Scotland’s bid for independence

L’Ecosse a vu sa ligne politique changer depuis 2008, lorsque le SNP, le « Scottish National Party », a remporté un siège de plus que le parti travailliste aux élections parlementaires écossaises. Le véritable tournant a eu lieu lors des élections parlementaires de mai 2011 lorsque le SNP a obtenu 45% des suffrages et 69 députés ont été envoyés au Parlement écossais. Depuis lors, la question de l’indépendance de l’Ecosse est revenue sur la table…

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Some history: what are the links between Scotland and the UK?

In 1707 with the Act of Union, England, Wales and Scotland were united to form Great Britain. Until 1999, Scotland could send representatives to the British Parliament in Westminster, but it did not have  its own Parliament in Edinburgh. After a referendum organized by the Blair government in 1997 the Local Government Scotland Act was passed and a new system was set up, devolution. The Parliament of Edinburgh has been rehabilitated since. But its power is limited, indeed it can only collect taxes and legislate on domestic affairs: justice, education, culture, sport, health, housing, tourism, environment, and agriculture. But constitutional affairs, national finance, foreign policy, NHS, insurance and protection of consumers and citizenship stay under the jurisdiction of the British Parliament. Scotland has become a devolved administration. For some activists, it is the first step to the breakup of the country. For others, it is not yet enough.

What does the SNP want to change in scale?

Scotland’s nationalist First Minister Alex Salmond asks for much more than devolution. However he doesn’t want complete independence. He champions “Devo Max”, that is ‘devolution to its maxima’. Some things should remain intact:

  • the Queen as head of State
  • the Commonwealth alliance
  • the same currency as Britain

But some things should change:

  • Scotland should form a direct alliance with NATO
  • England should remove its nuclear submarine and its Trident missile bunker from Scotland
  • Access to citizenship ought to be made easier if you can prove you have Scottish roots
  • above all Scotland must keep all its money and set up an independent fiscal system

Apart from these main ideas, “devo max” is rather vague. No specific policy has been suggested until today.

What will the referendum consist in?

The SNP fights for a referendum to be organized in 2014, which would leave enough time to prepare a clear programme and convince the Scots. For instance Alex Salmond has already announced plans to drop the voting age to 16 (independence is more popular with young Scots). Unlike the SNP, London wants this referendum to be organized as soon as possible, since the polls are not favorable to independence.

The way the question should be framed in the referendum remains controversial. Indeed, all the unionist parties (Lib Dems, Tories, and Labour Party) ask for just a single question, which includes a clear answer to whether Scotland should or should not remain in the Union. “Do you want Scotland to be independent?” and “Should Scotland have full financial powers (the ability to tax)?” would be the two questions that the SNP would like to ask in order to ensure that at least Scotland win more power (if only the second question gets a yes-majority).

What would the consequences of the Scottish independence be?

There are many reasons to question how sure-footed Scotland would be on its own. Indeed, in 2008 the British exchequer had to bail out the Royal Bank of Scotland. Would it survive economically the end of the Union?

Then the question of Europe is central to the current developments. Indeed many EU members doubt an independent Scotland would have EU membership rights. For instance Barosso asserted this month that Scotland would not automatically remain in the European Union. 

Another consequence could be the end of the UK, at least the end of the UK we know today. Could the independence of Scotland mark the start of a new federation?

In any case, the question divides Britain. Prime Minister David Cameron even promised to “campaign to keep our United Kingdom together with every single fiber that I have.” To be continued…

Cyrielle VAUCOIS

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One thought on “Scotland’s bid for independence

  1. Pingback: The Grangemouth dispute: how can a single refinery can shatter Scotland’s independence dream? | Frogs Save The Queen

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