Wednesday, 30 January 2013

The Curious Case of Independence

Following on from my earlier post, I am beginning to notice a trend in the SNP's arguments when it comes to independence. Although the SNP have had 80 years to develop concrete proposals we will still have to wait until their white paper in November to discover their full plans. What we do know of the SNP's vision to date, however, according to them (i.e. having asked nobody else), is the following:

  • The Queen would remain Head of State.
  • Sterling would remain as Scotland's currency (limiting a separate Scottish government's fiscal flexibility).
  • Keep the Bank of England as a lender of last resort for Scottish banks.
  • Share some of the Bank of England's reserves (gold and foreign exchange).
  • A common subsidy regime for renewable energy, determined by Westminster. 
  • Allow the rest of the UK to continue regulating Scottish financial services.
  • A separate Scottish broadcaster would import popular BBC programmes such as Eastenders.
  • Allow for dual citizenship, meaning Scottish people can keep their British passports. 
  • The MoD would continue to award contracts to the Scottish shipbuilding industry
  • There would be a common airforce with the rest of the UK. 
  • MI5 and MI6 would continue to protect the national security of Scotland and share information with a separate Scottish intelligence service. 
  • To be a member of NATO. 
  • British embassies would continue to represent Scottish citizens. 
  • Scotland would be a member of the European Union under the same terms and conditions it currently enjoys as part of the United Kingdom.

The obvious question arises: what exactly is 'independent' about this (that is the word the SNP want to use)? They are proposing separation by arguing for things Scotland already enjoys as part of the United Kingdom. Very curious.

UPDATE (25th June 2013): Over the last few weeks there have been further developments in the SNP's exponentially growing fond attachment of UK institutions, with Scots being promised continuation of the following in the event of separation (it should be noted neither that the British government or the relevant departments have been asked what they think of these proposals):

The increasingly curious case of independence continues.

UPDATE (13th July 2013): This week the SNP have decided there is something else in the UK that works for Scotland - the postal service. Ministers believe the UK postal system works well for Scotland and have therefore guaranteed that an independent Scotland would match the Royal Mail's guarantee of 6-day-a-week post, in addition to uniform stamp prices.

The increasingly curious case of independence continues.

UPDATE (14th July 2013): I came across this article on the BBC website today, which gives an overview of the highlights from a major speech by Alex Salmond about why Scotland should be independent. The article is titled 'Alex Salmond talks up Scots-UK links', and the First Minister's case is explained in the first two paragraphs:

Alex Salmond has told the BBC that an independent Scotland could remain part of a "United Kingdom", even when it is politically separate from the rest of the UK. 
The Scottish first minister pointed out that the term "United Kingdom" came into use in the 17th century, when Scotland was still an independent country, following the 1603 Union of the Crowns.

Now not for the first time, Mr Salmond probably has his facts wrong. Whilst we cannot be 100% sure when exactly the term 'United Kingdom' came about, what we do know is that it formally came about in 1707 in the Act of Union:

That the Two Kingdoms of Scotland and England shall upon the first day of May next ensuing the date hereof and forever after be United into One Kingdom by the Name of Great Britain And that the Ensigns Armorial of the said United Kingdom...

Nevertheless, the exact timing of the origination is irrelevant. The point is that the term United Kingdom is obviously, in the eyes of the First Minister, a cherished part of Scottish civic life. So that's something else that's British that an independent Scotland must keep.

The increasingly curious case of independence continues.

UPDATE (24th July 2013): Today the BBC discusses the findings of a leaked SNP document it has seen, which sets out the energy policy of an independent Scotland. Now not only does the document confirm the SNP's desire to retain the UK's common subsidy regime (which is crucial to unlocking Scotland's renewable energy potential), but it reveals that nationalist ministers also believe the UK's energy regulation system works best for Scotland:

The shared regulation of a single GB-wide energy market, by the new Scottish regulator and the England and Wales regulator, presents the best approach for an independent Scotland.

The increasingly curious case of independence continues.

UPDATE (22nd August 2013): Yesterday Alex Salmond gave a speech in Hawick arguing independence for Scotland would be based on "interdependence" (his words, not mine) with the continuing UK and the EU. So it's very clear that the First Minister believes it is important for Scotland to cooperate and work with its biggest trading partner to promote economic prosperity. 

The increasingly curious case of independence continues.

UPDATE (29th October 2013): Last night BBC Newsnight Scotland hosted a debate on the future of higher education in Scotland. One of the discussion topics was about UK research council funding at Scottish universities, in the event of Scotland becoming a separate country. Together, the UK's seven research councils currently invest £3 billion on research, training, and developing educational infrastructure across all academic disciplines. Scotland currently receives a disproportionate level of this funding (13%) in comparison to its population share of the UK (8%). Unsurprisingly, the Cabinet Secretary for Education, Michael Russell, believes this is of benefit to Scotland and wishes to see Scotland's place as part of the UK's broad research and educational framework continue in the event of independence. When questioned on the impact separation would have on UK research council funding he said:

We're in a number of interlinking research areas at the moment, within the UK research councils, and within Europe. We can find more of those areas, and be part of those areas.

The increasingly curious case of independence continues.

UPDATE (10th November 2013): A couple of days ago (8th November) the SNP posted on their official Twitter account the most bizarre claim:

"And besides, following a #Yes vote Scotland will not be a foreign country to the rUK. We will be independent. #IndyRef"

So it appears the objective of Scotland separating from the UK is not to become a foreign country. It's not to become a separate sovereign entity from the UK at all. But if the SNP campaign is just about getting some more powers for the Scottish parliament, then it really does make you wonder why they are an anti-devolution party, and why they are campaigning to pull Scotland out of the United Kingdom.  

The increasingly curious case of independence continues.

UPDATE (12th November 2013): The Scottish press have been busy over the last few days reporting what Alex Salmond has been getting up to during his visit to China. Of particular interest to the Telegraph was a speech he gave to an audience of financial services leaders in Hong Kong, where he praised Scotland's strong links with London:

Speaking at FT International Financial Centers Forum in Hong Kong, another of the world’s major financial centres, he [Alex Salmond] said firms look for a skilled workforce and close links with major markets when deciding where to operate.

“That puts Scotland in a strong position. We share a time zone, a language and a regulatory system with London, and our operating costs for key functions can be some 30 per cent lower than the City of London,” he said.

He said Scotland’s links with the City were among the reasons why major financial firms like Morgan Stanley and JP Morgan have based their global operations in Scotland.

Of course, what's interesting about this is that it is SNP policy to weaken the strong links that exist between Scotland's financial services centres and the City of London, through duplicating regulations, increasing the unnecessary costs to business, and stripping them of their UK identity. It is therefore ironic that the First Minister used his speech to praise the very strong ties that he so desperately wants to break.

The increasingly curious case of independence continues.