Nobody could have imagined that 2011 would be one of the most tumultuous years in modern history. The world seems to be on the brink of financial ruin and Lenin is laughing and telling the world, “I told you so!”. Or he would if he were still alive. Maybe. Anyway, 2011 also conspired to be the year that would see the Scottish National Party win an overwhelming majority in the Scottish Parliament. The stars must have been in perfect alignment. The fact that the Labour party had become extremely unpopular due to the financial mess they had made whilst they were running the country, the Liberals had lost face as a result of their ungodly alliance with the Conservatives who were, apparently, railroading policies over them and the Conservative Party was about as popular as the smallpox virus is Scotland. The SNP received the votes of the disgruntled masses who would have normally voted otherwise and achieved something they could only dream about. A complete majority in the Scottish Parliament. For the first time in British history, a nationalist party had become the majority leaders of Scotland.
With the Conservative Party leading a coalition government in London and the SNP having a majority Scottish government in Edinburgh, there were bound to be fireworks. Although the SNP has a very small representation in the National government, it has become very self assured to the point of conceit, believing that because they are the majority party in Scotland they don’t have to adhere to British Law. I’ll explain that bit later. Alex Salmond had made no secret of the fact that the SNP want Scotland to become an independent country and break away from the Union. They wanted Scottish Independence. A referendum on whether Scotland should be an independent nation in its own right has been on the SNP ‘to-do’ list since they formed in 1934 and for the first time in their history, they want to do just that.
However, the First Minister (Salmond will have that title abolished, too) doesn’t want to risk losing face. He is, after all, a smart and influential person. He wants the referendum to be held in 2014, not as soon as possible as suggested by the Westminster government. When told that it would be illegal for him to hold a referendum without the approval of Westminster, he basically shrugged it off and told the government to stop meddling in Scottish policies. The problem is, Westminster has every right to ‘meddle’ when it comes to something as significant as a referendum in order to ascertain if the majority of Scots want Scotland leave the Union. The fact that he wants it in 2014 is not only the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn (where Scotland defeated England and became an independent country) but it also allows Salmond to achieve certain goals before the big event. One of these, naturally, is to try and convince the Scottish people that an independent Scotland would be a good thing and would make Scotland more successful. He also wants to try and get the voting age reduced to 16/17 year olds, claiming that if they are old enough to die for their country (which would be England as the British government is in England!) then they are old enough to vote. The idea being that the younger Scot tends to be more nationalistic than their elders (most of the Scots I have known have always been very nationalist apart from one who always said that he came from Northern Britain! The first Scot ever who didn’t want to be Scottish!! You know who you are, Fergus!!).
Is it true that the national currency of Scotland is the Groat?
Anyway, politics aside, there are a few problems that the First Minister appears to be ignoring in his quest for an independent Scotland.
Firstly, upon independence, Scotland would have to pay its share of the national debt. That’s a cool £140 billion as well as the £187 billion is debts from The Royal Bank of Scotland. That is going to make the Scottish coffers pretty empty from the get go! It’s unlikely, but even if they were given a period of grace so that they could capitalise on the limited oil and gas from the North Sea and even time enough to harness the vast potential for renewable energy, they would still be in dire straights. Not to mention the fact that North Sea production has fallen by nearly 50% in the last few years, so there would be limited capital there.
Debts notwithstanding, Scotland would have a number of other rather important issues to deal with.
As an independent nation, Scotland would have to apply to join the European Union. With the EU busy contending with its current crisis, it is very unlikely it would allow another debt ridden country into the fold. Greece, Portugal and Italy are enough for the time being. Scotland’s biggest export market is Europe so not being a member of the EU could make things a little more expensive for them.
As an anti-nuclear nation, Scotland would not become a member of NATO. That would leave it practically defenceless from any form of aggression. England could invade and make up for the humiliating defeat at Bannockburn! Not that would ever be likely as England couldn’t afford to!
As an independent nation, Scotland would no longer use the British currency, the Pound Sterling and would have to go back to the Groat (was that seriously their national currency?) which would be worth very little on the exchange markets.
There would have to be a border and passport control between Scotland and the rest of Europe, including England. Scotland wouldn’t be a member of the EU and so would not be entitled to travel unhindered through Europe.
Other issues would be the question about their armed forces. All British assets would have to be withdrawn but it is possible that the Scottish regiments could be released from their oath to the English Queen in order to become some form of militia in Scotland. Then there is the question of the Royal estates in Scotland. Would the Scottish want to remain part of the Commonwealth? If so, they would have the Queen as a figurehead and the estates would remain with the Royal family.
These are just a few of the numerous issues an independent Scotland would have to deal with. It is probably that when the campaign for the referendum commences, these issues and more will be highlighted in a lot more detail and accuracy than in this article. The Scottish are very intelligent and although they are nationalistic, I doubt they are stupid! Which brings us back to why Salmond wants the referendum his way.
Recently, the Prime Minister stated that Scotland was free to hold a referendum as soon as possible. The referendum would be quite simple and would be limited to a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ vote. At the end of the day, that’s what the fuss is all about so a simple yes/no on the referendum is all that is needed. Mr Salmond, however, is not as confident as he makes out to be. He knows that if the Scottish people think about all the implications of an independent Scotland, they would probably vote ‘no’. So he wants to add another question, a middle ground sort of question inquiring if the Scottish people would like the Scottish parliament to have more executive power than it currently has. This ‘middle of the road’ question would probably be the more attractive vote and would be the safer bet for Mr Salmond.
However, no matter which way you look at it, the referendum should just be either yes or no to independence. That is what the question is. Not ‘do we want more autonomy from Westminster’. That’s an entirely different question altogether.
Mr Salmond is unsure of the outcome, no matter how much he boasts, blusters and brags. I doubt he even dreamed about getting a majority government and having to actually have the referendum the SNP kept promising. Now he has to deliver and he is very aware of the ramifications. Should the SNP lose the vote their days in power would be numbered and their credibility as a political party would be worth as much as the groat! That’s why he is forcing the issue about the additional question and I doubt that he will hold a referendum unless he is allowed to have that question on the ballot paper.
What Mr Salmond fails to realise is that Scotland joined the Union in 1707 for a reason. As a joint entity with England they were able to prosper. They had links to the Empire and all that it could provide. Ok, the empire is long gone, but Britain remains a strong nation. There is no doubt that without Scotland as part of the Union England will stall a little, but it would recover quickly and go on as before. The same cannot be said for Scotland.
An interesting article on this subject, that you really should have a read. Click >>here<< to read it.