Editorial: One Year to Yes?

On 18 September 2014, a year from today, Scotland will go to the polls on one of its biggest decisions in 300 years.  There have been various opinion polls recently and the vote looks like being a tight one which will come down to those who are currently undecided. With a year to go, we are looking at some of the issues raised by our readers, which may swing which way the vote goes.

1. “Independence is about Alex Salmond / The SNP.” 


One of the biggest objections raised about independence is that it is about Alex Salmond or the SNP. Let’s be clear, it isn’t but it suits the No campaign to present the contest as a party-political one. Alex Salmond’s SNP Government have delivered an independence referendum but it is by no means certain that Salmond or his party will form the first post-independence Scottish government. If there is a Yes vote, there will be elections immediately following independence in 2016 and the Scottish people will decide who leads the world’s newest nation state. This may be the SNP but equally may not be, it is by no means a given. The Scottish people will get the government they vote for, every time.

2. “Scotland couldn’t afford independence.”

There are many countries in the world who have made a real go of their independence who have had a fraction of the resources and advantages that Scotland has. Quite aside from oil and gas revenues which are a nice bonus but not by any means the be all and end all of independence, Scotland has a higher GDP than most of England and Wales with the exception of London and the South East. This means that Scotland contributes more to the UK economy per head of population than the vast majority of the UK and is therefore in relative surplus and has been for most of the last thirty years.

Even prominent No politicians believe that Scotland could be a successful independent country.

3. “There are too many unanswered questions.”

With a year to go until the referendum there are many people who feel they have questions that need answered about what independence would mean for them. Some of the questions are genuinely unanswered and some have been answered but have been poorly covered by a Scottish media which is unused to covering independence in any depth.

An important thing to remember is that while the No side in the referendum try to say that this uncertainty itself is a reason to stay within the UK, it isn’t. There are just as many unanswered questions about what it would mean for Scotland to stay within the UK as to leave it and the No side need to come forward with equivalent answers for this scenario.

A good starting point for people with questions about what independence would mean is a page on the Yes Scotland website aimed at answering questions.

For the sake of balance, we would point readers toward a similar page on the No campaign website which explains what a No vote would mean but there isn’t one.

4. “We couldn’t have bailed out the banks.”

The bank bailout of 2008 is often cited by the No campaign, in particular Alistair Darling, (ex UK Chancellor and Chairman of Better Together) as a reason for voting to remain within the UK. The argument goes that an independent Scotland couldn’t have bailed out RBS and HBOS. This argument is quite an insidious one as most people assume that because a bank is headquartered in a country, that country will take all responsibility in a bailout situation but in reality this is simply not the case. Barclays, headquartered in London was bailed out by the US Federal Reserve to the tune of £552.32bn and a further £6bn from Quatar.

Business for Scotland explains in more detail here:

5. “We won the World Wars together.”

Many people believe that because we fought World Wars together, we should remain within the UK. It feels strange to see those on the No side of the debate using history and sentimentality as an argument in their favour as this has long been an accusation levelled by them at those campaining for a Yes vote.

Yes, we did win world wars as part of the UK but we also won them as part of the non Axis forces. We won them with the co-operation of the US and many other countries around the world. Staying together because of past solidarity in times of war almost sounds like an argument for a single world government.

In choosing which path our country takes in the future, we must look forward as well as backward and honestly assess where we sit at present. Are we where we should be in the world, given our contributions to the world and past successes or should we be aspiring to more?

 6. “We’d be abandoning the rest of the UK to the Tories.”

This is a commonly held myth but to look at it closely actually shows just how little influence Scotland has on selecting Westminster governments. Since 1950, Scotland only voted Conservative for 6 years out of 63 (9.5%) but has been governed by the conservatives for 38 of those years (60%) despite voting against them.

The Yes campaign seem to believe that the best way Scotland can help the rest of the UK with their choice of government is to get independence and show that there is a better way.

7. “There would be border controls and trade barriers.”

This is something often focused on by people in the No camp but the political reality is that the UK shares one land border and that is with the Republic of Ireland. There is freedom of movement and of trade and there is no good reason to believe that Scotland would not be treated in exactly the same way. If trade barriers were put in place it would hurt the remainder of the UK just as much as it would hurt Scotland so it doesn’t make any sense to suggest that this would happen.

There have been suggestions from some No politicians that independence would make family members outside Scotland “foreigners” and somehow divide them. The distance would get no greater between families and nor would the transport links suddenly disappear so this seems a rather bizarre idea. Does anyone really think less of their family who live in Australia or the USA because they live in another country?

For more information to help you to decide which way to vote in the independence referendum, read our interviews with Blair Jenkins of Yes Scotland and Alistair Darling of Better Together.

Where would you put yourself on a scale of 1-10 with 1 being definitely No and 10 being definitely yes? What questions would you like asked of both the Yes and no camps in the referendum?