Myths about Scottish independence

There are some unbelievable myths being peddled about “Scottish independence”. It is worth nailing a few of them – if only so that those repeating them can be placed on the list of “those too lazy to do their own research who should probably never be paid as commentators”…

1. England would always elect Conservative governments.

The Labour Party “would die” according to one Sky News commentator. Utter codswallop! In England alone (even excluding Wales), Tony Blair would have headed a Labour-led administration for each of the three elections from 1997 just as he did; just as David Cameron would be Prime Minister now. Yes, Mr Blair would have needed a coalition in 2005 (though including Wales even then he had a majority) and David Cameron would not need one now, but it would still have been the same party’s Prime Minister in Number 10. Some “death”!

In any case, Labour would merely move slightly to the right to re-align politics marginally – just as it had to after the “Longest suicide note in history” election of 1983.

2. Scots would be “foreigners”.

This is lovely and emotive and maybe strictly true, but are the Irish “foreigners”? Actually current UK citizenship law views Irish nationals as having the same rights and responsibilities as UK nationals within the UK almost without exception; and it is already the case that any EU national can use consular services of any EU member state. Thus, with the safe assumption that UK citizenship law treats Scots the same way and the fairly safe assumption that Scotland becomes an EU member state, it would be much the same. Unless the Continuing UK is idiotic enough to leave the EU, of course…

This is also not unlike arrangements between the Nordic Countries or between the Czech Republic and Slovakia or Australia and New Zealand. In each case, people from the other state are not really “foreign”, as they possess all the same rights and responsibilities.

3. Scotland would move to a Scandinavian model.

I’ll return to this, but in fact there is no evidence it would. All proponents of a “yes” vote talk of reducing taxes, not increasing them; the SNP in office has centralised power and engaged in middle-class giveaways; and an iScotland would be dominated by oil, finance and drinks sectors none of whom would allow such a dramatic change of economic and social model. If anything, the evidence is an iScotland would be more Liberal in many ways, including economically.

4. Scotland could not use the pound.

Of course Scotland could use the pound. Actually no one with any authority has said otherwise.

What it could not do is retain influence on the pound – including on interest rates, revaluations or whatever. There may also be some difficulty with joining the EU; although this could probably be solved by setting up Scotland’s own currency which happened, initially, to be pegged to the pound.

5. Independence is the only way to save the NHS in Scotland.

On the contrary, independence is the only thing which puts it in any danger.

The difficulty here is that increasing moves towards private care provision are being referred to as “privatisation” by some – an utterly misleading term as that provision is still funded from the public purse.

Thus, the retention of public funding for all aspects of the Health Service means there is and remains exactly the same amount available for Health in Scotland (actually more per person, as Scotland’s public spending per head is higher within the UK). In fact, interestingly, the SNP has chosen to take money away from the NHS for other departments. Health accounts for 22% of public spending in England but just 20% in Scotland – a differential which has opened up under the SNP administration.

With the trend already being towards comparatively lower Health spending by advocates of independence themselves, and uncertainty over future oil revenues (plus inevitable costs of setting up a new military, a new diplomatic service and so on), it is clear objectively that the strain on the NHS would come with independence, not without it.

6. Scotland would remain in the EU.

This isn’t the worst myth but it is not straightforward and we should be clear about that. To be in the EU, you have to be a member state. An independent Scotland would have opted to leave a member state, and thus to leave the EU. It may of course then apply to become a member state and I would hope everyone would see the sense in fast-tracking the process prior to the date of independence – but it may not be possible to conclude this by March 2016.

This is similar to the nonsense that the pound is “also Scotland’s currency”. No it isn’t – it is the currency of the UK governed by the UK’s Central Bank. Scotland would leave the UK and thus no longer have that Central Bank, nor therefore its currency. As noted above, it could peg its own currency to Sterling or try to negotiate a Sterling Zone similar to the Eurozone – but as of March 2016 it would, failing the latter, cease to have the UK currency as its currency for the simple reason that it would have left the UK.

It is somewhat bizarre that those in favour of “independence” are so wary of being clear about what leaving the UK means!

7. Alex Salmond is a Social Democrat.

Just because you don’t like Margaret Thatcher doesn’t make you a Social Democrat!

Which is the crux of the issue, really, isn’t it?!


9 thoughts on “Myths about Scottish independence

  1. Scots Anorak says:

    1 and 2 agreed.

    3 Mebbes aye, mebbes naw. It would certainly be to the left of England, even if only by omission. One should be careful too to distinguish between what the SNP (or Labour) has done hitherto and what it (or Labour) might do if elected in an independent Scotland. The British Labour Party is currently far to the right of its core vote. The Scottish Labour Party under independence need not be.

    4 No doubt in my mind that there will be a currency union, but the actual influence that Scotland would have over policy might indeed be limited. I suspect that the English would be able to break the rules while the Scots would be expected, by both the English and the international community, to adhere to them, but that might not be a bad thing in the long run either. The “difficulty with joining the EU” would apply only if Scotland used the pound without a central bank. In the unlikely event that that happened, it would simply stay in the EU and be given a deadline for setting one up.

    5 I agree that any move to charging would be politically difficult in England (they’d probably start with board and lodging in hospitals), but it is possible that under international agreements Scotland’s NHS would have to be thrown open to competitive tendering because England’s has.

    6 There will be a seamless transition, with no period of not being in the EU, even for a minute. It’s a political decision, not a legal one.

    7 According to Nigel Farage, Alex used to be a Communist. All the Scottish political parties currently represented in Holyrood with the exception of a small rump of swivel-eyed Conservative revolutionaries support the post-war social-democratic consensus. Whether that makes them “Social Democrats” themselves is another question.

  2. […] Source: Myths about Scottish independence […]

  3. Andy Eagle says:

    1& 2 agree.

    3 depends on who the Scots elect and what they do.

    4. Can keep the pound,either as part of a currency union or otherwise. Independence gives the ability to choose other options in the future. Dependence doesn’t.

    5. Makes it easier though. Independence would mean Scottish governments (not necessarily the SNP) keeping all tax revenues and deciding how to spend them.
    The block grant Scotland receives is currently the highest identifiable public spending per capita after London and Northern Ireland. Identifiable public spending does not include non-identifiable expenditure which includes the likes of defence, foreign office services, research and development, and the institutions of the British state. Comparisons of identifiable public spending which omit that non-identifiable expenditure or allocate it on a per capita basis do not measure where the spending actually occurs, nor of any benefit arising from employment, incomes and so on, much of which occur in southern England.
    2012 figures showed that with 8.4 per cent of the UK population, Scotland contributed 9.4 per cent of UK taxes.

    6. Would remain in the EU. “Internal Expansion”. No need for an own currency as members only have to agree a commitment to to adopt the euro in due course by fulfilling the convergence criterion, part o which is joining the Exchange Rate Mechanism (ERM II), which is voluntary. Scotland would only have to commit to creating its own currency in order to join the ERM in due course. No need for an own currency in order to continue EU membership.

    7. Alex Salmond is apparently whatever people want him to be. That ranges from a Kim Jong Il type dictator, Communist to Anti-English Nazi xenophobe. What does Alex Salmond say?

    • To be clear, I am sure Scotland could enter the EU regardless of currency. I merely mean that it would have to re-enter as a new member state. That could not be guaranteed by early 2016 (though I’d suggest it also isn’t impossible).

      • Scots Anorak says:

        As Scotland already fulfils all the necessary criteria to be an EU member, I’d have trouble thinking of what might actually delay membership. In recent years the EU has been very lax about insisting on the standards supposedly necessary for accession, and the reason is that it is by its nature expansionist. Personally I think that it would take longer to get out than in. If there is a Yes vote, independence and EU membership will be synchronised. My guess is that EU membership would simply move to the date of independence, whatever that turned out to be, as it’s by far the less complex of the two.

  4. Chris Roche says:

    If the modern-day ‘Hammers of the Scots’ react to Scotland’s (eventual) independence in NI unionist GRADUATED RESPONSE mode, then the SNP are home and hosed –but can expect a hissy fit or something from the Hammer-headed knuckle-draggers around 2044.

  5. Ian the problem with 3 is that traditionally the Scandinavian model means Norway or Finland, possibly Denmark or Iceland. Arguably Sweden is more liberal/libertarian than Southern England.

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