On the qualification of sovereignty within (and between) nations…

Simon Jenkins takes a laid back view of the Union versus the Nation debate. He argues that there are some cogent anwers to the West Lothian question, but it would require substantial political risk to the New Labour project that a strongly Scottish front bench may be unwilling to take.He points out that the union was never anything but a series of ad hoc arrangements to facilitate wider relations, not a permanent fix:

There is no such thing as Scottish independence. There is no need for a separate English parliament. There is an easy answer to the West Lothian question. There is only one debate. This is how best to order the neighbourly relations of distinct peoples within the British Isles. Such questions are the stuff of politics. One answer was the Anglo-Scottish Act of Union, 300 years old today. Another was the Anglo-Welsh union of 470 years ago. Yet more were various government of Ireland acts from 1800 to 1920. None has proved robust. Hence a debate that refuses to go away.

And the Scottishness of the Chancellor, he believes, is not bringing any clear-sightedness to the issue:

Brown is clearly scared. The British have long been hospitable to their minorities, witness Trollope’s Phineas Redux. But Brown’s paranoid favouritism has swamped the government benches with Scots names and accents. Today we should not remember 1707 but 1603, when ambitious courtiers galloped from the bed of the dying Queen Bess to escort James Stuart south on a cloud of glory and patronage. If Brown cannot pass for English, he can try to wrap himself in the union flag, but it hardly fits.

He believes that the binary references of Union versus Independence, are skewing the debate:

Independence is not a helpful word in this debate since it implies an absolute. In reality, a fuzzy line of sovereignty runs from localities through counties and provinces to national governments, and on to supranational ones. Brown and the neo-unionists have suggested that Scottish independence would threaten millions of Scots expatriates with alien status, that it would mean a separate currency, separate nationality, immigration control, customs duties and a collapse in business and financial services – not to mention barbed wire along the Cheviots. This is stupid, as stupid as the wilder demands of nationalists for total independence.

And this is where it gets a little closer to home:

All national sovereignty is qualified by tiers of authority, internally and externally. It is also qualified by regional self-determination, sometimes to the extreme of separatism. But separatism is never absolute. Ireland and Britain have had a common travel area and shared citizenship since the formation of the Irish Free State in 1922. In 1993 Czechs and Slovaks parted but formed an economic union, with free population movement. The Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg formed the Benelux economic union in 1944. Catalonia and the Basque country enjoy extensive autonomy beyond anything in Scotland, without it leading to the “break-up of Spain”. Meanwhile, ruthless attempts by the Serbs to retain the Yugoslav union fostered a blood-stained separatism (which Britain militarily abetted).

Mainstream Scottish nationalism would appear to favour some hybrid autonomy, with domestic policy under the Edinburgh parliament and a joint assembly with England to handle joint policies on defence, foreign affairs, currency and trade. There would be negotiation over oil rights and a phasing out of the £25bn subvention (which would be followed by a Thatcherite, Irish-style boom in Scottish enterprise). This is hardly beyond the wit of man.

I’m not sure he has all the detail completely locked down, but it’s a intelligent within an emotional maelstrom, particularly in Scotland.

See also last night’s fascinating Newsnight debate in Scotland.

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  • ingram

    Mick,

    Agreed Newsnight was excellent.

    SNP came off bad ! independance YET still retain sterling? LOL

    Even the shinners could not think that one up.

    Ingram

  • George

    “SNP came off bad ! independance YET still retain sterling? LOL”

    The Irish Republic’s currency was linked on a 1:1 ratio with Sterling until 1979 so it has been done before.

    Lots of countries link to larger currencies.

  • ingram

    George,

    Not quite.

    The Irish had the Punt linked to Sterling but was in control of all fiscal measures. ie tax etc

    SNP Salmon agreed when challenged that they could not adopt either the Euro or their own currency for very good economic reasons.

    The room was in laughter, all sides agreed the situation was a farce. salmon felt and looked a right plonker.

  • DK

    As usual in the battles of black versus white, the shades of grey win. Summarises what is happening here – no more unionist dominance, but no united ireland either.

    I do like the concept of strands of sovereignty running from neighbourhoods up through concils and local assebmlies to national parialments (yes, plural) the EU and beyond.

    I mean, why seek complete independence of Scotland from the UK and not also from the EU. strikes one that our old friend xenephobia is playing with this one – the English are the enemy, but the European Paliament give us money.

    Even Sinn Fein are unionists – European Unionists.

  • kensei

    Learn the difference between fiscal and monetary policy, ingram.

    And it didn’t go like that at all. Salmond stated a perfectly reasonable position and the Labour dude bleated loudly about keeping the pound and didn’t let him explain. It is an entirely sound position – it is likely that the Euro would be appropriate fairly quickly, but even if you were busting to get in the logistics would mean it’d probably keep a bit of time. Plus it has the bonus of being less cary to some voters, too.

  • John East Belfast

    Newsnight was excellent and I dont think the SNP came across as bad – especially over the currency thing – nobody could expect an independant Scotland to immediately ditch Sterling. However yes it does highlight a major flaw in their argument in that they would not have control of their own monetary policy for the forseeable future.

    Salmon by and large was his usual smug self.

    Overall I am very disappointed with the Scots – a bunch of ginnies whinging on about lack of self confidence and complaining the BBC was filtering out their culture – Kirsty was the interviewer at this stage !

    Deeply insecure and becoming infected by that Separatist MOPE ailment that seems to affect Celts around these islands

    As for them having no influence over UK affairs !!

    If Smith hadn’t died there would have been a Scottish PM by now – add that in recent years to the Chancellor, Foreign Secretary and Lord Chief Justice etc.

    They really need to realise – like all members of the UK – that they have the best of both worlds, dry their eyes and get on with it.

    However I have no doubt Scottish independence would do more damage to the Ulster Unionist cause than a 1000 Provo bombs

  • ingram

    Kensei.

    You must understand that a nation cannot be independent whilst having its fiscal policies and monetray policies controlled by HMG.

    John East Belfast nailed it with this quote.

    However yes it does highlight a major flaw in their argument in that they would not have control of their own monetary policy for the forseeable future.

    Salmon by and large was his usual smug self. unquote

    It resulted with all parties enjoying a laugh at his parties obvious lack of policy on a key strand.That impacts on the issue at hand. A bit like Adams when he says he is not in the IRA?

    Independence for Scotland is NOT INDEPENDENCE if it cannot control her own internal affairs. End of. That is conditional Independence or to be more accurate. Further devolution.

    Regards.

    Ingram

  • jfd

    Thought Salmond provided a rational, intelligent position. Labour chap’s Unionist zeal was reactionary and poorly argumented.

    However, the SNP need to get their economic act together – there Salmond’s arguments were a shade leaky.

  • kensei

    “You must understand that a nation cannot be independent whilst having its fiscal policies and monetray policies controlled by HMG.”

    Independence means complete control of FISCAL policy – the ability to control tax rates, VAT rates, any other government revenue control you like. This is independent of whether they keep Sterling, which will impact on MONETARY policy, ie interest rates and the amount of money in the system. This isn’t ideal, as the Bank of England will only take into account England, but arguably it does that now anyway. This is likely a short term scenario anyway.

    In the event of joining the Euro, Scotland will STILL not have control of its monetary policy, which will be set by the European Central Bank for the entire EU area and as such will be weighted towards the larger nations. However, the single currency has advantages the advantage of being over a much wider area than Sterling and probably more favoured by international business. They could also eventually set up their own currency, but it seems the least likely option.

    If you are going to argue this point, ffs get your facts right.

  • Ingram

    Kensei.

    Salmon discounted entry into Euro in the short medium term. He acknowledged Scotland would need Sterling well after his so called independence.

    When challenged by not only labour but others also upon the FACT that HMG would be in control and dictate monetry policies he reluctnatly acknowledged same.

    That is not independence mate, you can swear all you like but you need to understand one point, if you do not control fiscal policy you are P***ing in the wind and no country is independent under those conditions.

    Like one of the other contributors made clear on the night. That is not independence but further devolution.

    JFD,

    QUOTE there Salmond’s arguments were a shade leaky.

    Very true.

    Regards.

    Ingram

  • MacBeth

    What a load of crap from JEB. The only reason he and the rest of the unionist pygmies in NI want Scotland to continue in wholly the unhealthy and undignified dependency that is the UK is so that they can keep their snouts in the English trough for as long as possible. There is NO DOUBT that an independent Scotland is viable, economically, politically, culturally and socially. That is a lot more than can be said for NI.

  • kensei

    “Salmon discounted entry into Euro in the short medium term. He acknowledged Scotland would need Sterling well after his so called independence.”

    I suggest that claim si more to do about politics. It’s almost certain Scotland would join the Euro in the medium term.

    “When challenged by not only labour but others also upon the FACT that HMG would be in control and dictate monetry policies he reluctnatly acknowledged same. ”

    Yes, the Bank of England would set interest rates. It is not unknown to tie your currency to somewhere else.

    “That is not independence mate, you can swear all you like but you need to understand one point, if you do not control fiscal policy you are P***ing in the wind and no country is independent under those conditions.”

    MONETARY POLICY IS NOT FISCAL POLICY
    MONETARY POLICY IS NOT FISCAL POLICY
    MONETARY POLICY IS NOT FISCAL POLICY
    MONETARY POLICY IS NOT FISCAL POLICY
    MONETARY POLICY IS NOT FISCAL POLICY
    MONETARY POLICY IS NOT FISCAL POLICY
    MONETARY POLICY IS NOT FISCAL POLICY

    Do you see?

  • dodrade

    Scotland will become a lot like Quebec. They will periodically vote for SNP governments at Holyrood when they are tired of Labour and to ring more money and power out of Westminster, but they will never vote for actual independence.

  • On the point about fiscal policy,it woth noting that Lib Dem policy is for Scotland to assume more powers over taxation, as their spokesperson mentioned on Newsnight.
    That in itself would have significant implications for Northern Ireland. If the Scottish Government cut Corporation Tax would NI be in a position to follow?

  • DK

    “It’s almost certain Scotland would join the Euro in the medium term.

    Yes, the Bank of England would set interest rates. It is not unknown to tie your currency to somewhere else.”

    And indeed the Euro is “somewhere else”. The fact that the Scottish banking and financial industry is completely tied into sterling and substantially cross-border in nature would make it very painful to change. You are talking tens of billions. You’ll not be able to pay for it with the dwindling North Sea oil (to which Norway also has a theoretical claim, it’s just that anglo-dutch companies got there first).

    Simon Jenkins is right that a middle route is most sensible, even if it anoys unionists and nationalists alike (I see that as a bonus).

  • George

    Ingram,

    I didn’t see the programme and how it came across but there is nothing to stop an independent Scotland having sterling as its legal tender and still be in control of all fiscal measures, including tax etc.

    Just like it was in Ireland’s economic interests after independence to maintain currency stability with the UK, so could it be for Scotland.

    Ireland suffered a lot in the 80s with the fluctuations with sterling when the punt was uncoupled.

    Montenegro has the euro as legal tender and isn’t in the euro, for example.

    It’s a simple question of whether Scots want to leave the union or not. After that, the other pieces, like currency, travel area, defence etc. will fall into place.

  • smcgiff

    God bless your patience, Kensei

  • kensei

    “And indeed the Euro is “somewhere else”. The fact that the Scottish banking and financial industry is completely tied into sterling and substantially cross-border in nature would make it very painful to change.”

    Those organisation are not cross border in the UK sense, they are international organisations. This argument does not make sense any more in the light of Euro.

    “You are talking tens of billions. You’ll not be able to pay for it with the dwindling North Sea oil (to which Norway also has a theoretical claim, it’s just that anglo-dutch companies got there first).”

    There would be some transition costs, certainly, hence the need to stay in Sterling for a while, but if an Independent Scotland was to have a more favourable regulatory and tax regime, then it would probably result in financial services growth. Dublin has also grown it’s financial sector over the past number of years. There is of course, both change and risk, which business dislike, which is why it would have to clearly laid out first to get business support.

  • John East Belfast

    MacBeth

    If you are going to have a go at me try and make a coherent point that can be responded to – you sound like a drunk Glaswegian asking the way home on a Saturday night.

    And nowhere did I say an independent Scotland was not viable.

    Any nation state will be viable if the people in it our committed to it being so and are prepared to make sacrfices for a greater good.

  • Jeremy

    In the 90s the price of oil collapsed to the dollars teens/ low twentys. All the majors, including Shell cut their capital spending i.e exploring and developing. Each company is now working to rebuild its reserves. Shell is looking at a policy of replacing produced oil at 100% a year just to keep standing still. As long as oil stays above the twenties then there will be increased exploration in the North sea and therefore expected production will increase. Some 34 billion barrels of oil have been recovered from the North Sea and the latest forecast has increased future potential reserves to 28 billion barrels. Today Brent Crude is about sixty dollars. The north sea is difficult deepwater area for exploration but all new major or big category wells are in difficult areas – mexican gulf, seas of Artic circle, Sakhalin island where the temp with wind chill can drop to minus 80. Scotland could thrive on that oil still. Furthermore when people talk about produced oil they are talking about taking about 20-30% of the oil out of that well. Most oil is difficult to extract ut the technology is developing and fast. Oman is a country that saw drastic reforecasts of its oil production as a result of Shell developed technologies to increase extraction and prolong the life cycle of wells. Oil should be central to the argument of whether Scotland should be independent because there is enough there still to allow Scotland to thrive. Talk of reduced production figures is selective reporting and ignores the cause of that drop – reduced exploration.

  • Diluted Orange

    I don’t reckon there’s much chance of Scotland voting for independence any time soon. The SNP are currently only the 3rd largest party in Scotland and their impact in Edinburgh and Glasgow would have to be a lot more significant than it currently is if they were to stand any reasonable chance of success in a referendum on the issue. It amazes me why Labour don’t call the SNP’s bluff on this one and call for a referendum, they do love wasting public money after all. I think that the whole reason the Scottish independence debate has reared its head is Labour’s doing – to deflect attention from the continuous errors in the Home Office and the disastrous campaign in Iraq by focusing on one of their ‘successes’ whilst in government i.e. Scottish devolution. However, I don’t think they bargained for the English outcry on the issue of Scottish MPs voting on English legislation. Labour also know fine well that in the next general election the balance of power may be decided by how many seats they have in Scotland and so flushing out the SNP now makes sense.

    In theory an independent Scotland could work but I very much doubt the extent its success if the SNP were the party in charge; to be blunt they are a bunch of idiots. 4 years ago they were dead and buried as a political force in Scotland when they experimented with John Swinney as their leader, this exposed the fact that Alex Salmond is the only member of their party with the necessary clout and charisma to lead them effectively. I once watched with amusement when Nicola Sturgeon, one of the big wigs in the SNP and Salmond’s main rival for the leadership before he was re-elected, during a TV debate on whether a new generation of nuclear power stations should be built to generate electricity she suggested that since Scotland had,”25% of Europe’s wind potential” (whatever that actually means) that Scotland should be able to supply pretty much all its power from wind! Personally speaking as an engineer I found this statement hilarious and couldn’t believe that any minister who is prepared to go onto TV to voice their opinions could be so naïve and uninformed about the subject they are talking about.

    I watched the Newsnight program last night and I felt Salmond did not come across well and was exposed as nothing more than a smug thinks-he-knows-it-all-but-doesn’t-really type. He also acted in pretty infantile manner towards the Douglas Alexander by not letting him speak and consistently speaking over him. He didn’t expand much on the parallels he gave of an independent Scotland with the Republic of Ireland and I suspect this is because he didn’t actually know what he was talking about. The Irish were pretty much a third world country for 40 years after independence and even the most hard line of republicans has to concede that the Celtic Tiger would not have happened if Ireland had not been selected as the European Union’s pet project for rejuvenation.

    Scotland cannot hope to enjoy the immense good fortune that was bestowed on the Republic; firstly they would have to rejoin the E.U., which could take a number of years and in the interim trade would be seriously affected, especially with the European market only being a jump across Hadrian’s wall; secondly the EU has already bitten off more than it can chew with its vast new influx of member states and there is less money in the pot for everyone, especially better developed countries such as Scotland. Whilst they waited for EU membership they would also be subject to a trade barrier with England, which would be a major hurdle, going from being part of the same nation to being unable to trade anything like the amounts that currently happens between England and Scotland. When they talk about emulating Ireland but also linking Scotland with the English pound they should note what actually happened to the Republic because of the links to the pound after WWII. Despite having not fought in the war, Ireland was dragged into a recession by England devaluing the pound and also when England set trade tariffs against the Free State, as retaliation for De Valera’s intransigence, the Irish economy nose-dived. The Scottish economy would be heavily linked to England’s for many years after independence and so you would have to ask where are the real advantages apart from exclusive rights to the British share of the North Sea oil fields, which are drying up anyway?

  • Jeremy

    Diluted Orange”
    “even the most hard line of republicans has to concede that the Celtic Tiger would not have happened if Ireland had not been selected as the European Union’s pet project for rejuvenation.”

    This is nonsense. Where in gods name did you find evidence for that. Evidence please?

    Scotland will not have to rejoin the EU. Same argument would apply to England (Wales and the North as well. Wonder would they look to join the south then). This EU argument is ridiculous.

    Trade barriers at Hadrian’s wall(lets ignore the fact that the wall is in England, not on the border)is also fanciful. I guess getting the ferry to Stranraer will be as difficult as secreting from North Africa into Europe. What will CEltic and ‘ger fans do. I suppose Linfield et al. will be delighted.

    You talk abour Ireland’s experience after WW2 with England imposing tariffs on the free state. I assume from your name that you are not a republican. so it seems like you are mixing up periods of history.

    All oil is drying up. The rate is whats questioned and Scotland has more than enough oil to make it a bonus in the case of independence..

  • jamestwo

    diluted orange. you seem to get confused by economics as i have noticed in other threads. Irelands GDP benefited on average to the tune of about a half of one percent per year at the height of eu transfers to the present. the highest transfer in any one year was about two and a half billion pounds in the early eighties. useful but not crucial (see Economist mag re above) You may note that at their highest level(now long gone) eu subsidies were only one tenth what scotland gets from england alone ! on top of that the scots get eu grants as well. some channelled through london, some direct. Yet the scots economy is moribund and the roi is the fourth wealthiest nation in the world! It is not enough for you to wish something true DO. It has to BE true as well. Please start looking things up before posting or you are going to become a laughing stock on this site.

  • Diluted Orange

    Jeremy

    – Are you seriously trying to suggest that Ireland would have been able to pull itself out of the mire left by De Valera if it hadn’t been funded to the hilt by the E.U.? You ask for evidence, how about reading any range of books on Irish history in the 20th century or even the following links:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ireland
    http://www.ubercomedy.com/Ini-to-Jan/ireland.php
    http://www.ips.uiuc.edu/eu/dallerba2.pdf

    I’m not going to do all the research for you, unless you can actually be bothered to provide a credible argument explaining that Ireland has somehow really been a vastly wealthy country since the hour and day it became independent (which is definitely not the case) then who are you to dismiss my argument as ‘nonsense’? You don’t have to look through green tinted lenses all the time.

    Ireland had huge levels of poverty and unemployment until the mid 70s. It joined the EC (which then consisted of only 9 countries) in 1973, when it was one of the only very poor countries to do so. The European Regional Development Fund was set up in 1975 (which uses up a third of the EU’s budget), is it a coincidence that Ireland suddenly became a much richer place? Considering the other massive portion of the EU budget is spent on the CAP and Ireland has always had a large agricultural base I would say Ireland has fared extremely well from membership.

    Ireland has only become a net contributor to the EU in recent years. In the late 80’s/ early 90’s when it was well on its way to an economic boom Regional Development payments, alone, still amounted for nearly 3% of the Irish GDP ( I can’t seem to get any data for the 70s or early 80’s but I’m very sure the EU contribution as a % of Irish GDP would have been much, much larger during those years) and this for an economy which had already grown considerably in the mid to late 80’s. Ireland couldn’t have become the prosperous country it is today without government’s policies being conducive to foreign investment but surely the overwhelming reason for Irish success has been EU membership.

    I am not trying to belittle Irish progress here so there is no need to be so defensive I am merely making the point that Alex Salmond is wrong when he thinks that similar success could be achieved with Scotland. Likewise Romania, Bulgaria, Poland etc as new members of the EU will not be able to enjoy the much larger funding/capita that the Irish did when they joined.

    – Why will Scotland not have to rejoin the E.U. if it leaves the UK? England, NI and Wales would remain as the UK in this event and so would not have to rejoin. Scotland would be an independent country and would have to assume certain criteria to be allowed in. A simple google search found this link which shows that “This EU argument is NOT ridiculous,” and that Scotland would have to negotiate EU entry.

    http://www.openeurope.org.uk/media-centre/article.aspx?newsid=1729

    – Hadrian’s Wall may well be in England but its purpose was to serve as the Anglo-Scots border in Roman times. There’s no point in being facetious here just for the sake of it, you surely knew what I meant. If Scotland is not in the EU then there will be trade barriers between England and Scotland, the EU is a common market and trade outside that market is restricted.

    – I assume that by noting that I referred to Ireland as the ‘free state’ post WWII you are suggesting I don’t know my Irish history as I’m not a Republican. As I assume you to be an ardent Republican I’m sure you will know that the 26 county Free state created in 1922 did not become a Republic until 18th April 1949, 4 years after the end of WWII.

    – All oil may well be drying up but when the SNP’s main argument for an independent Scotland has always been and continues to be Scotland being able to prosper due to it having oil fields in the North Sea then it kind of detracts from the credibility of their future vision.

  • Martin

    Current EU legal thinking seems to be that Scotland would be seceding from the UK and as such would have to re-apply for membership where the UK (or what is left of it) would retain membership.

    http://business.scotsman.com/topics.cfm?tid=51&id=35012007

    That makes sense. Russia, as the largest part of the former USSR, was seen as the USSR’s successor state even when that union completely dissolved. In this case only one part of the UK would be seceding and the UK, still existing, would retain its previous international obligations and memberships.

  • Donnacha

    While the oil is the big money generator, perhaps some other areas of Scotland’s industry should not be overlooked either. Whisky and tourism earn more than GBP4 billion annually. (And as an aside, do you have to have a fish-based name to be in the SNP? Salmond, Sturgeon….)

  • kensei

    “I’m not going to do all the research for you, unless you can actually be bothered to provide a credible argument explaining that Ireland has somehow really been a vastly wealthy country since the hour and day it became independent (which is definitely not the case) then who are you to dismiss my argument as ‘nonsense’?”

    Such a straw man. The argument isn’t that UIreland was always successful. The argument is that Ireland became successful due to EU subsidy. It didn’t. It became wealthy due to successful policy. The EU money undoubtedly helped, but if it was the case that subsidy was the answer then the rest of the UK would be richer.

    EU money 3% of Irish GDP? That’s fuck all. The Republic grew at 5% a year through most of the mid 90’s, almost 10% a year during the late 90’s and it’s still pulling 5% now.

    Subsidy doesn’t make rich nations. Intelligent use of it can, but it is by no means a necessary condition. But that’s the nub. Independence is greater risk and higher reward and the fuck up or otherwise is your responsibility.

  • George

    Diluted Orange,
    “You ask for evidence, how about reading any range of books on Irish history in the 20th century or even the following links:”

    None of these links define “hilt” never mind state that Ireland would not have been able to “pull itself out of the mire left by De Valera if it hadn’t been funded to the hilt by the E.U.”

    I would wonder how you explain why Portugal and Greece haven’t managed to pull themselves as far out of the “mire” or why Northern Ireland with three times per capita as much EU funding has failed to pull itself out of its “mire”?

    May I suggest you read this link:
    http://www.finfacts.ie/irelandeconomy/celtictigerireland.htm

    48 pages on how the Irish economic miracle happened and it doesn’t mention the word “funding” once.

    “The European Regional Development Fund was set up in 1975 (which uses up a third of the EU’s budget), is it a coincidence that Ireland suddenly became a much richer place?”

    No it isn’t, but it isn’t the only reason. It broke the link with sterling in 1979, for example. It introduced major tax incentives for foreign companies in the 1960s, It introduced the slashing budget from hell in 1987 etc.

    “Considering the other massive portion of the EU budget is spent on the CAP and Ireland has always had a large agricultural base I would say Ireland has fared extremely well from membership.”

    In fact, the majority of Ireland’s EU money went to farmers via CAP and the like as a side effect of the benefits for France but agriculture isn’t on what has put Ireland in the position it is in today. There as some very rich large farmers going around though. I’mk sure it’s the same north of the border. The poor ones are still scraping by and the big ones have milked the EU cow for all its worth.

    “Ireland has only become a net contributor to the EU in recent years.”

    That’s actually not true. Believe it or not Bertie went to the last review in 2006 offering to become a contributor as expected and came back with another 14 billion over the next seven years. France was at war with Blair. What could he do but take it and quietly walk away?

    “In the late 80’s/ early 90’s when it was well on its way to an economic boom Regional Development payments, alone, still amounted for nearly 3% of the Irish GDP”

    When Ireland joined the EU it pretty much gave up rights to its waters which is estimated to give the the other EU countries about 2 billion a year. As a result, Ireland can also be considered the second largest contributor (per capita) after Germany. There is no such thing as a free lunch in this world.

    “Ireland couldn’t have become the prosperous country it is today without government’s policies being conducive to foreign investment but surely the overwhelming reason for Irish success has been EU membership.”

    You could also say that the overwhelming reason is that, thanks to the EU, that it has been able to develop outside of the UK’s shadow and build up new markets etc.

    It’s not so much funding as the state of mind the EU created for the Irish people. The EU helped true independence from the UK to flourish.

    “I am merely making the point that Alex Salmond is wrong when he thinks that similar success could be achieved with Scotland.”

    Similar success can be achieved if the Scots work as hard, suffer as much pain as the Irish did in getting their house in order in the 80s, are as dedicated and single-minded and don’t take their eyes off the prize.

    They have advantages that Ireland didn’t, like no partition, no WWII, no powerful RC Church etc. so why not?

  • Donnacha

    “no WWII” Huh? Whaddya mean by that?

  • DK

    Kensei gets it spot on when he points out that independence gives you control of your destiny – either to prosper or to screw up. Ireland initially screwed up, but has recently started to prosper, to the extent that it has finally even exceeded NI, although NI’s growth is still high (higher than ROI in the most recent report).

    So independence for the Scots would mean being masters of their own destiny, rather than being part of the destiny of the UK – the key question is whether it is worth it? Is it better to be masters of the destiny of your own small patch, or share in the destiny of a much larger patch? In the case of Scotland, would swapping masters from London to Brussels be a good move – or should the aim be full independence like Switzerland? The SNP seem to be confused on the matter and want both masters – in Sterling and the in the EU.

    The other factor is that there is definitely a growing sense of English nationalism, which largely manifests itself in anoyance at apparently having to pay for the “celtic” freebooters on the edges of the archipalego. This is feared by Labour and the Lib-Dems, as they have a lot of support outside England keeping them strong in parliament; and it is feared by the Tories as they are traditionally for the Union. But what if the tories change? If England shakes off the final remains of British Empire baggage then what!

    It seems to me that the country that will benefit most from Scottish independence is England – maybe the Scots will benefit too, but you get the feeling that the opportunities have passed them by.

  • Crataegus

    I think I’ll declare independent when I get back. King Crat of Earthsea. Let’s see enough land, steady bank balance, good balance of trade figures I reckon, go Euro I think, lower interest rates, go private pay my way, low overheads and all very efficient. Own currency is tempting though, great profile. If I prosper or fall my responsibility, yes fine with me.

    The problem of course is her Ladyship may have different views and long for old unions and customs, like Morrice dancing round the Maypole, and there is the nub of the problem and the challenge. How do you respect equally various inter related identities, what is a country and how do you devolve power down and to what level? Take Wales what is Welch and what is British? For myself, in an ideal world, I would prefer a decentralised European model and have no feeling whatsoever for Westminster or Dublin. National identity is far from straight forward and is a right tangled web.

  • George

    DK,
    “NI’s growth is still high (higher than ROI in the most recent report).”

    Which report is that? According to Forfás, the Republic recorded GNP of 6.2% in 2006 and an even higher GDP.

    The recent Ulster Bank PMI report put Northern Ireland GDP at 2.5 – 3%.

  • DK

    “NI’s growth is still high (higher than ROI in the most recent report).”

    “Which report is that? ”

    This one, although it is just private sector growth, not overall growth. I’m sure you will agree that this is good news for people here:

    http://www.breakingnews.ie/business/?jp=CWSNMHOJOJSN&rss=rss1

    “North’s growth in economic activity overtakes Republic

    Employment in the private sector in the North grew by its fastest rate in more than four years in December, it was revealed today.

    At the same time business activity in the province showed its fastest rise for more than two and a half years according to a report from the Ulster Bank.

    The bank’s Purchasing Managers’ Index signalled a further marked improvement in the private sector economy.

    Growth of overall activity accelerated for a fourth consecutive month and was the sharpest since May 2004 with firms in the North pointing to strong new order growth and favourable economic conditions last month.

    Pat McArdle, chief economist at the bank said: “Private sector employment expanded at the fastest pace in four and a half years, confounding the more pessimistic projections in vogue in recent times.

    “Moreover, in terms of economic activity, Northern Ireland consolidated its position ahead of the UK average and, indeed, its other main trading partners, Republic of Ireland and the Eurozone”

  • George

    I see DK,
    quite interesting. This report is about private sector manufacturing and would back up the figures that Ireland’s export market is becoming more and more service sector based.

    Irish Exporters Association report 2006:

    Goods Exports – €88.5 billion – unchanged on last year

    Services Exports – €53.3 billion – up 15.6% on last year

    Total Exports – €141.9 billion – up 5.5% on last year

    Services Exporters now account for 37.6% of total exports.

    The IFSC now accounts for €53.3 Billion of exports compared to €4.4 Billion in 1995. (Who said Haughey was all bad?)

    Ireland is now the 10th largest services exporter globally.

  • Diluted Orange

    kensei

    “Such a straw man. The argument isn’t that Ireland was always successful. The argument is that Ireland became successful due to EU subsidy. It didn’t. It became wealthy due to successful policy. The EU money undoubtedly helped, but if it was the case that subsidy was the answer then the rest of the UK would be richer.”

    The argument was actually whether Scotland could be more successful as an independent nation than if it remained part of the UK. Alex Salmond likens Scottish independence to Irish independence, I’m just saying that I don’t agree with him but how dare I suggest in the company of nationalist leaning folk that the main reason for Irish success has been the EU!

    You say 3% of GDP is ‘fuck all’ but this is an average taken in the early 90s when Ireland had already been growing at an impressive rate for a number of years so if the same amount of money was provided in earlier years it would have made up a much larger proportion of Irish GDP. Ireland may well have been growing at 5% but maybe this is down to the sustained investment it enjoyed over years and years finally paying off. The subsidies the Irish government got were used extremely well.

    I don’t consider 3% of GDP to be ‘fuck all’. The following link says that Irish government spending is around 35% of GDP so effectively the government had an extra 10% more money to play with in the early 90s than it would have done from taxes alone, and I would think this proportion would have been a lot larger in the 80s for the reasons already outlined. That’s a huge amount of effectively free money to be floating about.

    http://www.heritage.org/Research/Budget/tst102505.cfm

    Then we haven’t even got into the CAP benefits to farmers and the resultant extra money in the economy over the same period.

    “Subsidy doesn’t make rich nations. Intelligent use of it can, but it is by no means a necessary condition. But that’s the nub. Independence is greater risk and higher reward and the fuck up or otherwise is your responsibility.”

    I totally agree with this but I think the fact that Ireland received a lot of money helped things immensely but there is no doubt that its government policies also played a very important role. But say if Ireland hadn’t been in the EU would American firms have set up down South in the first place? Would the Irish government have been able to entice them with low corporation tax rates if it didn’t have all those subsidies?

    That’s all I’m going to say about Ireland’s success (although there are other points I would to respond to) as I think I’ve opened Pandora’s Box and completely swamped a thread meant to be about Scotland with stuff about Ireland.

    I think DK’s quote just about sums up Scottish independence for me:

    “It seems to me that the country that will benefit most from Scottish independence is England – maybe the Scots will benefit too, but you get the feeling that the opportunities have passed them by.”

    I think if Scotland had wanted independence 30 years ago and then went on to receive all the riches that off shore oil had to offer it would have been very successful but that horse has bolted now.

  • kensei

    “The argument was actually whether Scotland could be more successful as an independent nation than if it remained part of the UK. Alex Salmond likens Scottish independence to Irish independence, I’m just saying that I don’t agree with him but how dare I suggest in the company of nationalist leaning folk that the main reason for Irish success has been the EU!”

    One of the important drivers for the success of the Republic’s economy has been the EU. The subsidy played some role in allowing investment and public sector spending. In relation to the EU, much more was the access to a vastly bigger free trade area. However, this was by no means the only factor. Being English speaking and only a 5 hour time delay to the US played its part. Cumulative policy decisions over a period of 40 years by successive Irish Governments as explained above also played a vital role. The advent of the internet was also clearly vital in getting a lot of US FDI.

    There are a lot of factors. There is no silver bullet for success, some of it was internal, some of it external. If any one of them hadn’t been there, it might not have happened, or happened as much. Stating the only reason was that it was the EU’s pet project is crassly, totally ignorant. That is what I object to.

    “You say 3% of GDP is ‘fuck all’ but this is an average taken in the early 90s when Ireland had already been growing at an impressive rate for a number of years so if the same amount of money was provided in earlier years it would have made up a much larger proportion of Irish GDP. Ireland may well have been growing at 5% but maybe this is down to the sustained investment it enjoyed over years and years finally paying off. The subsidies the Irish government got were used extremely well.”

    So, we could say:

    “Subsidy doesn’t make rich nations. Intelligent use of it can,”

    Like I said in the very post you quoted. We have had far more subsidy here and blew it all. And there is no such thing as a free lunch – Ireland gave up it’s fishing rights. Moreover, expanding economies in the EU benefit everyone. That money will be repaid many times over in terms of increased trade and contributions from the countries that have improved economically. I hope e can help the Eastern countries to do as well.

    “I don’t consider 3% of GDP to be ‘fuck all’. The following link says that Irish government spending is around 35% of GDP so effectively the government had an extra 10% more money to play with in the early 90s than it would have done from taxes alone, and I would think this proportion would have been a lot larger in the 80s for the reasons already outlined. That’s a huge amount of effectively free money to be floating about.”

    3% of GDP is important but not the be all abnd end all; particularly when you are growing at a fast rate. But it’s irrelevant. I have already conceded it played some role.

    “That’s all I’m going to say about Ireland’s success (although there are other points I would to respond to) as I think I’ve opened Pandora’s Box and completely swamped a thread meant to be about Scotland with stuff about Ireland.”

    Then don’t say shit like this:

    “The Irish were pretty much a third world country for 40 years after independence and even the most hard line of republicans has to concede that the Celtic Tiger would not have happened if Ireland had not been selected as the European Union’s pet project for rejuvenation. ”

    when you don’t even believe it yourself. Other countries had similar opportunities to the Republic and didn’t make as good a fist of it.

    “I think if Scotland had wanted independence 30 years ago and then went on to receive all the riches that off shore oil had to offer it would have been very successful but that horse has bolted now.”

    The Oil is an irrelevance. About 40 years ago South Korea and Nigeria were at about the same level. Which country is successful these days, and which one has the Oil?

    Scotland can make a success of itself if it goes independent. It won’t be able to do it by copying Ireland, but by making use of it’s own strengths effectively, one of which would be still close ties with England. It might not make it right away, it might get wrong for years, but eventually stable democracies tend to reflect a country that the people there want. Maybe what Scotland wants isn’t what England or Wales wants. It might be prouder of the achievement too. That is what should be driving Independence, not Oil.