With another independence referendum potentially coming relatively soon, it’s once again time to start setting out the stall of what an independent Scotland could be like.
One of the arguments last time was that the SNP dominated the vision of what would happen upon independence, and that was entirely true. Rather than having competing ideals about what we could do on our own two feet, the Yes campaign largely fell in line with the arguments put forth by Alex Salmond & co.
If there’s to be another indyref, this time things need to be different – with different parties and organisations within the Yes movement articulating their own hopes and plans for what they’d do when independence comes whilst maintaining a single vision of economic, political and social prosperity that would be delivered by a Yes vote.
That’s why I’m kicking things off with a look at what Scotland could be in an international sense, as the newest member of the global community and one eager to make its voice heard and be a force for good.
Here’s what I believe an independent Scotland could do in terms of foreign relations, and how we could realistically go about achieving the goals that the Yes movement campaigned for back in 2014.
The people of Scotland voted by a clear and decisive majority several weeks ago that they wished to remain within the EU while the rest of the UK voted to leave.
This showed that Scotland already feels a part of a European community and wishes to retain its’ place there. With the UK only a couple of years away from exiting, now is the time to act if Scotland is to remain within the EU in the way that it wishes. Being independent and in the EU allows Scotland to have the most control over its’ own affairs and the most influence over decision making in Europe and indeed the world.
Scotland having its own voice within the EU will mean that it will be more powerful than it ever was when represented by the UK.
Scotland could expect to have as many as 12 MEPs, which is the number awarded to similar sized countries Finland, compared with the 6 we have at present.
It would also receive a seat on the European Council (where each head of Government represents their country) and the European Commission (where a representative is appointed by the Government to represent their country).
This will give Scotland a veto on major EU decisions like admissions of new countries and treaty changes, meaning Scotland’s interests are given more weight than ever before.
Crucially though, it means that Scotland would have its own representatives arguing for its’ fisheries and agriculture industries, both of which are vital to our economy. We’d also be able to ensure the continued receipt of European Regional Development Funding, which is a crucial helping hand in building the infrastructure of our rural and island communities.
An independent Scotland would be a candidate for NATO membership, and while participation within the full structure of the organisation is a contentious issue and one that can be debated during the constitutional convention, Scotland would at the very least be able to join the “Partnership for Peace” programme.
This model is adopted by the likes of Ireland, Sweden, Finland and Switzerland and also includes Russia to ensure dialogue between the major powers of the region.
This allows for a certain level of joint defence co-operation, terrorism protection and collective policy making on wider areas such as science and technology – which would allow us to benefit from international decision making and defence support whilst maintaining our right to a smaller and more appropriate armed forces for our population – providing a best of both worlds approach to our national security.
An independent Scotland would have no need for nuclear weapons, and the opportunity to remove the submarines that house these weapons of mass destruction from our port not 50 miles way from our most populous city is one that we could take.
However, as a defence ally of rUK we could offer to continue to provide a port for the Trident submarines on condition that they begin the construction of their own upon Scotland’s independence.
This would ultimately mean that we rid our country of nuclear weapons but that we also show a gesture of goodwill to our nearest neighbours that we want to co-operate with them towards security and prosperity.
This option would also maintain jobs on the Clyde, as the existing workforce would be kept in place to ensure continuity whilst allowing Scotland to dramatically reduce its’ defence spending – as rUK would be expected to shoulder the bulk of the costs of maintaining the submarine base.
Scotland is less sceptical of immigration than our neighbours in the rest of the UK, and independence would let us continue to be a beacon of opportunity to the thousands of European students who come here to our universities and to the thousands of refugees who flee hell on Earth to make our country their home.
However, independence would also let us create our own immigration controls, with continued participation in European freedom of movement and the ability to decide upon criteria for those coming here from elsewhere.
This could ultimately help us build up a highly-skilled and highly diverse workforce that would help us maintain our excellence in fields like healthcare, finance and engineering whilst ensuring that those that come to Scotland are contributing to our society.