The Pros and Cons of Scottish Independence

Nicola Sturgeon has kicked off a new referendum on Scottish independence, even as polls show support for separation from the rest of the UK.

The First Minister has unveiled the first of a series of documents setting out an updated case for Scottish independence ahead of a referendum she has promised to take place next year.

However, “there are major doubts about his ability to deliver a new vote”, said The Telegraph, “with the UK government opposed to any further referendum and experts believing it is not within Holyrood’s powers to ‘organize a meaningful referendum itself’.

Sturgeon told a press conference in Edinburgh on Tuesday that she had an “indisputable mandate” for a new referendum, but Boris Johnson insisted the 2014 referendum result must be respected.

Opinion polls show most Scots do not want another referendum next year, while support for independence is at similar levels to 2014, when 55% voted to stay in the UK. United.

From economic implications to international alliances, here are the arguments for and against Scotland going it alone.


For: joining the European Union

In the 2016 Brexit referendum, 62% of Scottish voters called for the UK to remain in the European Union, compared to 46.6% of remaining voters in England. “On this point, at least, what the Scots want is clear,” said Ian Bremmer, Time’s foreign affairs correspondent.

As an independent country, Scotland could make a bid to join the EU as a member state once a separation agreement is reached with England. The country could then start negotiating its access agreement, seeking to benefit from access to the EU’s single market, as well as the free movement of labour, goods, services and capital. .

“As a symbolic Brexit trophy”, Scotland’s value to the organization should not be underestimated, wrote James Ball of The New European. However, Ball notes that joining “could be a long ‘work ahead’ at the cost of connections and travel to the rest of the UK”.

Scotland would need the approval of all 27 member states to join the union – but that could stir up pre-existing tensions. Indeed, Bremmer noted that “Spain, fighting against Catalan separatism, has reason to make things difficult for Scotland to avoid setting a dangerous precedent.”

England is Scotland’s largest trading partner, a relationship that could be tested if Scotland opts for independence. The UK accounts for 60% of Scottish exports (excluding oil and gas), compared to 19% for the EU and 21% for global exports, according to Scottish government statistics.

It could get even more complicated if the country joins the EU, “thus tearing Scotland out of the UK’s customs union and single market”, said Fraser Nelson of The Spectator. The BBC said the international border between Scotland and England would be likely to increase the cost of trade, as “the checks which currently delay lorries in Calais would also be necessary in Gretna”.

A report from the London School of Economics and Political Science looking at the financial impact of Brexit, trade and Scottish independence found that “the costs of independence to the Scottish economy are likely to be two to three times higher than the costs of Brexit”. Joining the EU “would do little to mitigate those costs”. The expert’s business model revealed that Scotland would be ‘significantly poorer’ if it left the UK.

Although the SNP manifesto spells out a desire to ‘control our economic policy’ and ‘create sustainable, quality jobs’, Sturgeon told Channel 4 News the ‘economic plan for independence’ is ‘completely out of date’ .


For: “protecting” the NHS

Scotland has controlled the operation of its health service since the 1999 devolution regulations. However, funding and overall policy decisions currently rest with Westminster.

Sturgeon’s response to Covid-19 erred on the side of caution on England, providing the SNP with a “new argument” for independence. Although Scotland’s Covid death rate has already surpassed that of England, polls have indicated that Scots have greater confidence in their government’s handling of the pandemic than the rest of the UK’s confidence. in Westminster.

Preventing privatization of the NHS is a priority for Sturgeon and other pro-independence campaigners. In February 2021, the SNP introduced the NHS Protection Bill to Westminster, calling for legislation to prevent the privatization of the NHS. At the time, Scotland’s former chief medical officer Sir Harry Burns was “without doubt Brexit has opened the door for private American healthcare companies”, the party said in a blog post. Writing for The Scotsman, Burns said “an independent Scotland within the EU will look very attractive to many more voters”, if NHS services were offered to US companies.


Cons: Dilemma of Debt and Deficit

Projections by the Institute of Fiscal Studies have revealed that Scotland’s public deficit is higher than that of the rest of the UK. It spent £36.3billion more than it raised in tax revenue in 2020-21, according to the Scottish Government’s own figures reported in the Telegraph.

Scotland “would not, at least in its early stages, be in a position to run such a large budget deficit for long,” said The New European’s Ball.

Scotland has already received a higher percentage of UK public spending per person than the rest of the UK, the Financial Times has reported, and deficit reduction could mean deep cuts in public services and increased tax hikes. annual taxes.

And if Sturgeon were to seek credit from external sources, investment strategist David Riley warns that “investors would want assurances that the government has a credible macroeconomic policy framework, including, critically, a plan to reduce its budget deficit,” the document continues. The financial repercussions of Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic could make independence a costly decision.

On top of that, Professor John Kay, a former economic adviser to the Scottish government, has warned that an independent Scotland would start life with a £180billion share of UK debt and would have to borrow £20billion. additional pounds per year.

The Scottish government would have more power over its defence, social welfare and foreign policy if it became independent from the UK. He would also have greater control over constitutional matters, energy and environmental policies, and immigration.

Indeed, a critic of the Home Office’s immigration policy, Sturgeon called for the creation of a ‘Scottish visa’ in 2020, which would ‘remove the high application fee, salary threshold and sponsorship of employer” currently required by Westminster for a UK visa, The Guardian reported.

The SNP manifesto also promised to deliver the first “feminist foreign policy”, promoting gender equality around the world, while accelerating the “zero carbon energy transition” closer to home, “supporting regions like Aberdeen and the North East to diversify its economy”. .


Disadvantage: place on the world stage

At least in the short term, Scotland would lose its access to transnational organisations, including the global trade division at the UN, the G7 and NATO, which is currently afforded by its union with the rest of the UK. The country will have to apply to become an independent member of these organizations.

And while joining the EU could help Scotland connect with potential trading partners and forge its own political alliances, that too could come at a cost. In 2019, the UK public sector’s net contribution to the EU was estimated at £9.4 billion, according to government figures.

Without representation on these organisations, Scotland could lose its ability to make its voice heard on global issues, including climate change and international peacekeeping.

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