The issue of Scottish independence never disappeared from the political agenda since the ‘No’ vote was victorious in September 2014. Now that Brexit has been added to the political equation, the issue has returned to the fore. Nicola Sturgeon has a right to call a referendum, as a significant constitutional change has occurred; but the argument for Scottish independence remains extremely unconvincing.
Independence may bring new opportunities, but there is a possibility that it will worsen the already precarious position of the Scottish economy. Scotland’s budget deficit is approximately 9 percent of their GDP, three times greater than the UK national deficit. Based on this, Scotland would fail an element required by the Convergence Criteria: the economic criteria for entering the Euro. The Convergence Criteria requires a budget deficit of no more than 3 percent of GDP. Research from the Taxpayers’ Alliance outlined that, in order for Scotland to meet the 3 percent threshold, spending would have to be cut considerably. Police, transport and agriculture spending would have to be cut to the bone, and health spending would have to be cut by an estimated 82 percent. Independence would impact the economic credibility of the SNP. Austerity would be required to balance the books, yet the SNP claim to be the party of anti-austerity. What hinders the economic argument for independence, even more, is that contrary to popular belief, North Sea Oil revenues would not solve Scotland’s economic issues. In 2016, oil revenues collapsed from £1.8bn to 60 million, thus destroying Scotland’s hopes for oil prosperity. Every nation has the right to self-determination, but the economic reality is particularly damning; independence would present so much economic instability which is a risk is not worth taking.
Scotland would not gain from independence if they became members of the European Union. Scotland may become independent from Westminster but will surrender this newly gained ‘independence’ to Brussels. Not only would monetary policy be ceded to the EU, but other policy areas such as immigration would be surrendered also. Since the Brexit campaign, the SNP advocated remaining members in the European Economic Area (EEA) so the UK would be like Norway. Within the EEA, Scotland would not be able to control immigration, undoubtedly causing more strain on already overloaded public services. This would be worsened by the reduction in funding public services will receive to reign in the existing public debt. The EU would gain competence in fisheries, alienating Scotland’s fishing industry who have just regained control over British waters. The opinions of those who work in a vital industry must be taken into account, despite all council areas voting Remain. Fisheries are not the only issue with the European Union. The SNP argue that they want to leave the UK because they’re never heard in Westminster, and the current Tory government is unrepresentative of the entire UK. They clearly haven’t considered the democratic deficit which characterises the EU. If the SNP thought they were unrepresented in Westminster, their MEPs would not have legislative powers in the European Parliament, they would just be symbolic representatives; in effect, they would just be lame ducks. If the SNP thought Whitehall was far removed from Scottish interests, the Commission will not only administer legislation, but it will create it too and then implement it by diktat. Scotland will be tied to the complications that EU membership brings – having laws that will be implemented in Scotland that would have been devised in Brussels and the Scottish government will remain secondary players. Surely, the costs of EU membership outweigh the benefits?
On the ballot paper there will be 310 years of history. The 1707 Act of Union initiated one of the longest political unions, which has created new and consolidated existing cultural links. Despite Scotland being more progressive and left-leaning compared to England, there are shared similarities. English is the predominant language and this reaffirms our cultural connection. In Wimbledon and other tennis majors, Andy Murray is recognised as British by the Association of Tennis Professionals (ATP) and to the people when he is victorious. In the summer and winter Olympics for example, Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland form Team GB, conveying the outstanding talent on show within the UK.This talent was perfectly illustrated by Team GB coming second in Rio 2016 with 27 gold medals.
The issue of Scottish independence has to be considered rationally. A vote for independence would not be because the arguments by the Yes campaign are more compelling than their opponents, but it would be a reaction to the outcome of the EU referendum. Does the SNP really want to surrender independence to technocrats in Brussels and betray their principles as an anti-austerity party?