Independence versus greater devolution

Attaining an independent nation has been at the forefront of the Scottish political agenda since the SNP became a minority administration at Holyrood in 2007. Alex Salmond has managed to form an agreement with David Cameron in order to give the Scottish public the opportunity to voice their opinions about Scotland’s future within the United Kingdom. The Edinburgh Agreement was signed on the 15th of October 2012 which set out the conditions of the 2014 referendum that is due to take place in Scotland in two years time.

Section 30 of the agreement will be passed in February 2013 which will delegate powers from Westminster to the Scottish parliament in order for them to stage the referendum. By Spring 2013, a draft will have been drawn up, that will set up the budgets for the campaign, it will establish whether or not the voting age will be lowered to 16/17 year olds to make way for a larger electorate- with the hope that the younger voters will be more enthusiastic about growing up in an independent Scotland. By the winter of 2013, the Scottish Parliament will have to have constructed and presented a white paper for Royal assent. This will set out the vision for an independent Scotland; it will set out the political, economic, and financial future of Scotland and a plan of how Scotland is to successfully sustain itself when granted independence.

Some changes to the manner in which the official question is worded will have to ensue before the referendum can commence, for some believe it lacks a sense of neutrality. The question currently stands at ‘Do you agree that Scotland should be an independent country?’ which has come under scrutiny for encouraging the voters to state ‘yes’ as the answer. Debate has arisen with regards to the question because some people may want more devolution and not necessarily independence, but the question does not accommodate for such requests.

While the campaign trail commences in 2014, Westminster will set up measures that will be put in place if the referendum is unsuccessful and the SNP’s hope for an independent future comes to a halt. Parliament will offer Scotland the opportunity to have more power over their tax system in order to have more control over how and where money is invested within its borders, it will devolve stamp duty, land tax, and landfill tax; it will also give them the opportunity to borrow some £2 billion. Some believe that these measures will be more beneficial to Scotland and more financially sustainable, for it encourages effective public spending and allows them to offer social protection with which to help alleviate poverty.
There are those who are not so enthusiastic about the thought of Scotland being an independent country, and their scepticism arises from several concerns. Some believe that a break away from the UK will leave Scotland more susceptible to financial risk for it would be more heavily reliant on foreign banks, and it would be in direct competition with the UK, thus creating problems for the Scottish economy. Some believe that the Scotland will gain little from declaring itself independent, and it would better serve their interests if they opt to request more devolved powers from Westminster.

Scottish independence would have social implications upon the British public, for it would further dilute the already weakened concept of a ‘British identity’, and also weaken Britain’s status amongst the international community. Furthermore, Alex Salmon seems to be redefining the meaning of independence, for although he wants sovereignty over Scotland’s political, social, and financial affairs he still remains loyal and committed to the Queen, the BBC, Sterling, the Bank of England’s interests rates, as well as British opt out of EU rules and regulations. In addition, with issues such a national security and how Scotland would compose it’s military force, Salmond proposes that Scotland still invests in warfare machinery with the UK, as it is a more financially feasible means of conducting business. Westminster is yet to comment on this proposed measure.

Can Alex Salmond persuade the Scottish masses that Scotland would be better off being independent, or is the referendum a window with which the SNP will fall into disrepair and lose credibility amongst the public? It seems that Salmond seeks independence, but still wants to retain some of the benefits that were available as part of the United Kingdom. Is the SNP actually seeking independence, or are they actually seeking more devolution? It appears that Salmon wants his cake, and wants to eat it.