would be dependent on England both as a customer for its surplus wind power and as a supplier of base-load power when the wind was not blowing. In either direction, Scotland would have no control over price and, therefore, no energy independence.

As to defence, Britain remains one the world’s most significant hard and soft powers. This influence is effected through a number of channels, whether military or through its position as a permanent member of the Security Council, or through membership of other global organisations.

As to cultural influence, the cultural reach of the UK is significant via the media, its diplomatic assets and its trade networks. Scotland, as a separated country, could not hope to match that influence. Scotland would become a smaller place.

The notion of independence may be superficially beguiling, but the people of Scotland should appreciate that real independence and sovereignty are most completely achieved by full and equal partnership in the United Kingdom, where Scotland has significant influence, rather than by separation and a consequent reduction in status to that of a notionally sovereign nation that cannot prosecute policy independently and cannot even make the vast majority of its own laws.

on September 16 | by

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