If we want to talk about uncertainty, there seems to be as much uncertainty with Scotland staying as part of the UK than becoming independent. We’ve been offered more powers if we vote No, but nothing formal, nothing tangible. Boris Johnson, a very important figure in the Conservative Party that may well become a majority government in the next election, claims there is “no reason” to give Scotland more powers. In 1979, former Tory Prime Minister Alex Douglas-Home assured Scottish voters that if the result of that year’s devolution referendum didn’t produce a Yes vote that the Conservatives would introduce legislation for another one. The next referendum was 18 years later after Margaret Thatcher and John Major’s governments came and went without any progress towards Scottish devolution. There’s no guarantee that this won’t happen again. Voting No is not a “safe” option or a vote for the status quo, as our relationship with the rest of the UK will undoubtedly change after the referendum. The only way Scotland can guarantee getting the powers it craves is to vote Yes.
In any case, even if we do get more powers in the event of a No vote – can we really be content with some crumbs off of the Westminster table for any longer? Back when the terms of the referendum weren’t set in stone, and the idea of “devolution max” was included in opinion polls it was the most supported option almost every time. Even as recently as February a poll indicated this would be option that Scots would really want. This included transferring almost ALL powers to the Scottish Parliament apart from defence and foreign affairs and giving it full power over income tax. Such power transfer will likely never happen without independence. This year’s referendum might well be our only chance to secure Scotland’s independence, and I think that the people of Scotland’s desire for more political power over their own affairs will only be satisfied if we vote Yes in September.
The two big spectres hanging over independence seem to be the EU and the Pound. With both, we’re told by Westminster and Better Together that we won’t get in – but important individuals from within both institutions have said that there’s ways and means of us doing so. In reality both will take negotiation, but Scotland will do okay. I think we’ll get into the EU, seeing as we already meet all of the entry criteria, even if it does take us a year or two to go through the process. The real threat to our EU membership is actually staying in the UK, as opinion polls show that Britain as a whole wants to leave the EU while Scotland wants to stay in. With a referendum on that subject likely in the coming years, Scotland would once again be powerless to avoid an unpopular decision if current trends hold, unless we vote for independence.
I’m less certain of keeping the pound, but wouldn’t rule it out. Alex Salmond has come under massive pressure for not stating his “Plan B” should we not keep the pound – but we need to remember that Salmond, the SNP and even the Yes campaign’s position isn’t the be-all and end-all if Scotland gets independence. Of course Scotland will have a currency. Salmond is driving a hard bargain to keep a strong position going into any negotiations on the issue, but whether or not he is successful: Scotland will have a working currency. Without the pound, we can either join the Euro or have our own currency. These might cost our economy a little in the short-term, but I think having control over our fiscal policy and being able to address any problems ourselves is a price worth paying. A Scottish currency would be backed by what is already a strong economy and a lot of oil wealth. Will the Pound be as strong when the UK’s oil revenues plummet as it loses 90% of its share of North Sea oil?
I think perhaps the best example to illustrate how little the two issues of the EU and the Pound will mean in the long term is Norway. Norway is not a member of the EU and has its own currency. It is a rampantly successful country in social and economic terms, with the world’s highest standard of living according to the UN’s Human Development Index and the 4th highest GDP per capita in the world. A lot of this wealth came from their share of North Sea oil, something that Scotland will also have when it becomes independent. Norway set up an “oil fund” for its citizens in 1990 so that future generations could reap the benefits – an oil fund that is now worth £500 billion. The UK Government, in control of Scotland’s share of North Sea oil from its discovery in the 1970s, had no such foresight and we haven’t seen quite as much development from our vast natural resources as we could have or should have. There is still as much as 24 billion barrels of oil in the North Sea to extract and industry experts Oil and Gas UK suggest that the oil industry will still “be active beyond 2050”. We have time to put our oil revenues to good use for the people of this country. We also have massive potential with renewable energy, with approximately 25% of Europe’s wind and tidal energy resources that will last long after the oil does run out. Scotland may have its own unique challenges when it becomes independent, but the proof that we can survive without the EU and the Pound is just across the water. And that’s the worst case scenario.
All I want is for what’s best for Scotland, and I think that independence is the best way of making our nation a fairer, more prosperous and better place to live. We have never had an opportunity in our history to assert our will as a people to be free and independent and I think that missing this chance would be something we’d regret. It might be more uncertain, but Scotland’s future would then be OURS to decide.
There is still a month to make up your mind which way you will cast your vote, and if you’re undecided I understand completely. Don’t decide based on the polls or the general consensus of those you know. Look at the arguments, look at the Scotland around you today and decide which option will give us the opportunity to truly make Scotland a better place.
But the way I see it, without independence the Scottish people have no such opportunity, but if we vote Yes we do.