Scottish independence

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Scottish independence (Scots: Scots unthirldom,[1] Scottish Gaelic: Neo-eisimeileachd na h-Alba) is a political aim of some political parties, advocacy groups, and individuals in Scotland (which is a country of the United Kingdom), for the country to once again become an independent sovereign state.

A national referendum is scheduled to be held in Scotland on 18 September 2014.[2]

History[edit]

Scotland was an independent country from its foundation in the Early Middle Ages (traditionally 843) until 1707, with the Treaty of Union and subsequent Acts of Union. Beginning in 1603, however, the countries which formed the Union shared the same monarch when James VI of Scotland was declared King of England and Ireland, following the death of Queen Elizabeth I in what was known as the Union of the Crowns.

Scottish home rule[edit]

The "home rule" movement for a Scottish Assembly was first taken up in 1853 by the National Association for the Vindication of Scottish Rights, a body close to the Conservative Party. A key element in this movement was the comparison with Ireland. The original movement broadened its political appeal and soon began to receive Liberal Party backing,[3] In 1885, the Post of Secretary for Scotland and the Scottish Office were re-established to promote Scotland's interests and express its concerns to the British Parliament. In 1886, however, William Ewart Gladstone introduced the Irish Home Rule Bill. When many Scots compared what they had to the Irish offer of Home Rule, the status quo was considered inadequate.[citation needed] It was not regarded as an immediate constitutional priority however, particularly when the Irish Home Rule Bill was defeated in the House of Commons.

The twentieth century[edit]

By the time a Scottish Home Rule bill was first presented to parliament in 1913, its progress, along with that of the Irish Home Rule Act 1914, was interrupted by World War I and subsequently became overshadowed by the Easter Rising and Irish War of Independence. However, the Scottish Office was relocated to St Andrew's House in Edinburgh during the 1930s.[3][4]

In 1921, influenced by Sinn Féin, the Scots National League formed as a body, primarily based in London, seeking Scottish independence. The League established The Scots Independent newspaper in 1926 and in 1928 it helped the Glasgow University Scottish Nationalist Association to form the National Party of Scotland (NPS), the aim of which was a separate Scottish state. One of the National Party of Scotland's founders was Hugh MacDiarmid, a poet who had begun promoting a Scottish literature. Other literary supporters included Eric Linklater and Neil Gunn while others, like John MacCormick and Robert Bontine Cunninghame Graham had Labour Party links. The NPS cooperated with the Scottish Party, a home rule organisation formed in 1932 by former members of the Conservative Party, and these merged in 1934 to form the Scottish National Party (SNP).

At first, the SNP supported home rule through the establishment of a devolved Scottish Assembly within the United Kingdom, rather than all-out independence for Scotland.[citation needed]. This became the party's initial position on the constitutional status of Scotland, as a result of a compromise between the NPS, which did support independence, and the Scottish Party which was devolutionist. However, the SNP quickly reverted to the original NPS stance of supporting full independence for Scotland. The interwar period proved to be difficult years for the SNP, with the rise of undemocratic nationalist forces in Europe in the shape of Fascism in Italy and Spain and national socialism in Germany. The alleged similarity between SNP and foreign nationalists, combined with other factors, such as a relatively low profile in mainstream media, made it difficult for the SNP to grow its support.[citation needed] Unlike the pseudo-ethnic or ultra-nationalist groups on mainland Europe, the SNP has based their position on civic nationalism.[5]

Post-World War II[edit]

The Scottish Covenant was a petition to the UK government asking for home rule. It was first proposed in 1930 by John MacCormick and formally written in 1949. The petition "was eventually signed by two million people"[6] (the population of Scotland was 5.1 million in the census of 1951[7]). The covenant was ignored by the main political parties.[6] Also in 1950, the Stone of Destiny was removed from Westminster Abbey by nationalists.

The concept of full independence, or the less controversial home rule, did not re-enter the political mainstream until 1960, after the famous Wind of Change speech by UK Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. This speech marked the start of a rapid pace of decolonisation in Africa and the end of the British Empire. The UK had already suffered the international humiliation of the 1956 Suez Crisis, which showed that it was no longer the superpower it had been before World War II. For many in Scotland, this served to undermine one of the principal raisons d'être for the United Kingdom and also symbolised the end of popular imperialism and the Imperial unity that had united the then-prominent Scottish Unionist Party. The Unionist Party subsequently began a steady decline in support.[8][9]

The rise of the 'Modern' SNP[edit]

The SNP won a Parliamentary seat in 1967, when Winnie Ewing was the unexpected winner of the Hamilton by-election, 1967. This brought the SNP to national prominence, leading to Edward Heath's 1968 Declaration of Perth and the establishment of the Kilbrandon Commission.[10]

1970s resurgence[edit]

The discovery of North Sea oil off the east coast of Scotland in 1970 further invigorated the debate over Scottish independence.[11] The Scottish National Party organised a hugely successful campaign entitled "It's Scotland's oil", emphasising the way in which the discovery of oil could benefit Scotland's then-struggling deindustrialising economy and its populace.[12] In the February 1974 general election seven SNP MPs were returned. The failure of the Labour Party to secure an overall majority prompted them to quickly return to the polls. In the subsequent October 1974 election, the SNP performed even better than they had done earlier in the year, winning 11 MPs and managing to garner over 30% of the total vote in Scotland.[13]

In January 1974, the Conservative government commissioned the McCrone report, written by professor Gavin McCrone, a leading government economist, to report on the viability of an independent Scotland. He concluded that oil would have given an independent Scotland one of the strongest currencies in Europe. The report went on to say that officials advised government ministers on how to take "the wind out of the SNP sails". Handed over to the incoming Labour administration and classified as secret because of Labour fears over the surge in Scottish National Party popularity, the document came to light only in 2005, when the SNP obtained the report under the Freedom of Information Act 2000.[14][15]

The Labour Party under Harold Wilson had won the election by a tiny majority of only three seats. Following their election to parliament, the SNP's MPs pressed for the creation of a Scottish Assembly, which was given added credibility after the conclusions of the Kilbrandon Commission. However, opponents demanded that a referendum be held on the issue. Although the Labour Party and the Scottish National Party both officially supported devolution, support was split in both parties. Labour was divided between those who favoured devolution and those who wanted to maintain a full central Westminster government. In the SNP, there was division between those who saw devolution as a stepping stone to independence and those who feared it might actually detract from that ultimate goal.[11]

The resignation of Harold Wilson brought James Callaghan to power, however his small majority was eroded with several by-election losses and the government became increasingly unpopular. An arrangement was negotiated in 1977 with the Liberals known as the Lib-Lab pact and a succession of deals with the Scottish National Party and Plaid Cymru to hold referendums on devolution in exchange for their support, which helped to prolong the government's life.

The result of the referendum in Scotland was a narrow majority in favour of devolution (52% to 48%),[11] but a condition of the referendum was that 40% of the total electorate should vote in favour in order to make it valid. Thus, with a turnout of 63.6%, only 32.9% had voted "Yes". The Scotland Act 1978 was consequently repealed in March 1979 by a vote of 301–206 in parliament. In the wake of the referendum the supporters of the bill conducted a protest campaign under the slogan "Scotland said yes". They argued that the 40% rule was undemocratic and that the referendum results justified the establishment of the assembly. Campaigners for a "No" vote countered that voters had been told before the referendum that failing to vote itself was as good as a "No".[16] It was therefore incorrect to conclude that the 36.4% who did not vote, was entirely down to voter apathy.

In protest, the Scottish National Party MPs withdrew their support from the government. A motion of no confidence was then tabled by the Conservatives and supported by the SNP, the Liberals and Ulster Unionists. It passed by one vote on 28 March 1979, forcing the May 1979 general election, which was won by Margaret Thatcher, effectively ending the post-war consensus. The Labour Prime Minister, James Callaghan, famously described this decision by the SNP as that of 'turkeys voting for Christmas'.[17][18] The SNP returned only two MPs in the 1979 election, leading to the formation of the controversial 79 Group within the SNP.

Devolution[edit]

Supporters of Scottish independence continued to hold mixed views on the Home Rule movement which included many supporters of union who wanted devolution within the framework of the United Kingdom. Some saw it as a stepping stone to independence, while others wanted to go straight for independence.[19]

In the years of the Conservative government after 1979, the Campaign for a Scottish Assembly was established, eventually publishing the Claim of Right 1989. This then led to the Scottish Constitutional Convention. The convention promoted consensus on devolution on a cross-party basis, though the Conservative Party refused to co-operate and the Scottish National Party withdrew from the discussions when it became clear that the convention was unwilling to discuss Scottish independence as a constitutional option.[11] Arguments against devolution and the Scottish Parliament, levelled mainly by the Conservative Party, were that the Parliament would create a "slippery slope" to Scottish independence and provide the pro-independence Scottish National Party with a route to government.[20] John Major, the Conservative prime minister before May 1997, campaigned during the 1997 general election on the slogan "72 hours to save the union".[21]

The Labour Party won the 1997 general election and Donald Dewar as Secretary of State for Scotland agreed to the proposals for a Scottish Parliament. A referendum was held in September and 74.3% of those who voted approved the devolution plan (44.87% of the electorate).[22] The Parliament of the United Kingdom subsequently approved the Scotland Act 1998 which created an elected Scottish Parliament with control over most domestic policy.[11] In May 1999, Scotland held its first election for a devolved parliament and in July the Scottish Parliament held session for the first time since the previous parliament had been adjourned in 1707.

The Scottish Parliament is a unicameral legislature comprising 129 Members, 73 of whom represent individual constituencies and are elected on a first past the post system; 56 are elected in eight different electoral regions by the additional member system, serving for a four-year period. The Queen appoints one Member of the Scottish Parliament, on the nomination of the Parliament, to be First Minister with the convention being that the leader of the party with the largest number of seats is appointed First Minister although any member which can command the confidence of the chamber could conceivably be appointed First Minister. All other Ministers are appointed and dismissed by the First Minister and together they make up the Scottish Government, the executive arm of government.[23]

The Labour Party's Donald Dewar became the First Minister of Scotland, while the Scottish National Party became the main opposition party. With the approval of all parties, the egalitarian song "A Man's A Man for A' That", by Robert Burns, was performed at the opening ceremony of the Scottish Parliament.

The Scottish Parliament has legislative authority for all non-reserved matters relating to Scotland, and has a limited power to vary income tax, nicknamed the Tartan Tax, a power it has yet to exercise. The Scottish Parliament can refer devolved matters back to Westminster to be considered as part of United Kingdom-wide legislation by passing a Legislative Consent Motion if United Kingdom-wide legislation is considered to be more appropriate for certain issues. The programmes of legislation enacted by the Scottish Parliament since 1999 have seen a divergence in the provision of public services compared to the rest of the United Kingdom. For instance, the costs of a university education, and care services for the elderly are free at point of use in Scotland, while fees are paid in the rest of the UK. Scotland was the first country in the UK to ban smoking in enclosed public places.[24]

Scotland is also represented in the British House of Commons by 59 MPs elected from territory-based Scottish constituencies.

2014 referendum[edit]

Survey of the importance of holding a referendum, carried out by the BBC in April 2011.

In its manifesto for the 2007 Scottish Parliament election, the SNP pledged to hold an independence referendum by 2010.[25][26] After winning the election,[27] the SNP-controlled Scottish Government published a White Paper entitled Choosing Scotland's Future, which outlined options for the future of Scotland, including independence.[28][29]

At the time, Scottish Labour, the Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Liberal Democrats opposed a referendum offering independence as an option. Then Prime Minister Gordon Brown also publicly attacked the independence option.[30] Based on a subsequent debate in the Scottish Parliament,[31] the three main parties opposed to independence formed the Calman commission.[32][33] This reviewed devolution and considered all constitutional options bar independence.[34]

In August 2009, the SNP announced that the Referendum (Scotland) Bill, 2010 would be part of its third legislative programme for 2009–10, which would detail the question and conduct of a possible referendum on the issue of independence. The Bill was to be published on 25 January 2010, Burns Night, with the referendum proposed for on or around 30 November 2010, St. Andrew's Day. The Bill was not expected to be passed, because of the SNP's status as a minority government, and the opposition of all the major parties in the Parliament.[35][36] In September 2010, the Scottish Government announced that no referendum would occur before the 2011 elections.[37]

Following the SNP's victory in the 2011 election,[38][39] which gave the party an overall majority in the Scottish Parliament, First Minister Alex Salmond stated his desire to hold a referendum "in the second half of the parliament" which would place it in 2014 or 2015.[40] On 10 November, David Cameron considered plans for a UK-led referendum "to prevent the Scottish Nationalists from setting the terms, question and timing to suit themselves".[41]

In January 2012, politicians clashed over whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to hold a referendum on independence. A referendum seeking to change the constitutional status of Scotland would not be legally binding on the UK Parliament because referendums in the United Kingdom are advisory only.[42] The UK Government claimed that the mandate, vested in Westminster by the Act of the Union 1707, had not been devolved to the Scottish Parliament since the constitution is one of the reserved matters for the UK Parliament under the Scotland Act 1998.[43][44][45] At any time Westminster could amend the Scotland Act, changing the powers of the Scottish Parliament; it has previously amended the Act to maintain the number of MSPs, which would otherwise have been reduced in line with the reduction of Scottish MPs in the 2005 UK general election. In January 2012, Secretary of State for Scotland Michael Moore and Prime Minister David Cameron indicated that they were willing for the UK Parliament to devolve the power to hold a referendum,[46] but disagree with the SNP over its timing and composition. Alex Salmond and the SNP assert that the Scottish Parliament already has the right to implement a referendum without receiving any further powers from Westminster.[46]

A campaign for Scottish independence was launched on 25 May 2012 by the Scottish National Party. First Minister Alex Salmond urged Scottish people to sign a declaration supporting independence before the referendum at the launch of the Yes Scotland campaign in Edinburgh.[47]

Legality[edit]

The UK Parliament retains parliamentary sovereignty over the United Kingdom as a whole.[48][49][50] This claim was endorsed by Lord Bingham of Cornhill in Jackson v Attorney General who argued that "[t]hen [in 1911], as now, the Crown in Parliament was unconstrained by any entrenched or codified constitution. It could make or unmake any law it wished"[51] and by the Supreme Court in AXA General Insurance Ltd and others v HM Advocate and others. The Deputy President, Lord Hope of Craighead, stated that "the sovereignty of the Crown in Parliament ... is the bedrock of the British constitution. Sovereignty remains with the United Kingdom Parliament."[52] However, the application of the principle of parliamentary sovereignty to Scotland has been disputed. In MacCormick v The Lord Advocate, the Lord President of the Court of Session, Lord Cooper of Culross stated obiter dicta that "the principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish Constitutional Law."[53] It has been suggested that the doctrine of popular sovereignty,[54] proclaimed in the 1320 Declaration of Arbroath and reasserted by the Claim of Right 1989,[55][56] is of greater relevance to Scotland.

The legality of any British constituent country attaining de facto independence (in the same manner as the origins of the Irish Republic) or declaring unilateral independence outside the framework of British constitutional convention is uncertain. Some legal opinion following the Supreme Court of Canada's decision on what steps Quebec would need to take to secede is that Scotland would be unable to unilaterally declare independence under international law if the British government permitted a referendum on an unambiguous question on secession.[57][58] Rather, the SNP claims that a positive vote for independence in a referendum would have "enormous moral and political force... impossible for a future [Westminster] government to ignore",[59] and hence would give the Scottish Parliament a mandate to negotiate the passage of an act of the UK Parliament providing for Scotland's secession, in which Westminster renounces its claims to sovereignty over Scotland.[60]

Legitimacy[edit]

The United Nations Charter enshrines the right of peoples to self-determination, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights also guarantees peoples' right to change nationality; the UK is a signatory to both documents. Politicians in both the Scottish and British parliaments have endorsed the right of the Scottish people to self-determination, including former UK Prime Ministers John Major and Margaret Thatcher.[61] The Claim of Right 1989 was signed by every then-serving Scottish Labour and Scottish Liberal Democrat MP, with the exception of Tam Dalyell. Johann Lamont stated in her December 2011 acceptance speech for the Scottish Labour leadership that "sovereignty lies with the people of Scotland".[62]

There is some contention as to who represents the people of Scotland in the matter of the constitution, especially in light of the Scottish Government's insistence that the SNP's majority in the Scottish Parliament provides a mandate for an independence referendum. This is because the electorate voted for their MP, not their MSP, to represent them on issues of the constitution. However, the Edinburgh Agreement between the Scottish Government and the UK Government agrees that the British Parliament will pass a Section 30 order to temporarily grant the Scottish Parliament the legal power to hold the referendum.

Support for independence[edit]

Political parties[edit]

Scottish independence is supported most prominently by the Scottish National Party, but other parties also have pro-independence policies. Those who have had elected representatives in either the Scottish Parliament or local councils in recent years are the Scottish Green Party, the Scottish Socialist Party and Solidarity.

At the 2011 Scottish Parliament election, 72 of the seats were won by members who have expressed pro-independence sentiments, over 55% of the total. These consisted of 69 Scottish National Party members, the two Green members and Margo MacDonald, an independent politician.[63][64]

Other organisations[edit]

The Independence Convention seeks "Firstly, to create a forum for those of all political persuasions and none who support independence; and secondly, to be a national catalyst for Scottish independence."[65] Independence First is a pro-referendum pressure group which has organised public demonstrations. The Scottish Republican Socialist Movement is a Pan-Socialist independence movement that believes that Scotland should be made an independent republic. This movement has a Firebrand socialist ethos, however is not affiliated with the SSP or the Scottish Communist Party. It believes that a failure to become independent should lead to mass emigration elsewhere, or as put as a slogan "Independence or Desertion".

Following the launch of Yes Scotland, other campaigns in support of independence were launched, including the National Collective and Radical Independence Campaign. The former is an artist-driven movement which describes itself as "an open and non-party political collaboration of talent focused on driving social and political change in Scotland through a variety of the arts".[66] It is responsible for organising the mock referendum at University of Glasgow which was held in February 2013.[67][68] The latter proclaims itself to be "fighting for an independent Scotland that is for the millions not the millionaires" and was formed after the Radical Independence Conference 2012 in Glasgow, which was attended by at least 650 people and has been described as a "[bringing together of] the Scottish Greens, the Scottish Socialists, some of the more militant trade unionists, nuclear-disarmament campaigners and anti-monarchist republicans".[69]

In April 2013 National Collective were threatened with legal action by Ian Taylor, Better Together's largest donor, over allegations concerning Vitol's, his company, dealings in Iraq.[70]

There also exists the Labour for Independence movement, which consists of Scottish Labour Party members and voters who support Scottish independence, and the Women for Independence group, which aims to add a distinctive female voice to the debate.

Reasons[edit]

Reasons that have been cited in favour of independence include:

  • The principle of self-determination: the people who live in Scotland, who are the most invested in the future of Scotland, will be making decisions for Scotland themselves.[71]
  • Control over defence and foreign policy means Scotland can choose, for example, to no longer have nuclear weapons in its seas or no longer be part of NATO.[72]
  • Access to North Sea oil and "vast offshore renewable energy" revenue means greater funding for the Scottish Government. In the 1970s, a slogan used for the oil argument was It's Scotland's oil.[73][74]
  • It could instigate a "cultural dawn"[clarification needed] for Scotland. This has been emphasised by creative pro-independence groups like National Collective.[75]

Difference over form of government[edit]

The independence movement consists of many factions with varying political views. There are many republican groups, who do not identify with the Scottish National Party. The SNP is in favour of Scotland becoming an independent Commonwealth realm, similar to Canada or Australia, if independence should occur. This would effectively return Scotland to its previous constitutional state of dynastic union, after the Union of the Crowns in 1603. Queen Elizabeth II is not only the descendent of the Kings and Queens of England but also of the Kings and Queens of Scotland, before the two nations' union in 1707. Proportional representation has led to the election to the Scottish Parliament of smaller parties with various political positions but which have independence as a goal; in the 2003 Scottish Parliament election the gains made by the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party boosted the number of pro-independence MSPs. The Scottish Socialist Party has led republican protests and authored the Declaration of Calton Hill, calling for an independent republic.[76]

Organisations in favour of Scotland becoming an independent republic, thus abolishing the monarchy altogether in Scotland, include the Scottish Socialist Party, Scottish Republican Socialist Party, Scottish Workers Republican Party and Solidarity.

Opposition to independence[edit]

Political parties[edit]

In Britain, opposition to independence is represented by the three main British political parties as well as UKIP[77] and the BNP.[78] Within the Scottish Parliament, the Union is supported by the Scottish Labour Party, Scottish Conservative Party and Scottish Liberal Democrats. Opposition to Scottish independence is also an opinion held by George Galloway of the Respect Party.

Reasons[edit]

There are strong historical and contemporary ties between Scotland and the rest of the UK from the Reformation and Union of Crowns, to Scottish involvement in the growth and development of the British Empire and contribution of the Scottish Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution. Contemporary popular culture is also shared to some extent, primarily through the prevalence of the English language. Almost half of the Scottish population have relatives in England, almost a million Scoto-English live and work in England and 400,000 Anglo-Scots now live in Scotland.[79] There are also significant economic links with the Scottish military-industrial complex[80] as well as close links within the financial sector.[81]

Those in favour of maintaining the Union believe Scotland is economically stronger as a part of the UK economy and that Scotland is better able to prosper in a globalised economy with the international influence and perceived stability derived from being part of a larger state.[82] David Maddox, writing for The Scotsman, says that Scotland's levels of public spending would be difficult to sustain after independence without raising taxes, pointing to a future decline in North Sea oil revenue.[83] Some, such as Ruth Davidson of the Scottish Conservatives,[84] wish to reduce public spending and devolve more fiscal powers to the Scottish Parliament in order to address this issue within the broader framework of the Union.[85][86][87]

The Better Together campaign established in 2012 has talked about the uncertainty that could be brought in the immediate aftermath of independence, particularly by highlighting disagreement as to how Scotland would be treated in relation to the European Union, and the unlikelihood of the UK accepting a currency union with an independent Scotland.[88][89]

Difference over form of government[edit]

Unionism ranges from those who support a centralised unitary state governed exclusively by the Parliament of the United Kingdom, to those who support varying degrees of devolution to the Scottish Parliament, including federalism. This was relevant to the Scottish Conservative Party leadership election, 2011 where the winner, Ruth Davidson, was in favour of the status quo and the second most voted candidate, Murdo Fraser, was in favour of greater devolution.

Other issues[edit]

International influence[edit]

Those in favour of a continued union also claim that as part of the United Kingdom, Scotland has more influence on international affairs and diplomacy, both politically and militarily, as part of NATO, the G8 and as a permanent member of the UN Security Council. Opponents of further integration of the European Union claim that independence, within Europe but outside the EU three, would mean that Scotland would be more marginalised because, as a relatively small independent country, Scotland would be unable to resist the demands of larger member nations.[90]

However, there is the counterargument that Scotland could have more influence on world affairs by being represented independently.[91] As an example, Scotland currently has six MEPs. Independent countries with a similar population to Scotland, such as Ireland or Denmark, have approximately twice as much representation. Similarly although every EU member state is represented at the Council of Europe, Scotland – as part of the UK – doesn't have a dedicated representative. If it were an independent nation it would have its own representative.[citation needed]

European Union[edit]

Some legal analysts argue that an independent Scotland would need to apply to join the EU.[92] The SNP has claimed that Scotland would automatically inherit EU membership, as there was no ground for expelling Scottish people who were currently EU citizens.[93] This position was subsequently challenged by legal experts and the President of the European Union, resulting in the SNP changing their position.[94] The current SNP position is to argue that Scotland would have almost automatic membership as an existing part of the EU, subject only to a majority vote in the European Council.[95] It was reported in The Spectator and The Independent that Spain may object to Scottish membership of the EU,[96][97] but this was denied by the Spanish Government.[98] In 2013, Professor Dr Roland Vaubel, an adviser to Germany’s economics ministry argued in an article in the journal Economic Affairs that “The legal position taken by Barroso, Reding and van Rompuy has no basis in the European treaties. Nor is there a precedent in EU law. Nor does the UN Charter envisage dispositions with regard to secession... The treaties are also consistent with automatic succession of both the seceding state and the rump state." He argued that the EU institutions had a vested interest in centralisation and were therefore biased against separatist movements while also hoping to gain concessions from an independent Scotland in negotiations.[99]

The Scottish Government is of the opinion that accession negotiations with the EU would be expedited and could be completed prior to their planned date of independence in March 2016.[100] This timescale was described as "realistic" by Professor James Crawford, who co-authored the UK Government's first paper on independence,[101] while speaking on the BBC programme Good Morning Scotland. Crawford added that the process of EU accession is "[not] necessarily going to be very difficult, because Scotland complies with the Acquis now, as part of the UK".[102]

A contention in this issue was whether legal advice had been sought by the Scottish Government before making the claim regarding automatic membership. A Freedom of Information request into the subject was blocked by the government.[103] Alex Salmond was directly asked in an interview if they had sought such advice and answered "Yes, in terms of the debate".[104] It was subsequently revealed that no legal advice had been taken,[105] leading to accusations[by whom?] that the First Minister had lied.[106] This was disputed on the grounds that his comments were misunderstood. In October 2012 the Scottish Government announced that they had now sought legal advice, having waited for the agreement over a Section 30 order to proceed.[107]

Currency[edit]

There are currently four options proposed by different parties for currency if Scotland were to become an independent state; changing to the euro, retaining pound sterling with or without a currency union, or adopting a separate Scottish currency.[108] The SNP and Yes Scotland are in favour of an independent Scotland retaining the pound sterling as its currency, while maintaining a currency union with the rest of the UK.[109][110]

The Better Together campaign against Scottish independence has argued that the UK government would refuse such an arrangement,[111] but Yes Scotland maintain that it be mutually beneficial, as Scotland's exports, including North Sea oil, would boost the balance of payments and therefore strengthen the exchange rate of the pound sterling.[112] This claim was rejected by Professor Charles Nolan of Glasgow University, who said it would make little difference because the pound is a floating currency.[113] Opponents have also suggested that Scotland's retention of the British currency would devalue sterling and impact negatively on the economies of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland.[114][115] Gordon Brown has pointed out that by retaining the pound sterling, Scotland would have to live under whatever currency rules the UK imposed without any guarantee of any control over monetary policy.[116]

UK Chancellor George Osborne said in February 2014 that "if Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the pound.".[117][118] Osborne was subsequently supported in this position by Ed Balls and Danny Alexander, speaking for the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats respectively.[118] Alex Salmond accused Osborne of "bluff, bluster and posturing" and insisted that a currency union would be "overwhelmingly" in the best interests of both Scotland and the rest of the UK.[118] The opposition of the UK political parties to a currency union was undermined when The Guardian reported an unnamed Government minister as saying that "there would be a currency union" if an agreement could be reached.[119] The minister suggested that a currency union would be permitted if an independent Scotland allowed nuclear submarines to be stationed in Scottish waters.[119]

If a currency union did not happen an independent Scotland would likely have three alternatives; adopting the euro, setting up its own currency or retaining the pound without a currency union.[118] Adopting the euro would take at least a few years because Scotland would have to attain EU membership and then fulfil the convergence criteria for at least two years. The SNP previously proposed that an independent Scotland should adopt the euro, but this position was changed following the 2010 European sovereign-debt crisis.[109] It has been suggested[by whom?] that Scotland may be forced to join the euro, but this has been contested by the Scottish Government.[120]

Former Irish Taoiseach (Prime Minister) John Bruton, remarking on the potential for repeating the experience of Ireland from 1922 until 1978 with an Irish Pound tied to sterling, said "At that time, we had a situation where interest rate policy was determined in London without any Irish input, and we went up and down with the fortunes of whatever suited the British economy as decided by people in Britain".[121]

A report from the Jimmy Reid Foundation suggested that Scotland should look to create its own currency. It described the SNP's plan to retain the pound as a good "transitional" arrangement, but recommended the establishment of an independent Scottish currency to "insulate" Scotland from the UK's "economic instability". The report argued that the UK's monetary policy had "sacrificed productive economy growth for conditions that suit financial speculation" and that an independent currency could protect Scotland from "the worst of it".[122] The Scottish Green Party said that keeping the pound sterling as "a short term transitional arrangement" should not be ruled out, but the Scottish Government should "keep an open mind about moving towards an independent currency".[123]

Opinion polls[edit]

Many opinion polls have been conducted about Scottish independence.[124][125][126][127][128][129][130] Professor John Curtice stated in January 2012 that polling shows support for independence at between 32% and 38% of the Scottish population.[131] This has fallen somewhat since the SNP were first elected to become the Scottish Government in 2007.[131] The research also shows, however, that the proportion of the population strongly opposed to independence has fallen in recent years.[131]

Polls show consistent strong support for a referendum, including amongst those who support the continuation of the union. Most opinion polls have shown in-principle support of around 70–75% for a referendum.[132]

A collection of companies have undertaken continuous surveys, including Ipsos MORI, Angus Reid, Yougov, TNS-BMRB and Panelbase,[133] while Lord Ashcroft also commissioned polls on the issue.[citation needed] According to Professor John Curtice, all of the polls conducted so far "do not all agree with each other." Curtice further explained: "One company, Panelbase, has persistently painted a brighter picture for the Yes side than everyone else. Panelbase’s average rating for the Yes side – once the Don’t Knows are taken out – is 44%. Everyone else’s, in contrast, is just 37%."[134] Overall, there are "consistent differences between pollsters", with Panelbase showing "a relatively tight race", while Ipsos MORI and TNS "tend to show a much bigger lead for the NO campaign."[135]

In February 2014, Ipsos MORI published further poll results that indicated higher levels of support in lower socio-economic areas. In the more marginalised, working-class wards 47% of poll participants stated that they would vote yes, while 41% registered an intention to vote against the move towards complete independence. The same polls also showed that 20% of voters in Scotland's wealthier areas intend to vote yes in the referendum.[136]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ "Scotland to hold independence poll in 2014 – Salmond". BBC. 10 January 2012. Retrieved 10 January 2012. 
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  6. ^ a b "Devolution's swings and roundabouts". BBC News. 1999-04-07. Retrieved 2014-01-07. 
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Sources and further reading[edit]

  • Murkens, Jo Eric (2002). Scottish Independence: A Practical Guide. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 0-7486-1699-3. 
  • Pittock, Murray (2008). The Road to Independence?: Scotland Since the Sixties. Reaktion Books. 
  • Keating, Michael (2009). The Independence of Scotland: Self-Government and the Shifting Politics of Union. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 
  • Hassan, Gerry (2011). Radical Scotland: Arguments for Self-Determination. Luath Press. 

External links[edit]