What will it take to make Scotland fit for independence?

Brian Feeney with another brio performance in the Irish News today. He rightly identifies the dis ease with the union in Scotland in the cultural distance that’s growing between London and the rest of the country.

He points out that whilst Independence is still a minority sport, Salmond can raise a healthy 70% support for his proposals for his version of Devo Max/Indy Light. Owning both ends of the proposition has its uses.

Feeney notes that this is what Salmond will bid to put before the Scottish people in 2014. And…

…the UK will be different beyond imagination as a result. That is what has suddenly dawned upon Cameron and his Westminster clique. Cameron’s ill advised petulant attempts in the past 10 days to stop this inexorable juggernaut have only made it certain to reach its destination.

He believes that Salmond…

…has Cameron over a barrel. Salmond will be able to say his referendum contains the questions the Scottish people want. Cameron has no moral or electoral authority to deny it.

‘Devo max’ will he suggests will hasten the disintegration of the Union, not least because he believe English MPs will not be able to stop themselves from downgrading the status of Scottish MPs at Westminster leading to further distancing of Edinburgh from London.

That’s a matter for posterity to sort out. In the absence of any concerted action from London the British Union is restricting itself with the demand in Scotland at least being from greater freedom and independence of action.

Somewhere soon, it must become obvious that the price of that freedom may be severe; as we’ve seen in the Republic. Any nascent Scottish state must be ready to undertake such a journey before it begins.

Come to think of it that’s a question many in Northern Ireland could usefully ask themselves too.

– Unionists and Conservatives, because dependence is counter to many of their professed cultural values.

– Nationalists, because the last thing they need is launch an independent Scotland only to have her sink just after the launch.

  • FuturePhysicist

    Good post from the Belfast Telegraph on this … The coalition saying that they will force Scotland to fork up the money for HBOS, Trident and £100bn in deficit repayments, SNP deny Scotland’s liability is so high.

  • Munsterview

    Ah now for the reality of the pence and halfpence…… my money is in the Scots to also come out best in that encounter!

  • wee buns

    Having lived for the guts of a decade in Scotland I’d say the pro independence or anti colonial waters – run pretty deep.

    To translate that into political reality means commitment to the right to nationhood, which others enjoy – reciprocity of rights.

  • aquifer

    This will matter for Northern Ireland. Remember that the GFA settlement moved in a similar timeframe as devolution for Wales and Scotland. If NI wants tax powers now could be the time to ask.

  • Alias

    It’s two barbers arguing over whch of them gets to groom a bald man’s tattered wig. Over 80 of all new laws in the UK originate in the EU. DevoMax is just a greater share of the scraps and a plate with no bird on it…

  • Alias


  • ayeYerMa

    DevoMax/ScroungoMax is a red herring – it is nothing more than wanting to have your cake and eat it tioo. This is not a referendum issue because the nature of devolution is not a matter only for Scotland.

    Either in or out Salmond. Either get out and stop your whinging, or stay in and stop your whinging.

  • Mick Fealty

    Alias, that 80% is often quoted but I’ve rarely seen anyone who quotes it successfully stand it up. But I also think you miss the point of the demand for greater autonomy. It’s a cry for greater agency.

    In the case of Scotland this means some degree of control over those areas of high spending the general size of which is still dictated by policy decisions made at Westminster.

    Would an independent Scotland, for instance, still continue with free third level education or free prescriptions if it was faced with making a trade off in corpo tax in an attempt get the entrepreneurial juices of Scottish business flowing again?

    The precedent in Ireland suggests small statehood does not readily facilitate a move towards Sweden or Norway, especially if the UK retains control of the oil.

    In Ireland people people like to talk ‘left’ (and in terms of US politics most politicos self identify with the Democratic party) but in reality they vote on policies that tend to the ‘right’. That’s in part dictated by the sense that there’s a more finite public purse.

    It also suggests that getting over the hangover of dependency within the union, which is a function of lack of local autonomy and distance from decision making in London rather than a lack of morality, may be both prolonged and nasty.

    Aye Yer Ma,

    Do you believe most Unionists feel everything is fine and dandy with high levels of public subsidy and fiscal transfers from Westminster?

    One reason the centre right is struggling in both Scotland and NI is that it’s so easy to cast Westminster as the villain.

    A rebalancing of powers and recasting of the way the union works is what most Scots currently want, not an exit.

  • “One reason the centre right is struggling in both Scotland and NI is that it’s so easy to cast Westminster as the villain.”

    NI Conservatives have no MPs, no MLAs and no Councillors so ‘struggling’ is something of an understatement.

    ‘Subventions’ go to many parts of the UK, not just NI, and it’s possible that Nationalists in NI are greater beneficiaries than Unionists. The ‘sponger’ language of Wilson would be most unhelpful in local autonomy exchanges.

    Here are two animations that give a flavour of dependency across the UK – Jobseeker’s Allowance by Local Authority and Unemployment by Region. In relation to JSA Derry City Council has now caught up with Birmingham. The big concern for Derry is that it is in on an upward trend whereas Birmingham is fairly flat.

    Has Westminster’s ‘military adventurism’ also damaged people’s faith in central government?

  • Mick Fealty

    Derry and Birmingham are good examples of regional disempowerment. Scotland’s just the most powerful outcropping of a more general ‘need’.

  • I see the English regions have been dispensed with. Any thoughts on why they were introduced in the first place? I think there’s merit in greater local autonomy though it can go too far. Here in Moyle Council, councillors find it difficult to act collectively for the greater good; there’s a marked reluctance to raise issues or intervene outside their own electoral areas.

  • Apologies – I’ve mixed up links.

    Jobseeker’s Allowance – by local authority.

    Unemployment – by region.

  • Mick Fealty

    They were not universally popular. They were made up largely of appointees from directly elected councils, so had little public provenance in the areas whose interests they were supposed to oversee. In other words a bit of an experimental fudge.

    I think both LD and Tories ran on an anti ticket. I certainly heard both Cam and Cable speak against regional planning within weeks of each other.

  • DougtheDug

    Mick Fealty:

    The problem as always with devo-max is that only the unionist parties in Westminster can implement it. The SNP can define what it thinks devo-max means to its heart’s content but without an endorsement from the three unionist UK parties, specifically Labour, then it’s just an empty promise.

    An SNP defined devo-max option on the ballot might win but it would be worthless even if it wins because how are the SNP going to enforce it on the Westminster parties and get a devo-max bill through the Westminster parliament?

    The only reason the SNP are holding the devo-max option open is to ensure that when it disappears it is obvious that the three UK parties have abandoned devo-max and that independence is the only option for change left on the ballot paper.

    I’m not sure how the UK, or more properly England, Wales and NI (EWNI), can retain the oil. The oil fields will fall into waters which under any boundary drawn up under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea will belong to Scotland. Unless EWNI can get the international sea boundary between Scotland and England to deviate sharply north in defiance of international convention then Scotland gets the oil.


    If Scotland has to pay for the rescue of RBS and HBOS then they will of course have to get ownership of the shares the UK government bought with the money. EWNI can’t get the money and keep the shares. On the other hand, if Scotland has to pay EWNI the money the UK government use to bail out the Scottish banks then EWNI will have to pay Scotland the money the UK used to bail out the English banks and building societies.

    If the UK breaks up then EWNI will be due a 92% stake in Government assets and debts if the split is done on a population basis and Scotland will get 8% of the assets and liabilities.

    If it comes down to paying for the Faslane base Scotland will just swap the 8% stake it’s got in all the defence establishments in EWNI
    for the EWNI 92% stake in Faslane.

    EWNI can keep the Trident boats but Scotland will want recompense for its 8% share in them.

  • john

    EWNI – not so sure about this any other ideas for a name for the new country assuming there still will be a union! The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland but not Scotland is a bit of a mouthfull

  • dodrade

    In the unlikely event of Scottish independence I suspect the full title would simply be shortened to the United Kingdom.

  • DougtheDug


    Since the original Union of the separate Kingdoms of Scotland and England (which incorporated Wales) will be gone then the new name might be the Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland or KEWNI.

    But since Wales isn’t mentioned on the current passport it will probably be the Kingdom of England and Northern Ireland or KENI.

    Budding entrepreneurs in Northern Ireland should get into flags because if Scotland goes they’ll have to take the Saltire out of the new flag.

    Here’s what it will look like:

  • Alias

    “Alias, that 80% is often quoted but I’ve rarely seen anyone who quotes it successfully stand it up. But I also think you miss the point of the demand for greater autonomy. It’s a cry for greater agency.”

    It’s impossible to quantify because no state agency says ‘This regulation is to comply with this directive, or to harmonise here, or to prepare for this convergence, etc.’ That leaves the researchers guessing, and does so quite purposefully.

    The figure of 80% came from Libertas. Tory MEP, Dan Hannan, put it at 84% (based on figures from former German President Roman Herzog and Luder Gurken of the Centrum für Europäische Politik). Former President of the European Parliament, Hans-Gert Pottering, said that the EU is “the legislator of 75% of all laws in Europe.” The British prime minister, David Cameron, said that “almost half of all regulations affecting our businesses come from the EU”. Open Europe put it as 59%, and a recent study by independent Westminster researchers put it at 53%.

    At any rate, somewhere between the lower figure of 53% and the higher figure of 84% reveals that most of the sovereignty to make laws does not remain within the UK. Incidentally, Cameron was on the news saying that his government would look at the safety of cruise liner design as a result of Costa Concordia. He appears not to understand that his government does not have any sovereignty over such matters and has no power to make any regulation in that area. That is a matter for the EU exclusively.

    I understand what you are saying about Scotland seeking the power to decide how it would use the few extra powers that it would gain from the UK, but it is absurd to claim that Scotland would be independent when the exercise of most of its sovereign powers will still reside with the EU. Independence is simply a lie that is being sold to the Scottish by Salmond for his own selfish purposes.

  • drc0610

    Alias, so being “independent!” is irrelevant, neither an independent scotland, or the UK, which scotland would remain part of, is truely independent.

    So what left? as you say, the extra powers it would gain from leaving the U.K. These are key.

    The UK has a somewhat disfunctioning constitutional setup. The past 10 years (or more?) of centralising political and financial power in London has increased the strains. This trend shows no signs of abaiting let alone reversing.

    I get the feeling that independence is not about an upsurge in nationalism, merely people recognising that it’s far more effective for Scotland to run it’s own affairs, to tailor policies to scotlands needs, rather than be submerged in the wake London centric politics.

    The current state of the Labour Party in scotland and the antics of the pro-union parties in Scotland provide ample evidence of this.

    The question is not whether you will be better or worse off on day 1 of independence (after all politicians and economists struggle to predict what’s coming up next month never mind in 2014) but whether a scotland governed by a parliment in edinburgh focused on the needs of the people in scotland would be a more effective administration than the one in westminster. And that’s already been answered.

  • IrelandNorth

    If Scotland opts for independence followed by Wales shortly thereafter, how sustainable will a Union be between England and Northern Ireland? The recently convened British-Irish Council showcased a post partition paradigm being pursued by Great Britian and Ireland. Question is, will the English be able to handle a post UK reinvented Commonwealth scenario. More importantly still, will Ulster unionism generically be able to handle all Ireland power sharing as an amicable compromise to the Troubles.

  • As has been intimated in the film ‘Trainspotting’ as in Irvine Welsh’s novel, The Scots aren’t ready to leave the apron strings behind. Like the Welsh, they prefer to whingwe on the sidelines while excoriating the English for what they are unwilling to relinquish.

  • Alias

    “I get the feeling that independence is not about an upsurge in nationalism, merely people recognising that it’s far more effective for Scotland to run it’s own affairs, to tailor policies to scotlands needs, rather than be submerged in the wake London centric politics.”

    Yes, but “that’s already been answered” within the UK. It won’t be the same answer outside of it. It isn’t just subvention that will be lost but all of the expertise and experience of government that simply doesn’t exist in Scotland.

    For example, staying on the theme of the EU, there is no expertise and experience in either the Scotish parliament or its civil service of managing membership of the EU. It only has expereience of transposing EU law into Scottish law, and some limited input into UK-EU policy granted to it and the other devolved assemblies by the UK government – mainly the right to attend a limited number of meetings). It only has expertise and experience of managing membership of the UK. Yet it is the EU that will continue to rule most of Scotland. That is assuming that Scotland can arrange to join the EU at the same moment it leaves the UK.

    There will be no opt-out from the euro for Scotland as there is for the UK, so it will become more economically divergent from the UK – and that is not likely to be to its advantage.

    While the few extra powers it would gain from the UK will come at a high price (armies are not cheap and neither are embassies and tax collection systems) it will fall far short of an independent Scotland.

    You have to wonder if the Scots aren’t being sold pup. Certainly the level of ‘independence’ that Ireland has today was not worth one life in 1916…