Independence sceptics are often worrying endlessly about the jobs that might disappear as a result of Scottish Independence.
However, many jobs will be created as a result of independence. Here are a few areas that spring to mind, but I’m sure there will be many more.
- A lot of countries will open embassies in Edinburgh — we can’t be sure of the number, but there are about 60 embassies in Dublin, and about 75 in Copenhagen, so one would expect a similar number. Some of these will be small, but others will be huge, and there will be lots of local jobs needed to set them up and keep them running, on top of the money created by embassy employees finding places to live and spending money in local shops and restaurants. Of course Scotland will need to finance a similar number of embassies abroad, but we’re already paying about 10% of what the UK are spending on representations abroad, so I reckon there’ll be a net gain.
- There will be ministries created for the previously devolved areas. Using Denmark as a basis (it’s probably a better guide than using 10% of the UK), there might for instance be about 850 employees in the Scottish Foreign Office in Edinburgh and about 150 in the Scottish Ministry of Defence.
- Even if the SNP at the moment claim it won’t be needed, I think it’s likely there will be a Central Bank of Scotland, even if it’s just to administer a currency board. Using Denmark as a guide again, there might be more than 500 people working there.
- There are other government offices of various kinds. For instance, the DVLA in Swansea almost 7000 employees — a Scottish DVLA would therefore probably have at least 700 employees. On the other hand, there are UK government offices in Scotland — for instance, the HMRC accounts office in Cumbernauld AFAIK covers an area larger than Scotland — so it’s somewhat complicated to work out exactly the net number of jobs created in Scotland.
- Some companies would need to create separate Scottish subsidiaries. For instance, mobile phone companies would presumably need completely separate organisations in Scotland. I’ve no idea how many companies we’re talking about here, or how large their Scottish operations are, but we must be talking about thousands of jobs moving to Scotland. Of course there will also be companies based here that will need to create English subsidiaries in the same way, but I have a feeling the net effect will still be very positive for Scotland.
Of course there won’t be a perfect match between the jobs that will disappear and those that will be created — you can’t retrain a nuclear weapons worker to become a Foreign Office employee overnight — but I think on the whole it seems likely that independence will be very good for Scottish employment figures.
So now David Cameron is promising more powers after a No to Scottish Independence:
And let me say something else about devolution.
That doesn’t have to be the end of the road.
When the referendum on independence is over, I am open to looking at how the devolved settlement can be improved further.
And yes, that means considering what further powers could be devolved.
But that must be a question for after the referendum, when Scotland has made its choice about the fundamental question of independence.
Alex Massie sums up quite nicely how much the Tory position has changed recently.
However, I do think Cameron’s idea that the SNP have to spell out in minute detail what independence will mean while he only needs to put his thinking-hat on after a No vote is manifestly unfair.
If a No vote effectively is a vote for Devo-Max, then Cameron needs to say so clearly now.
Incidentally this would solve the big outstanding issue about the referendum, namely that the SNP would like to include Devo-Max on the ballot paper while Westminster want only two options. The solution is simple: Put the following two options on the ballot paper:
Of course, the Unionist parties would have to spell out Devo-Max in full detail before the referendum, but surely they’ll have time to do that before 2014.
I think there’s a tendency to ask the SNP to come up with solutions for all questions about how to split up England and Scotland.
However, if we think about the time after the Yes vote, I don’t expect all Scottish Unionists to commit collective harakiri.
What I do expect is that the vast majority of Unionist politicians will pick themselves up and start working to secure an independent Scotland the best possible deal.
To be concrete, I would expect all Scottish members of the UK government – Michael Moore, Danny Alexander, David Mundell etc. – to resign the next day. It’s possible that all Scottish MPs would resign, too, but I find it more likely they’d stay in place in order to help keep a tab on the UK government’s activities.
The next step will be the formation of an independence negotiation team. Of course the negotiations could in theory be handled by the SNP, but it would make better sense to make a united negotiation team with representatives from all the mainstream parties in Scotland, and consisting of not just MSPs but also MPs.
As part of the process of assembling the negotiation team, I expect a lively discussion on the way forward for Scotland. For instance, the other parties might challenge the SNP’s plan to leave NATO. This is what makes the current situation so annoying. Labour, the Tories and the LibDems keep criticising the SNP’s concrete post-independence policies, but they don’t have to tell us what they’d do instead; they just tell us they want to preserve the Union (which is fair enough, of course), but they don’t want to answer what it is they want to do if independence happens anyway.
Anyway, once the independence negotiation team has been formed and the negotiation mandate agreed on, things should proceed quickly. Certain questions need to be resolved before independence, but many other questions can probably be ironed out afterwards, so long as the interim position is clear.