“Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Ballot paper QR code by nickj365
Ballot paper QR code, a photo by nickj365 on Flickr.

I don’t have any problems with the Electoral Commission’s proposed question (PDF) for the 2014 referendum, namely “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

My main reason for preferring the Scottish Government’s original proposal (“Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?”) was that I thought referendums in Scotland and the UK tended to introduce the question with “Do you agree…”, but that’s not actually the case. Here are the questions and options from the past referendums that I have been able to find:

  • [2011] At present, the UK uses the ‘first past the post’ system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the ‘alternative vote’ system be used instead?
    • Yes
    • No
  • [1997] Parliament has decided to consult people in Scotland on the Government’s proposals for a Scottish Parliament.
    • I agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament.
    • I do not agree that there should be a Scottish Parliament.
  • [1978] Do you want the Provisions of the Scotland Act 1978 to be put into effect?
    • Yes
    • No
  • [1975] Do you think the UK should stay in the European Community (Common Market)?
    • Yes
    • No

It will be interesting to see whether the Electoral Commission will also reject other questions that begin with “Do you agree…” in the future.

The 2015 jobs boom in Scotland

Edinburgh, October 2005 by landhere
Edinburgh, October 2005, a photo by landhere on Flickr.

What will happen in 2015 if Scotland has just voted Yes to independence and if it’s looking increasingly likely that England will vote to pull the rUK out of the EU, and potentially even out of the Internal Market?

A large number of English companies are making their living trading with the EU, and it will be tempting for them to relocate to a country that will remain in the EU before it’s too late. Many countries are likely to benefit from this company exodus, e.g., Ireland and France, but surely the easiest option for many of these companies will be to relocate to Scotland (even if Scotland still hasn’t completed the negotiation of the EU membership terms and conditions at this point in time).

Because England is about ten times bigger than Scotland, this will have immense consequences for the Scottish economy, even if only a small percentage of English companies relocate north of the border. In conjunction with the other jobs created by independence, it’s likely that the years immediately after the independence referendum will be remembered as the great jobs boom.

PS: This blog posting was inspired by a chat with my mum in Denmark, who had been watching a programme with Uffe Ellemann and Mogens Lykketoft (both former foreign ministers of Denmark), in which they apparently touched upon this topic; however, I haven’t been able to find either a version of the programme that I can watch or a transcript. If you know more, please let me know!

Will Scotland be richer than Norway after independence?

Scottish Thistle Coin 1602 by Tropic~7
Scottish Thistle Coin 1602, a photo by Tropic~7 on Flickr.

There was an extremely interesting blog posting on Wings over Scotland about the size of Scotland’s exports.

This made me think about the consequences for the finances of an independent Scotland.

First of all, the figure provided by WoS is $20,886 per capita, but that’s excluding oil. According to STV, Scotland’s oil and gas exports are worth about £7.6bn, which is about half the amount produced. If we assume that half of this is actually exported to England, we get a rough figure of £11.4bn, which is $18bn. Per capita this is $3400, so a very rough estimate of an independent Scotland’s exports including oil would be slightly more than $24,000 per person, which would make us number six in the World rankings, between Norway and Ireland.

There also tends to be some kind of correlation between exports and GDP. Looking for similar countries in this table, one finds Denmark and Sweden around 50%, Norway at around 40% and the UK at 30%. In other words, it would be really strange if Scotland’s GDP was very low, and one would probably expect a GDP figure per capita between $50,000 and $60,000, which would definitely place Scotland in the World’s top-10, way ahead of the UK (which has a GDP per capita of slightly less than $40,000).

My calculations are very rough, so it’s hard to say exactly how rich an independent Scotland would be, but it looks likely it would be much richer than the UK, and potentially even richer than Norway.

My only remaining question is why previous calculations of how much better off Scotland would be after independence have been so cautious. It seems to me that we’re likely to be talking about every single person in Scotland being better off to the tune of about £10,000 per year (between $10,000 and $20,000). Where has Westminster been hiding all that wealth?

Irvine Welsh: “Better together? Yes, certainly, but better independent and free together.”

IRVINE WELSH: IN PERSON, a photo by EIFF on Flickr.

Bella Caledonia has today published an original article by Irvine Welsh (of Trainspotting fame).

It’s a very thoughtful piece by a writer who has spent a long time in England, and I strongly recommend reading the whole thing.

Here are a few bits that struck a chord with me:

[The British] state has stopped England from pursuing its main mission, namely to build a inclusive, post-imperial, multi-racial society, by forcing it to engage with the totally irrelevant (from an English perspective) distractions of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. From the viewpoint of the Scots, it has foisted thirty-five years of a destructive neo-liberalism upon us, and prevented us from becoming the European social democracy we are politically inclined to be.


The idea of the political independence of England and Scotland leading to conflict, hatred and distrust is the mindset of opportunistic status-quo fearmongers and gloomy nationalist fantasists stuck in a Bannockburn-Culloden timewarp, and deeply insulting to the people of both countries. Swedes, Norwegians and Danes remain on amicable terms; they trade, co-operate and visit each other socially any time they like. They don’t need a pompous, blustering state called Scandinavia, informing them from Stockholm how wonderful they all are, but (kind of) only really meaning Sweden.


The Union Jack is the increasingly shrinking fig leaf that strives to cover the growth of an English nationalism and consciousness, which is visible in almost every aspect of life in these islands over the last thirty years. And that, in a post-imperial world, is how it should be, and probably how it has to be. The problem that the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish have to face, is that they have no place at this party, and neither should they: it just isn’t a great deal to do with them.

It’s a very powerful article, and even more so because Irvine Welsh knows England so well. As he concludes: “Better together? Yes, certainly, but better independent and free together.”

Scottish Labour after a Yes vote

Johann Lamont
Originally uploaded by Scottish Labour

Scottish Labour seem to be spending all their resources on attacking the SNP in every way possible and on spreading fear and uncertainty about the prospect of Scottish independence. We haven’t heard much about their visions for Scotland after 2014, no matter whether we vote Yes or No, apart from their determination to introduce university tuition fees and possible also prescription charges.

However, I hope and believe they’ll change after a Yes vote. Here’s how I imagine the process would work:

The day after the referendum (autumn 2014) — Scottish Labour press conference with Johann Lamont, Alastair Darling and the Scottish members of the shadow cabinet in Westminster, Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran. They declare that although they’re disappointed with the result, they will respect it, and they will work with the SNP and other Scottish parties to achieve the best possible deal for Scotland in the independence negotiations. Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran resign from the Shadow Cabinet.

Late 2014 — Scottish Labour sever all ties to rUK Labour.

Late 2014 — The Scottish independence negotiation teams are announced. The SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon will head the main team, but Labour politicians get to lead several of the important teams, in particular Douglas Alexander who becomes the head of the foreign affairs team and Jim Murphy who is put in charge of the defence negotiations. Several Liberal Democrat and Conservative politicians also get chosen to lead negotiation teams.

Late 2014 — Several Scottish MPs announce they will apply for rUK citizenship and stand for Westminster seats in England. At the same time, some Scottish MPs representing English seats declare their intention to move back to Scotland and try to get into the Scottish Parliament in 2016.

Late 2014 — A few Labour MSPs give up their seats “for health reasons”. Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran decide to contest these seats. They are duly elected without too much trouble.

Early 2015 — Johann Lamont decides to resign as leader of Scottish Labour because her leadership was too closely tied to the failed Better Together campaign. Douglas Alexander, Jim Murphy and Margaret Curran all decide to run for leader. After an intense campaign, Jim Murphy becomes the new leader of Scottish Labour. [I’m not implying here that Jim Murphy is Labour’s best politician, but he happens to be my local MP.]

7 May 2015 — Westminster elections. By common consent, all main parties in Scotland decide not to put up challengers to the incumbents, given that independence is now only a year away.

April 2016 — Scottish Labour launch their manifesto for Scottish Parliament elections. Now that they can develop their own policies without undue interference from London, they’re suddenly against tuition fees and prescription charges again.

1 May 2016 — Independence Day.

5 May 2016 — Elections to the Scottish Parliament. The winner is unexpectedly Labour, and Jim Murphy becomes Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Scotland.