Here is a longer than normal contribution to our 'Tell Us Your Story' campaign.
Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish Government have requested another Scottish independence referendum before the UK leaves the EU. So far this has been rejected by the PM, Theresa May. She will not consider another Scottish independence referendum at this time whilst Brexit is being negotiated. She rightly feels the Scottish public needs to know the outcome of Brexit before voting again on independence. However she has not ruled out an independence referendum after the UK has left the EU, so Scottish voters need to keep aware of any developments as and when they happen. It is our duty as Scots to do what is best for our country and its people. Before we can do that we need to know the facts and be fully aware of all the associated risks. Right now we are being bombarded on the news media with fiery political rhetoric from Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. For some reason opposing politicians get little or no air time on TV to challenge what she is saying. As a result there may be some Scots who take everything our First Minister says at face value. However it is essential we question the validity and motives behind her claims. In an attempt to balance the argument, this study of the situation raises some important issues which surely must be considered by Scottish voters prior to any repeat referendum. It also clarifies some of the thinking behind Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy for delaying and disrupting the Brexit negotiations. I challenge you to read this report so that you are in a better position to evaluate the need for another independence referendum and to cast an informed vote if a 2nd independence referendum does eventually take place.
The SNP mantra – “Independence at any cost”
The key objective of the SNP is Scottish independence. Always has been. Always will be. It is the sole reason for the party’s creation. Without this idealistic dream there would be no SNP. Their whole philosophy revolves around the quest for independence. As such the SNP will use every means at its disposal to support its prime reason for existing. So when you hear Nicola Sturgeon saying “I only want what is best for Scotland” what she is really saying is “I only want what is best for the SNP”, because when it comes to a choice of what’s best for Scotland or what’s best for the SNP, the latter will win every time in order to keep the SNP dream alive. It is very important to keep this uppermost in your mind every time you listen to an SNP spokesperson.
As far as the SNP are concerned their overall strategy is to achieve Scottish independence at any cost. This has become very obvious, particularly now that Scotland’s current poor financial state in the absence of significant oil revenue has been exposed. No longer will you hear the SNP using Scotland’s oil wealth or the country’s financial state to justify Scottish independence. Nicola Sturgeon has even been quoted recently as saying that Scottish independence should take priority over the economy http://www.express.co.uk/news/politics/712499/Theresa-May-rips-Nicola-Sturgeon-claims-Scottish-independence-more-important-economy. This is a sure sign that the SNP’s sole objective now is independence at any cost! They imply that independence will solve everything, even without the national finances or the economy to support it. Perhaps they don’t really care if the Scottish economy goes belly up after independence, as at that point they can always exit the stage leaving the mess to somebody else, because having achieved their prime objective, there would be no real need for the SNP after that. UKIP is a prime example of having no real role in politics after succeeding in achieving their dream of leaving the EU. Nigel Farage has resigned and the party is in turmoil. It is likely a similar thing would happen to the SNP after their dream of Scottish independence was realised, particularly in light of their poor track record during their 10 years in government.
Watch carefully how Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP manipulate the facts on any subject to justify their existence and their dream of Scottish independence. You will rarely if ever hear them substantiate their claims with facts. When faced with hard facts or opposing views from industry experts, the SNP will simply say their critics are wrong. An obvious example of this occurred during the first Indy Referendum when Sir Ian Wood, Scotland’s foremost oil expert, warned that Scottish oil and gas revenue would reduce significantly by 2035 because of limited reserves and that the drop in revenue would leave a hole in an independent Scotland's budget http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/scottish-independence/11046740/Sir-Ian-Wood-15-years-of-oil-left-before-independent-Scotland-spending-cuts.html. He also warned that oil prices could not be relied upon as it was a volatile market. As usual Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon simply brushed this aside by saying Sir Ian was wrong. The sudden collapse in the oil price since then and the current £15 billion deficit on the Scottish balance sheet clearly shows that the SNP leaders misled the Scottish public at the time in their quest for independence at any cost.
SNP’s current strategy for independence
The SNP’s tactics for achieving Scottish independence are blatantly obvious:
- Whatever the latest Scottish problem, or in the event of having to make an unpopular decision, put the blame on the “Tory” Government at Westminster.
- Disrupt the Westminster parliament at every opportunity by opposing every bill put forward by the current Government.
- Make irrational requests to Westminster, knowing full well that the answer will be “No” in the hope that every rejection will rile more Scots and increase SNP support in Scotland.
- Threaten Westminster with a 2nd Scottish independence referendum at every opportunity in order to gain more power and influence, whilst pacifying their core supporters.
- Use whatever funds are available to buy votes in Scotland. Since they can’t do this directly they will do this indirectly by providing financial support and/or free services to selected groups of our society in order to retain and attract new supporters.
- Manipulate every new piece of information to justify their quest for Scottish Independence.
- Keep Scottish Independence at the top of the Scottish political agenda in order to deflect attention away from their inability to run the country effectively in spite of being in office for the last 10 years
Is Scotland ready for another Independence Referendum?
In the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the Scottish people voted to stay in the UK by a significant margin of 55.3%-44.7% from an 84.59% voter turnout. According to Alex Salmond and Nicola Sturgeon at the time, it was supposed to be a once in a lifetime vote, the result of which would be honoured by both sides, but as the SNP cannot be trusted and can’t exist without their prime objective, they had to keep looking for another reason to renege on their promise. The result of the EU referendum is now being used by the SNP as an excuse for a 2nd referendum. They claim that the Brexit result is a “significant and material change in the circumstances in which Scotland voted against independence in 2014” and that this gives justification for having another independence referendum.
It is true that 62% of Scottish voters opted to remain in the EU from a voter turnout of 67.2% of the electorate. However the question on the ballot paper was a simple and unambiguous choice - for the UK to remain as a member of the EU or to leave. The SNP in their wisdom interpret the Scottish result as a vote for Scotland to remain in the EU even if it means leaving the UK. Where is their evidence for this? It definitely was not part of the EU referendum question. Once again it is an example of the SNP manipulating the facts to support their ultimate goal of independence.
Significantly, a Scottish poll taken immediately after result of the EU referendum asked some very relevant questions https://yougov.co.uk/news/2016/07/30/brexit-fails-boost-support-scottish-independence/
Question 1: Should Scotland be an independent country? Result: 47% yes / 53% no
When eliminating the “don’t knows” this became 45% yes / 55% no, virtually identical the result of the first Scottish independence referendum in 2014.
Question 2: Should Scotland leave the UK to stay in the EU? Result: 37% yes / 46% no / 17% don’t know
Question 3: Should Scotland leave the UK to stay in the EU single market? Result: 34% yes / 40% no / 26% don’t know
So this is just another example of the Nicoloa Sturgeon manipulating the facts and claiming to “speak for Scotland” when in fact the majority of Scots disagree with her.
Most Scots do not want another independence referendum, particularly right now when our economy is under pressure. We don’t have the finances, a competent government, a plan of action, or the will of the people to make a success of it. Most would prefer our Government to shelve their obsession with independence and focus on using their considerable devolved powers to improve the future of our country and its inhabitants. All this talk of another independence referendum does nothing but cause uncertainty in the minds of our business leaders, investors and world markets.
Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP know that if they were to have a 2nd Indy referendum right now they would lose. If they thought for a minute that they were in a good position to win, the Scottish Government would be calling for another referendum tomorrow! Sturgeon has already said many times that she will only call for a 2nd Referendum when she thinks they can win. If that is not an example of biased timing in the best interests of the SNP what is? So right now a 2nd referendum remains an idle threat. It may come to nothing, particularly if Brexit is negotiated successfully. However, no doubt Sturgeon is secretly hoping it will be a hard exit with limited or no access to the EU single market, as a successful Brexit will do little for her dream of Scottish independence.
Scottish demands re the Brexit negotiations
Our First Minister believes that, as a result of our Brexit vote, Scotland has shown it wants to stay in the EU. Based upon this typical “SNP misrepresentation of the facts” she has made 2 key demands:
- Scottish representation at any Brexit negotiations with a Scottish power of veto
- Scotland’s continued membership of the EU or at least continued access to the EU single market as a special case
The Prime Minister has told Sturgeon in no uncertain terms that the answer to the first demand above is a definite no. The EU Referendum result was based on the whole of the UK and as such the UK Government will negotiate the exit terms. Scotland will not be given a veto and will not be allowed to negotiate its own terms with the EU. The EU has confirmed that this indeed will be the case. Scotland will have to comply, as part of the UK, with whatever deal is struck on the Brexit negotiations. This includes access or not to the EU single market. Since the EU has also ruled out the prospects of Scotland remaining a member state of the EU if the UK leaves, it is likely that none of Sturgeon’s demands will be met. As a result of this, the Scottish Government has already started preparing legislation for a 2nd referendum so that they can call for one at the earliest opportune moment.
What are the chances of an independent Scotland becoming a member state of the EU?
Let’s get something clear at the outset. In spite of what you might hear from our First Minister, if Scotland were to gain independence it would not be allowed to retain membership of the EU. This was clearly stated by the EU at the time of the first Independence Referendum in 2014. Scotland would have to apply for EU membership. It requires all 28 member states’ approval before a country can become a member of the EU and several countries including Spain, Belgium and Italy are likely to veto Scotland’s application to join the EU in an attempt to discourage fervent independence movements within their own borders.
Even if all member states approved Scotland’s application there are financial entry restrictions to the EU which would prevent Scotland from joining at present. http://ec.europa.eu/economy_finance/euro/adoption/who_can_join/index_en.htm. For example, to join the EU a country’s deficit should be no more than 3% of GDP and Scotland’s annual deficit stood at 9.7% in 2014-15. Fact is our country’s balance sheet is around £15 billion in the red as a result of our government’s obsessive public spending policies. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-37167975. Without significant oil revenue and with no Barnett formula income from Westminster, an independent Scotland would be in a disastrous financial state. The only remedial action would be to raise taxation, increase national borrowing or drastically reduce public spending, bringing a new meaning to the word “austerity”. This is exactly what the EU has forced upon Greece because of their massive level of debt. The last thing the EU wants at present is another Greek bailout situation so Scotland’s financial compliance will be an essential prerequisite for EU membership. At best it could take several years for an EU application to be approved and the longer it takes the more time for our financial state to deteriorate even further.
The downside of an independent Scotland joining the EU
- With no currency of its own and the UK government insisting an independent Scotland cannot use the British Pound, Scotland would be forced to use the Euro or create a new Scottish currency, the cost of which would likely be prohibitive. According to world economists and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Eurozone is in danger of collapsing, particularly after the Brexit vote. Member countries such as Greece, Spain and Italy have 'abused' the system, running up massive levels of debt which in many cases will never be paid. European banks are in crisis as a result. So far Germany has borne the brunt of the bailouts but now the German public is beginning to complain and Deutsche Bank, one of the largest banks in Europe, is in serious trouble.
- The Scottish Government is happy to accept uncontrolled immigration as part of the EU’s single market policy. Scottish public services are already stretched to the limit, so uncontrolled immigration will take these to breaking point and create the need for more government funding at a time when an independent Scotland would have limited means of providing it.
- With the rest of the UK out of the EU and Scotland in the EU there would need to be border control with England because of the different immigration laws. This would interfere with Scottish travel and trade with the rest of the UK.
- EU membership is no guarantee of economic success. Countries like Greece, Spain, Cyprus and Ireland have all suffered economic downturns in recent years, generally as a result of overspending and unsustainable levels of debt.
- The reason why so many poorer countries are keen to join the EU is to get financial hand-outs. The wealthier countries such as Germany, UK and France pay for this by contributing more to the EU than they receive. At the time of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum Alex Salmond claimed that an independent Scotland would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. If this were actually true, which was disputed by Glasgow University academics at the time https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2014/may/29/scotland-wealth-alex-salmond-study, Scotland would likely become a net contributor, paying significantly more than it received back. One of the main reasons for a Brexit vote in the recent EU referendum.
- An independent Scotland in the EU would be ruled by unelected bureaucrats in Brussels. Westminster has it faults but we still have the ability to democratically influence decisions there.
- When weighing up the pros and cons of EU membership we tend to view the EU as it is now. We should be anticipating what the EU will be like in say 10 -20 years’ time. Economists are saying that the EU is in danger of disintegrating after Brexit. If Britain can make a success of Brexit then other countries may well follow, at which point the EU could collapse and if Scotland was a member at that time our future would be in danger of going down with the ship. The EU is in decline and in danger of imploding, whilst the UK can look forward to a bright new future after Brexit. The choice of EU membership or staying as a key member of the UK should therefore be an obvious one for Scottish voters.
Does the Scottish Government have the ability to run an independent country?
This is definitely questionable when looking at the track record of the SNP government over their 10 years in office. As expected they have consistently failed to live up to their manifesto promises. Lots of talk but no action is an SNP trademark. Let’s take a look at various important Scottish issues where the SNP have failed to meet up to expectations:
Scotland’s NHS is struggling and according to NHS workers it is stretched to the limit. Audit Scotland has shown that in the last year our NHS missed all but one of its 8 key waiting targets. The Government is forcing health boards to make an unprecedented saving of £492 million in 2016/17 yet our current level of NHS spending is not keeping up with demand. Meanwhile the NHS is having great difficulty recruiting doctors and nurses and many local hospitals are facing closure. The apparent inability of our population to look after their own health is not helping. Obesity, alcohol consumption and drug abuse are ongoing problems. The SNP Government has failed to make any impact on this. The cost of free prescriptions and healthcare for the elderly is escalating way above what was anticipated at the start, to the point that one wonders where the additional funding is going to come from in order that these two SNP flagship benefits can continue.
Scottish education used to be the envy of the world. How things have changed. Scottish education is complaining of inadequate funding and excessive interference by Government with their ever-changing performance targets and dictatorial approach. Teachers are resigning, complaining of stress, and replacing them is proving very difficult. Scottish students are suffering as a result.
The amalgamation of regional police forces into Police Scotland in order to save money has proved to be a disaster in terms of performance and staff morale, with staffing levels at their lowest level in five years. The decision to create Police Scotland has been heavily criticised by both senior and front line staff as one of the worst decisions our government has ever made. Our cash-strapped force has a £17.5 million hole in its finances and this ongoing lack of funds is interfering with the force’s ability to combat crime. As a result, tackling crime in Scotland is an ever-growing challenge with no solution in sight.
The state of our roads and railways
Scotland’s roads remain a national disgrace. Our major roads are in dire need of upgrading with regular roadwork delays, whilst our minor roads remain full of potholes. The Government has been criticised heavily for their handling of the upgrades to our beleaguered rail network amid stalled projects and declining services. A recent Transport Scotland report revealed the cost of five schemes had risen from £1.1 billion to £1.5 billion. Perhaps the current state of affairs is not surprising, considering the SNP minister who is supervising the projects has recently come up with the excuse that he is not a transport expert! This highlights another SNP problem. They have considerable numbers of MSPs in Holyrood but few if any with sufficient skill and experience to run the country properly.
Growing social and welfare benefits
The costs of social and welfare benefits will continue to increase under this government as it is another flagship policy of the SNP to win the support of their core voters.
Centralised government control
The SNP believe totally in centralised government. They want to rule our lives by collecting more personalised data on their centralised databases and by exercising more control on our citizens. A clear example of this is the SNP plan for a “named person” to act as a guardian for every child in Scotland under the age of 18, in order to monitor their “wellbeing” as defined by the Scottish Government as “how happy you are”. Their definition is as vague and broad reaching as their intentions which to many is blatant government interference in normal family life. The Supreme Court has ruled against it for the time being as a breach of Human Rights http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-36903513 but our SNP Government is determined to do whatever it takes to implement it in the future. It is simply more evidence of the SNP’s plans for a “Nanny State” with “Big Brother” watching over us.
Party morality and ethics
The SNP constantly claims the moral high ground of British politics. Yet several of their high profile MP’s and MSP’s have had to resign over sexual and/or financial misconduct. It is also common knowledge many SNP members of Parliament claim the highest level of expenses at Westminster, in some cases over 6 figure sums. Former SNP Westminster leader Angus Robertson has had the most claims rejected of any serving MP, according to the latest claims released by the Parliamentary expenses watchdog.
Control of Scottish Taxation
Now that total Scottish taxation has been devolved to Holyrood from Westminster we can expect Scotland soon to become the most taxed region of the UK, as Scotland struggles to cope with a growing deficit in the face of increased demands for public spending.
The inability to manage Scotland’s finances
Scotland’s deficit for 2014/15 was 9.7% of GDP. Scotland's public spending was almost £15bn more than its tax revenue in the last financial year. With no sign of significant oil revenue in the coming years this will likely only increase. Control of the country’s budget is a key benchmark for the success of any government and in this the SNP has failed miserably.
Comment on the Scottish Governments track record so far
Of course the SNP blames all of its current problems on the lack of funds and support from Westminster. However Scotland is now one of the most devolved countries in the world so our Government is in control of all of the above. The SNP Government has nobody to blame but itself for the state our country is in. If it can’t run the country’s finances, infrastructure and services in a devolved Scotland, how on earth will this same government manage to do it in an independent Scotland with no source of funds from the UK and no guarantee of EU membership? It is a scary thought and a disaster waiting to happen.
The implications of Scotland leaving the UK
Scotland’s financial state
As mentioned already, with our Scottish Government’s obsession with public spending, Scotland is currently running an annual deficit of around £15 billion. After independence, funding from Westminster would stop and, in the absence of significant oil revenue, one has to question where Scotland would get the additional revenue to even maintain the current annual deficit level, far less reduce it. The only way a government can raise revenue is by increased taxation, more government borrowing and/or a severe reduction in public spending leading to mass unemployment. If you want to see what this dreadful scenario is like just look at what is happening in Greece right now.
Nicola Sturgeon is causing concern and uncertainty in the Scottish business sector with her threat of a 2nd independence referendum. Firms are wary about investing or taking on new employees as a result. Former Royal Bank of Scotland economist Jeremy Peat, and Owen Kelly, the former head of Scottish financial Enterprise, said that Scottish independence poses a greater threat than Brexit to Scotland’s financial services industry. This sector of Scottish business is worth £8 billion a year to the Scottish economy, employing almost 200,000 people. In the event of independence it is highly likely that many companies within the financial sector would re-locate outside of Scotland. Many businesses in other industrial sectors must also be considering their future in an independent Scotland.
The effect of increased taxation
In an independent Scotland it is highly likely that taxation would rise in an attempt to balance the books. As a result there would likely be an exodus of middle and higher earners to other parts of the UK... tax payers which Scotland could ill afford to lose.
The British Pound
Westminster has already confirmed that there would be no chance of an independent Scotland continuing to use the British Pound (GBP). So Scotland’s choice would be to use the Euro or to set up a new currency of its own. The problems of the Eurozone are evident for all to see and economic experts are suggesting it could well collapse in the not too distant future. If Scotland chose to set up a new Scottish currency then it would likely need to establish a Scottish Central Bank at enormous cost to the nation in order to protect and support its new currency, which like any new currency would be susceptible to attacks on the world currency markets.
The SNP has said that Scotland welcomes EU and other foreign immigration. However, as mentioned earlier, if immigration regulations in an independent Scotland were more lenient than in England then there would have to be a controlled border between the countries which would likely affect trade and travel. England would not permit a situation where foreign immigrants could come into Scotland then walk freely over the border into England.
There is no guarantee that an independent Scotland could trade tariff-free with the UK or the EU thus putting at risk two of Scotland’s most important trading markets. Scotland’s UK export market is around 4 times the size of our EU market. Nicola Sturgeon is telling us that Scotland cannot afford to lose its access to the EU market yet she is desperate to gain independence from the UK thus risking our much bigger UK market. This is yet another example of Sturgeon manipulating the facts for the benefit of the SNP, rather than acting as a responsible First Minister in the best interests of Scotland.
The State Pension
Scotland’s population is ageing and many rely on their State Pension to pay the bills. Within the UK this State Pension is protected against inflation. An independent Scottish Government would have to take over the state pension scheme at enormous cost in order to protect future incomes for our pensioners. Not only that but the state pension scheme relies on current tax payers to foot the bill and Scotland doesn’t have enough young taxpayers to take up that burden. There is little doubt that independence would put the future of the state pension seriously at risk.
The UK national debt
If Scotland left the UK it would still be responsible for its share of the UK’s debt which currently sits at a figure around £1.6 trillion. Without significant oil revenue one wonders how Scotland would be able to pay this. However Scotland dare not renege on this obligation or else it would struggle to borrow any money on world markets for the foreseeable future. In the face of our growing deficit and rising debt, the ability of an independent Scotland to borrow at reasonable rates of interest would likely be essential to the survival of our economy, so reneging on our share of the UK debt is not an option.
It is likely that no matter what happens in the Brexit negotiations, Nicola Sturgeon will appear dissatisfied with the outcome as she is relying on this to call for a 2nd Scottish independence referendum. If and when that happens, the future of Scotland will lie in the hands of the SNP zealots unless those who believe that Scotland should be part of the UK stand up and be counted. If after reading this report you are convinced that it makes more sense to stick with the UK then it is absolutely essential that you cast your vote and encourage like-minded individuals to do the same. The SNP supporters of independence will always turn out on the day to cast their votes. There are enough supporters of the Union to win the day but only if they take the trouble to go to the polls or send in a postal vote. The lethargy of some of the Scottish electorate who don’t use their vote has put the SNP in the strong position it holds today. However, for the sake of Scotland’s future, we need to encourage these non-voters to the polls.
One way to do this would be to pass on this report to as many people as you know in order that they might start to think about the issues surrounding Scottish independence. Many people have not really considered these implications as they only hear one side of story from Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP. They need to start questioning what our First Minister is saying rather than blindly assuming what she says are facts. She is skilled in massaging the facts to suit her own ends.
Of course the SNP’s core supporters, with their dream of independence, are unlikely to ever change their views. All the more important then for the rest of us to consider all of these issues and risks very carefully before voting in a 2nd Scottish independence referendum if and when that happens.
- Ed Roberston
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