Scotland and the U.K. Contemplate Splitsville

Cold logic alone won't stop Scotland from voting for independence from the rest of the U.K. on Sept. 18

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U.K. Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne speaks on E.U. reform on Jan. 15, 2014, in London

Sometimes couples end up in the divorce court after many years of marriage. Their common ground looks solid enough, the differences that divide them seem negligible, but resentments against old injuries bubble to the surface like jets of North Sea oil.

Listening to politicians from Britain’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government and their Labour opposition united in attempting to persuade Scots not to sever their more than 300-year-old union with England and Wales on Sept. 18 feels like eavesdropping on a marital row. On that date, voters in Scotland will be invited to answer a single question: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Last Thursday, U.K. Chancellor George Osborne warned that a standalone Scotland shouldn’t rely on being able to keep the pound. “There’s no legal reason why the rest of the U.K. would need to share its currency with Scotland,” he said, adding that the proindependence Scottish Nationalists “are like the angry party to a messy divorce. But the pound isn’t an asset to be divided up between two countries after a breakup as if it were a CD collection.”

It’s a fair point, even if it left younger voters scratching their heads and Googling “CD collection.” Europe’s recent experience of currency union hasn’t been reassuring, a point echoed in similar interventions in the debate by other Westminster politicians and by Bank of England Governor Mark Carney. And there are any number of possible repercussions of independence Scots might care to ponder before ticking the yes box on the referendum form, as the wearied voices of reason keep pointing out. Scotland on its own might find itself poorer and levying higher taxes to maintain its public services, a small country without international influence, buffeted by globalization. European Commission President José Manuel Barroso even suggested that Scotland risked losing its E.U. membership in the divorce settlement. Yet the more these arguments are trotted out to assuage the forces pushing for rupture, the more inflamed feelings among supporters of independence become.

(MORE: Have It Your Way, Scotland, but Forget About the Pound)

That’s because, as John Gray, author of Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus and described by his own website as the “leading relationship expert in the world,” would surely diagnose, advocates of retaining the union fall into the calculating Martian category, but Scottish nationalism is driven by hot, Venusian passion. Admittedly, the proponents of independence present their argument in coldly rational Martian terms, making grandiose claims about the oil wealth Scots will supposedly enjoy once they stop sharing North Sea revenues with the rest of the U.K. But Scotland’s First Minister, Scottish National Party leader Alex Salmond, revealed the deeper, more primal feelings underpinning support for breaking with England in his Feb. 17 riposte to Osborne & co. “To be told there are things we can’t do will certainly elicit a Scottish response that is as resolute as it is uncomfortable to the No campaign,” said Salmond. “It is, ‘yes we can.’”

He was evoking not the gentle “yes we can” of then presidential candidate Barack Obama’s oft-repeated slogan, but the rousing battle cry of a William Wallace (who ultimately couldn’t) or a Robert the Bruce (who could). Scotland’s history — real and mythified — still resonates with voters. Salmond and his party won a landslide victory in 2011 elections to the Scottish parliament at least in part because of the abiding conviction that Scotland is not in a union but under an English yoke.

So will it be Splitsville this fall for the not-so-United Kingdom? Opinion polls suggest otherwise: a recent survey conducted in Scotland shows 42% of respondents favor remaining within the U.K., with only 29% arguing for schism. But the independence lobby’s numbers are ticking upward and a further 29% of those eligible to decide Scotland’s fate describe themselves as undecided. Will these swing voters be susceptible to rational arguments for union or to the visceral, emotional appeal of independence? Is Mars or Venus in the ascendant? A lot depends on the skills of those seeking to keep Scotland in the U.K. It’s worth remembering that nobody ever won an emotional argument simply by being right.

MORE: The New Braveheart? Scotland’s Salmond Eyes Independence From the U.K.

6 comments
james_yar
james_yar

FYI to anyone reading this - 'wingsoverscotland' is propaganda that would make Goebbels proud - as is any nonsensical claim that Scotland runs a fiscal surplus.

scotsvote
scotsvote

Also, read this for fascinating insight into the methods employed by HM Treasury, London to mask and otherwise cloak the budget figures and how "things are done" regarding Scottish Finances.


http://wingsoverscotland.com/the-angels-share/


Then consider the fact there can be as much as a 10 year difference in life expectancy at birth between areas of Glasgow (Scotland) and the most afluent areas in the UK (London).


Then, consider the UK ranks 16th of 19 in the human poverty index: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_Poverty_Index.


How can a nation tolerate this state of affairs.


THE ANSWER IS TO VOTE YES.


scotsvote
scotsvote

The Scottish economy produces (2012) £150.884 billion including a geographic share of the UKCS. This produces a tax revenue (2011-12) to the Government of £56.871 billion including a geographic share of the UKCS. Scottish Government expenditure (2011-12) is £58.263 billion plus £6.192 billion in Capital expenditure (total: £64.457 billion).


The Scottish Government currently spends £64.457 billion and raises £56.823 billion which results in a net fiscal balance (in this case a deficit) of £7.586 billion or -5.0% as proportion of GDP.


This contrasts with the UK Government with a net fiscal balance (in this case a deficit) to GDP of -7.9%.


This is important because it illustrates the fact the fiscal gap (spends more than raises in tax) as a proportion of economic activity is smaller in an Independent Scotland than it is in the UK as a whole.


Additionally, the following items paid out by Scotland incurred within the spending figure but not spent within the Scottish economy could be put to better use for the benefit of Scotland.


If you take defence for example, which is the biggest one of item. Scotland pays (within the £64.457 billion figure) an amount of £3.281 billion in 2011-12. Only around £2 billion is spent in Scotland by the UK MOD, so immediately Scotland can spend an additional £1 billion within our country, reduce the amount the Government spends by £1 billion or split the amount, as is suggested; save £500 million and spend £500 million on a Scottish Defence Force.


If you take the £64.457 billion in total expenditure Scotland pays £4.072 billion in “Public sector debt interest”.


That is debt incurred by Westminster to fund “the UK” and charged to the people of Scotland for debt the people of Scotland did not require in order to fund pubic services, in Scotland.


Consider also the BBC, Scotland pays over £300 million but only around £125 million is spent within Scotland.


There are many areas within the total amount of £11.895 billion categorised as “other” where an Independent Scotland can change the spending priorities and focus these resources on curing more pressing issues.

AlphaJuliette
AlphaJuliette

"It’s worth remembering that nobody ever won an emotional argument simply by being right."

As my dad would often point out, in an argument between emotion and reason emotion will win every time.

I'm appreciative of Scotland's sense of independence.  But I'm curious why they think separating from Great Britain would actually be beneficial for them.  There are, after all, cold hard facts that say otherwise.  And, any country united is much stronger than a fractured collection of independent states.



biswajitroy_roy
biswajitroy_roy

@AlphaJuliette  what ur feeling will be if you are constantly bossed around even if you may be better being subjugated under by someone else. There something called self dignity and for nationhood this is absolutely necessary