All posts by thomas

Nobility in an independent Scotland

Passing of House of Lords Act 1999
Passing of House of Lords Act 1999, a photo by UK Parliament on Flickr.
The SNP and Yes Scotland don’t intend to abolish the monarchy immediately after independence. Hopefully a referendum on creating a republic will happen soon afterwards, but that’s a battle for another day.

However, a separate question is what will happen to the Scottish peers, both the hereditary ones and the life peers.

In general, republics tend to abolish all hereditary titles, and most monarchies tend to preserve the peerage. However, the Kingdom of Norway got rid of their nobility after independence, so there would be a precedent for abolishing it completely. However, my gut feeling is that this will have to wait until the Republic of Scotland is declared.

The life peers, on the other hand, are a unique UK invention (and a rather recent one, too), which basically came about because the House of Lords didn’t get replaced with something more democratic ages ago.

The main reason for making somebody a life peer is to allow them to sit in the House of Lords, so unless an independent Scotland creates a Hoose o Lairds — which I consider extremely improbable — their entire raison d’être disappears.

It therefore seems very unlikely that Scotland will be granting life peerages after independence.

However, what will happen to the UK’s current life peers from Scotland? This is not Scotland’s problem, of course, and I guess the rUK will have to make a decision on this in due course. The most likely scenario is that they’ll lose their seats, however, so I’m not surprised that many of the current Scottish life peers are fighting tooth and nail to preserve the union.

The Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland

The flag of the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland
The flag of the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
In an old blog post last year, I discussed the names the rUK might adapt after independence:

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland? It’s really not a good name when one half of Great Britain has just left.

The United Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland? Although Wales was part of England prior to the formation of the Kingdom of Great Britain, I doubt they’d accept this.

The United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland? I’d say this is the most likely result.

However, @BrynTeilo then objected to the “United” bit on Twitter a few days ago:

I completely get his point, but what do you do then? If Northern Ireland wasn’t part of the new kingdom, I guess the Kingdom of South Britain would be a nifty option, but the Kingdom of South Britain and Northern Ireland doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue.

Perhaps they’ll just go for brevity and call themselves the Kingdom of Britain, but I guess the most likely solution will be the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, even though it sounds a bit odd without the “United” bit.

I just wonder what the demonym will be — Kewnian?

rUK passports for Scots

Scottish passport
Scottish passport, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.

Theresa May and Better Together are today talking about denying “British” passports to Scots after independence.

It’s a somewhat strange use of “British” (which is why I put it in quotation marks above) — surely Ms May means “rUK passports” or “EWNI passports”, given that it’d be a bit odd to use the word “British” to refer to somebody or something from the United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

However, apart from her bizarre use of language, I think both sides are at fault here. Ms May and Better Together are making it sound as if people from Scotland — as the only country on Earth — will be denied British citizenship if they otherwise qualify, and some people on the Yes side seem to think that Scots should qualify for rUK passports in perpetuity, even if they have no connexions to the rUK whatsoever.

As is often the case, it’s wise to look at Ireland. According to Wikipedia, this is the current situation:

Irish citizens seeking to become British citizens are usually required to live in the UK and become naturalised after meeting the normal residence and other requirements, unless they can claim British citizenship by descent from a UK born or naturalised parent. An Irish citizen who naturalises as a British citizen does not automatically lose their Irish citizenship.

I therefore suspect the situation after independence will be as follows:

Scottish citizens seeking to become EWNI citizens are usually required to live in the EWNI and become naturalised after meeting the normal residence and other requirements, unless they can claim EWNI citizenship by descent from a EWNI born or naturalised parent. A Scottish citizen who naturalises as a citizen of EWNI does not automatically lose their Scottish citizenship.

Of course, just like people from the Republic of Ireland, Scots will most likely be allowed to live and vote in the rUK/EWNI without becoming citizens of that state:

The right of Commonwealth and Irish citizens to vote is a legacy of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which limited the vote to British subjects. At that time, “British subjects” included the people of Ireland — then part of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland — and all other parts of the British Empire. Though most of Ireland […] and the majority of the colonies became independent nations, their citizens have retained the right to vote if they live in the United Kingdom.

It’s also possible that there’ll be increased access to acquiring EWNI citizenship for a limited time, or for Scots born before a certain date. Looking again at Ireland, older people can claim British subject status, but the “facility for those born before 1949 to claim British subject status does not confer British citizenship, although it gives an entitlement to registration as such after 5 years in the UK.”

Why we need to win this time

Victory Begins at Home
Victory Begins at Home, a photo by cliff1066™ on Flickr.
Recently former SNP leader Gordon Wilson proclaimed he was “laid back” about losing the 2014 referendum, because “Scots will back separation the second time round as Westminster will react to victory next year by scrapping the funding formula that gives them extra public spending”.

This is a sentiment I’ve encountered quite often. The thinking seems to be that it might take two tries to achieve independence, and that it doesn’t really matter in the long run exactly when independence happens.

However, I’m not laid back at all. Of course independence can happen later, but I fear the conditions will be much worse in twenty years’ time.

First of all, there is still a significant amount of oil left, but when you look at the CO2 emissions, I personally find it unlikely that it’ll still be legal and acceptable to burn oil twenty years from now. Of course it would have been even better if independence had happened thirty years ago, but there’s still a good chance of using oil money to pay for the inevitable costs associated with dismantling the British state and building up new institutions.

Secondly, all the Westminster parties want to extend austerity and continue to dismantle the welfare state. It’s also likely they’ll start to roll back Scottish devolution, or at least the financial settlement associated with it, once the threat of independence has been fought off. The consequence is that it will soon not just be a case of maintaining the British welfare state in Scotland after independence (at the same time as it gets dismantled in England), but if independence doesn’t happen till 2036, Scotland will have to reinvent the wheel because the UK then will be a neoliberal third-world country.

Finally, there’s no guarantee it’ll be as easy to be allowed to hold a referendum two decades from now. If the result is close, Westminster will probably think it was a close encounter with death and make sure that another referendum will never take place.

Because of all this, we need to win this time!

Constitution Day

Grundlovsdag, a photo by larsloekke on Flickr.
Today is Constitution Day (Grundlovsdag) in Denmark.

Possibly because Denmark has been an independent country since times immemorial, the country doesn’t have a national day, so Constitution Day is the closest you get. It’s not a day of big celebrations, though — in general, people gather to listen to politicians speaking about the value of democracy, but that’s about it.

However, I do like the fact that the country has chosen to celebrate its constitution, rather than some battle or royal event. I guess the Scottish Constitution will come into force on the day Scotland becomes independent (March 2016?), so constitution and independence might become interwoven for Scotland, too.

Taking the independence campaign into schools

valg2007.01, a photo by kurtpedersen54 on Flickr.
Lots of people are upset that Better Together are planning to send campaign packs to schools (my emphasis):

[T]he pro-Union Better Together campaign said it would be sending a teacher-resource pack, including lesson plans, research materials and a mock debate kit, to every school in the country.


Ross MacRae, Better Together’s youth co-ordinator, said his group’s teaching packs would be as “non-partisan as possible”.

“It’s less about our message. The first lesson is about referendums. We’re just giving them the resources. They do reflect our message, but it’s up to the teachers how to use it.

I’ve been wondering for a while why both Yes Scotland and Better Together seemed to be ignoring high schools as a potential battleground.

Because very few Scottish high school students are over 18 by the time they leave school, it appears the schools have got used to being campaigning-free zones.

In Denmark, on the other hand, secondary school students are typically between 15 and 20 years old, so you’d expect roughly half of them to have the right to vote in a general election. Because of this, Danish high schools are often full of political campaigning. For instance, in the run-up to a general election, there will normally be at least one huge debate featuring politicians from all parties debating in the atrium in front of all the students (not just the ones doing modern studies).

If Better Together proceed with their plan, I think Yes Scotland will have to send their own teacher resource packs to the schools, too — it will be a huge mistake to allow Better Together to do this unchallenged.

However, I believe it would be much better for Yes Scotland and Better Together to team up and create resource packs together, containing both neutral information and the views from both sides. In addition to these packs, they could offer to send debaters out to schools (whether professional politicians or young activists), so that the schools don’t have to spend time trying to organise a debate with equal number of debaters from both sides.

Scotland and the Euro Convergence Criteria

Scottish euro coin
Scottish euro coin, a photo by viralbus on Flickr.
At the moment, most people seem to think that an independent Scotland should either stay in a monetary union with England, Wales and Northern Ireland or introduce its own currency.

However, very occasionally somebody suggests Scotland should adopt the euro (and of course, Better Together’s ubiquitous scaremongers love to pretend Scotland will be forced to join the Eurozone immediately).

It’s therefore perhaps worthwhile to examine briefly whether Scotland would actually be allowed to join. To introduce the euro, a country needs to fulfil the convergence criteria:

  • The inflation should be less than 2.5% (the exact figure varies from year to year — it’s based on the inflation figures of the EU member states). The figure for the UK is currently 2.6%, but there’s no reason to assume this would be the same for Scotland — it could be either higher or lower. I don’t think we can determine this at the moment; it’s possible Scotland will tick this box, but it’s quite likely it won’t.
  • The budget deficit should be less than 3% of GDP. The UK is currently running a deficit of 6.3%, and although Scotland’s finances are better than the UK’s, it would require exceptionally high oil prices to push the deficit under 3%. It’s probably safe to assume Scotland would need a few years to bring the deficit under control.
  • The debt-to-GDP ratio should be under 60% or falling. The UK’s ratio is 90% and rising, so if Scotland inherits its population share of the debt, this criterion will be very hard to fulfil. On the other hand, if the rest of the UK decide to keep all assets and liabilities, Scotland will have a ratio of 0%, so it’d pass this test with flying colours.
  • The country should have been a member of ERM-II (the exchange rate mechanism) for two years. This means that the country needs to have had its own currency for at least two years (using the Pound Sterling doesn’t count), and it needs to have been linked loosely to the euro. If we assume that an independent Scotland would continue to use the pound for at least five years after independence day before creating its own currency, the earliest this criterion can be fulfilled is 2023.
  • Finally, the interest rate should be no higher than 4.81%. The figure for the UK currently is 1.62%, so it’s likely Scotland’s would be much lower than the threshold, too.

To conclude, the main issues are likely to be the national debt (unless the rUK decide to keep all of it in order to safeguard their permanent membership of the UN’s Security Council) and the need to have been a member of ERM-II for at least two years. It seems unlikely Scotland would be able to introduce the euro before 2023, even if it became a political priority.

Of course, if Scotland decides not to introduce the euro, staying out of ERM-II is all it takes. This is what Sweden and many of the newer EU members are doing at the moment.