Category Archives: postindependence

The Day After

Catalunya triomfant (18/22)
Catalunya triomfant (18/22), a photo by . SantiMB . on Flickr.
As part of the Catalan independence campaign, a group of people have been raising money to allow Isona Passola to make a film about the consequences of independence, called L’Endemà “The Day After”.

So far they’ve managed to raise €348,830 (£294,431).

I saw this mentioned in the Danish newspaper Politiken, but I haven’t yet read anything about it in English-speaking media.

Here’s what the website says about the film:

L’ENDEMÀ donarà arguments clars, sòlids, fiables i contrastats, amb dades objectivables, per boca de les figures nacionals i internacionals més tècniques i més ben informades, a través del mitjà més prestigiós dels mitjans de comunicació, el cinema. També s’editarà la web-sèrie Les píndoles contra la por amb respostes a les grans preguntes que resolen els grans temes de país, les respostes que necessitem per a decidir sense por i tranquil·lament.

My Catalan is a wee bit rusty, but I think it means something like this:

THE DAY AFTER will provide clear, solid, reliable and contrasting arguments with objective data, recounted by the most knowledgeable and best-informed national international figures, through film, the most prestigious form of communication. We will also release a web site, The Pills against Fear, with answers to the major questions to solve the great national issues, the answers that we need to decide calmly and without fear.

Want rid of Salmond? Vote Yes!

Alex Salmond
Alex Salmond, a photo by Saül Gordillo on Flickr.
You often hear people say that they’re going to vote No because they can’t stand Alex Salmond.

Although I personally think he’s a great politician, I do understand he’s not really everyone’s cup of tea.

However, it’s possibly the worst possible reason for voting No.

Firstly, choosing between independence and being part of the UK is a decision that will potentially last hundreds of years. The last time this was being discussed, the outcome lasted for more than 300 years (from 1707 until at least 2014). Very few people today remember who were the leading politicians of Scotland and England back then, but their decision still stands.

Secondly, I’d be very surprised if Alex Salmond stayed in power for many years after a Yes vote in 2014. He will already have earned his place in the history books, so why should he go on and on? I’m not saying he’ll necessarily resign the day after the referendum — he might quite possibly stay in power until Scotland has become independent once again in March 2016 — but my guess is he’d step down around the time of the Scottish Parliament elections in May 2016.

On the other hand, if Scotland votes No to independence, I think there’s a fair chance Salmond will feel he needs to stay in power for longer to make sure that Westminster doesn’t start rolling back devolution.

Why Westminster will do anything to hold on to Scotland

Wings over Scotland recently published an interesting article which contained the following illuminating passage:

So why would the UK deliberately undermine the long-held view that the UK is a political union of different countries? The answer may be seen in a passage from the report stating that “Since the rUK (remainder of the UK) would be the same state as the UK, its EU membership would continue”, and that after independence, representatives of the UK Government would enter negotiations on the terms of independence “as representatives of the continuing state of the UK”.

From these two snippets it appears that the repositioning of the Act of Union as merely an enlargement of England is an attempt to retain sole-successor status in the same manner as Russia after the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Westminster government is so desperate to keep hold of the permanent Security Council seat that they’re willing to undermine the constitutional arrangements of the UK in order to ensure they keep it in the event of a Yes vote.

I’m not an expert on UN membership rules, but I would have thought there was a decent chance the rUK will retain the UK’s permanent seat on the Security Council. However, even a modest risk of losing that seat is probably enough to give the politicians and mandarins in the FCO and the rest of Westminster sleepless nights. Sacrificing the happiness and wellbeing of the Scots is a very small price to pay for maintaining a place amongst the great powers of the world.

Besides, the unionist politicians in Westminster are not the only ones who are worried. David Leask quotes Phillips O’Brien of Glasgow University for the following: “France’s place in the world would come under real pressure if Scotland were to leave the United Kingdom[.] In the first place, it could lead to reform of the UN Security Council and the concurrent loss or reduction of French influence in the UN.”

Personally I’m pretty relaxed about a reform of the Security Council, but I can understand that for a small group of politicians clinging to the remnants of the empire, it can seem like the end of the world as they know it, which explains why they attack Scottish independence so vociferously.

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?

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.

More about Scotland and the EU

EU Flag
Originally uploaded by hounddog32

A few days ago I blogged about Scotland and the EU. At the time I wasn’t aware of a rather important document that had just been published by the UK parliament.

This document is a written statement about “the foreign policy implications of and for a separate Scotland” by Graham Avery, Senior Member of St. Antony’s College, Oxford University, Senior Adviser at the European Policy Centre, Brussels, and Honorary Director-General of the European Commission. In other words, this is probably the greatest authority that has ever published an opinion on this crucial question.

Here is what he has to say about the question about Scotland’s continued EU membership:

For practical and political reasons the idea of Scotland leaving the EU, and subsequently applying to join it, is not feasible. From the practical point of view, it would require complicated temporary arrangements for a new relationship between the EU (including the rest of the UK) and Scotland (outside the EU) including the possibility of controls at the frontier with England. Neither the EU (including the rest of the UK.) nor Scotland would have an interest in creating such an anomaly. From the political point of view, Scotland has been in the EU for 40 years; and its people have acquired rights as European citizens. If they wish to remain in the EU, they could hardly be asked to leave and then reapply for membership in the same way as the people of a non-member country such as Turkey.

It’s definitely worth reading the entire document.

Needless to say, this document has ignited the Scottish blogosphere. See for instance Wings Over Scotland, Bella Caledonia and Auld Acquaintance.