Nuclear Submarines No Deal Breakers for Scottish Nationalists

A British Trident submarine departs Her Majesty's Naval Base Clyde, Scotland, August 15, 2007
A British Trident submarine departs Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde, Scotland, August 15, 2007 (JohnED76)

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon told The Guardian newspaper last week she would no longer condition policy support in Westminster on the removal of Britain’s nuclear submarine fleet from the region.

That takes away a major obstacle from a potential coalition with the Labour Party which is opposed to moving the Trident submarines from Faslane, a naval base west of Glasgow.

The nationalists are projected to win as many as 56 out of 59 Scottish seats in May’s general election. 41 of those are currently held by Labour.

Such a victory for the nationalists could deny Labour the opportunity to beat Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives although they are likely to fall short of an absolute majority as well.

If the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats, who currently rule in coalition, fail to defend their majority in Parliament, Labour could possibly form an alliance with the Scottish nationalists who share its left-wing economic and welfare agenda.

In her interview with The Guardian, Sturgeon played down the prospect of a coalition.

“It’s more likely to be an arrangement where we would support Labour on an issue-by-issue basis,” she said.

Labour Party leader Ed Miliband has refused to rule out an accord but would be hard-pressed to meet the nationalists’ demands even if they don’t insist on canceling Britain’s independent nuclear deterrent.

Despite losing a referendum on independence last year, the Scots want more powers from London.

The major national parties have already agreed to give the Scottish Parliament control over air passenger duties, housing credits, income taxes and winter fuel payments. It would also get additional welfare competencies. These reforms, if enacted, would represent the biggest transfer of power to the region since the Scottish Parliament was originally set up in 1999.

Nationalists to Wipe Out Labour in Scotland, Polls Show

Statue of a unicorn in Edinburgh, Scotland, March 11, 2014
Statue of a unicorn in Edinburgh, Scotland, March 11, 2014 (byronv2)

Scottish nationalists could win by far most parliamentary seats in the region in May’s election, polls released on Wednesday showed, depriving Labour of any chance to beat Britain’s ruling Conservatives.

Polling by the Conservative peer Michael Ashcroft revealed the Scottish National Party, which already commands a majority in the regional legislature, would win fifteen out of sixteen closely-contested seats currently held by Labour. Read more “Nationalists to Wipe Out Labour in Scotland, Polls Show”

Scottish Leader Could Be Kingmaker in Westminster

British prime minister David Cameron and Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond shakes hands in Edinburgh, October 15, 2012
British prime minister David Cameron and Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, shakes hands in Edinburgh, October 15, 2012 (Scottish Government)

Former Scottish first minister Alex Salmond announced on Sunday he would stand in next year’s general election in Aberdeenshire, an area his Scottish National Party is almost certain to win. He could emerge as kingmaker in Westminster.

Salmond resigned as Scottish leader last month after a referendum on independence showed a majority of Scots in favor of remaining in the United Kingdom. Salmond had campaigned for secession.

His Scottish National Party remains the ruling party in Scotland, however, and is expected to win up to forty seats in the national legislature in Westminster next year, against the six it holds now. That could potentially give it the balance of power if neither the Conservatives nor Labour wins an outright majority. Read more “Scottish Leader Could Be Kingmaker in Westminster”

Tax Transfer to Scotland Raises Questions in England

Edinburgh Scotland
View of the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland, November 16, 2011 (Wikimedia Commons/Ronnie Macdonald)

The Scottish Parliament was promised control over income tax and welfare policy on Thursday in an attempt to placate Scottish nationalism after a referendum failed to deliver a majority in favor of independence from the United Kingdom two months ago.

The reforms, which were agreed to all by major parties in Scotland, are worth £11 billion and amount to the biggest transfer of power to the region since the Scottish Parliament was set up in 1999. The new powers would not be implemented until after next year’s general election.

Besides the power to levy incomes taxes, the Scottish legislature would be given authority over air passenger duties, housing credits and winter fuel payments. Read more “Tax Transfer to Scotland Raises Questions in England”

Miliband Won’t Link Scottish Devolution to English Autonomy

British Labour Party Ed Miliband on Sunday rejected as a “back of the envelop, fag packet” calculation Prime Minister David Cameron’s proposal to link further devolution to Scotland to a ban on Scottish lawmakers voting on English affairs.

“We have spent two years trying to keep our country together,” Miliband told the BBC’s Andrew Marr three days after Scottish voters rejected independence from the United Kingdom in a referendum. “Let’s not drive our country apart because David Cameron thinks it is an opportunity for him to do it.” Read more “Miliband Won’t Link Scottish Devolution to English Autonomy”

Scottish Referendum Hasn’t Settled United Kingdom’s Future

Statue of a unicorn in Edinburgh, Scotland, March 11
Statue of a unicorn in Edinburgh, Scotland, March 11 (byronv2)

A 55 percent majority of Scots rejected independence on Thursday but the future political structure of the United Kingdom is still in doubt. If Scotland gets additional autonomy, as promised, the remaining three parts of the island nation may expect the same.

With 3.6 million Scots turning out to vote in a referendum that Alex Salmond, the Scottish National Party leader, had described as a “once in a generation, perhaps even a once in a lifetime opportunity,” the result was decidedly in favor of keeping the union with England, Northern Ireland and Wales. Read more “Scottish Referendum Hasn’t Settled United Kingdom’s Future”

Scottish Referendum Raises Questions About Nationhood

Statue of a unicorn in Edinburgh, Scotland, March 11
Statue of a unicorn in Edinburgh, Scotland, March 11 (byronv2)

The polls are closed, but that doesn’t mean an end to the Scottish referendum in the news. Even by tomorrow night, there will be plenty more to say (and repeat) on the issue which, either way, will change the United Kingdom — either destroying it or keeping it together with new expectations of devolution among its constituent countries. Read more “Scottish Referendum Raises Questions About Nationhood”

Scots Reject Independence in Referendum

View of the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland, November 16, 2011
View of the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, Scotland, November 16, 2011 (Wikimedia Commons/Ronnie Macdonald)
  • 55 percent of Scots have voted against leaving the United Kingdom in a referendum.
  • Turnout was 84 percent, or 3.6 million.
  • Scottish independence could have made a British exit from the EU more likely.
  • Prime Minister David Cameron has called for a “balanced settlement” that is fair to Scotland as well as the rest of the UK. Read more “Scots Reject Independence in Referendum”

Scottish Referendum: A Testament to British Civilization

The flag of Scotland
The flag of Scotland (Paul Morgan)

However Scotland votes on Thursday, the simple fact that it will have a referendum on independence peacefully and only after careful deliberation testifies to Britain’s greatness.

It wasn’t so long ago that the peoples of Eastern Europe fought and died to liberate themselves from Soviet oppression. Only in recent years has the unrest that accompanied separatism in the Basque Country calmed down yet to this day, the rest of Spain refuses to give the Catalonians even the choice to secede. In the Middle East, the Kurds are on the verge of gaining their own state but only after decades of violent struggle. The people of eastern Ukraine have to defend their independence from another state altogether.

The Scottish referendum is almost unique in that the breakup of a country would be accompanied without bloodshed. It is also almost unique in the sense that the rest of the United Kingdom is willing to let the Scots go their own way, should they choose to do so. No one doubts that on Friday, the English, Northern Irish and Welsh will accept and respect whatever decision the Scots have made.

There has been bitterness and vitriol on both sides. Scottish independence is an emotional issue. But it is a far cry from the turmoil that accompanies separatism elsewhere. And by far most Scots, and most other Britons, have engaged in an inspiring debate about what it means to be Scottish and what it means to be British.

For all the pros and cons of independence — which many Scottish voters are weighing as they make up their minds today — it is this question that is central to the referendum: Does the Scottish nation need a state of its own?

Few peoples ever get to make that choice and when they do, it is rarely with the blessing of the state they live in. That the Scots now have this opportunity shows how seriously Britain takes its commitment to freedom and self-determination. That is something to be applauded.

Salmond Confident Independent Scotland Could Join EU

British prime minister David Cameron and Scotland's first minister Alex Salmond shakes hands in Edinburgh, October 15, 2012
British prime minister David Cameron and Scotland’s first minister, Alex Salmond, shakes hands in Edinburgh, October 15, 2012 (Scottish Government)

Scottish leader Alex Salmond expressed confidence on Sunday his country would be welcomed into the European Union if it voted to secede from the United Kingdom, arguing that its rich fishing waters and energy potential could make it a valuable member of the bloc.

While an independent Scotland, with over five million inhabitants, would have only 1 percent of the European Union’s total population, Salmond pointed out that the country has 20 percent of the bloc’s fish stocks, a quarter of its renewable energy potential and 60 percent of its conventional oil reserves.

“I don’t think that anyone in the rest of Europe is wanting to exclude fish-rich, energy-rich, renewable-rich, oil-rich Scotland,” the Scottish National Party leader told the BBC’s Andrew Marr in Edinburgh. “I think that is a ridiculous proposition.”

But when Marr pressed Salmond on the concerns of especially Belgium and Spain, which worry that Scottish independence could embolden separatist movements within their own borders, the Scottish first minister was not very forthcoming, merely saying he had spoken with leaders from those countries.

Spain is among the fiercest critics of Scottish independence, given that Catalonia, its richest region, is likely to see a successful separation from the United Kingdom as a template for its own ambitions.

Catalonia has a population of over seven million and an economy the size of Denmark’s. Scotland’s economy is closer in size to Portugal’s.

European Union membership could be vital for Scotland if the rest of the United Kingdom refuses to continue to share the pound sterling with the independent country. Although Salmond said in the interview a currency union was viable, British leaders have ruled it out.

Scotland could also be forced to adopt the euro as a condition for membership. As part of the United Kingdom, it enjoys an exemption from joining the single currency which many Britons, including many Scots, see as the source of the continent’s economic problems.

Scots will vote on independence in a referendum on Thursday in what Salmon described as a “once in a generation, perhaps even a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Opinion polls suggest Scots are nearly evenly divided on the question with opponents of independence leading narrowly.

Earlier this month, a YouGov poll for The Sunday Times for the first time found a 47 percent plurality of voters in favor of secession.