As Scottish Referendum Nears, Tempers Heat Up

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

With Scotland’s referendum on whether or not to secede from the United Kingdom under two weeks away, the rhetoric from both sides of debate has become fierce. One Scottish women, a nationalist, recently accused Alistair Darling, the former Labour chancellor who leads the “Better Together” campaign, of being a liar, saying, “He can’t be trusted”. While on a recent episode of Question Time, one of the BBC’s flagship political programs, taped in Inverness in the Scottish Highlands, an audience member said he would give his life to keep the union together.

The heating up in the debate has been noticed by the Scottish police. The chairman of the Scottish Police Federation warned both campaigners and members of the public to not use “intemperate, inflammatory and exaggerated language” after a senior “no” campaign source suggested that polling day could descend into “absolute carnage.” Although he was quick to point out that the debate has been temperate so far and that it would be a disservice to let the last days go by in any other way. Read more “As Scottish Referendum Nears, Tempers Heat Up”

Scottish Referendum Raises Risk of British EU Exit

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

If Scotland votes to leave the United Kingdom later this year, it could put the rest of the country on a path to leaving the European Union.

An Ipsos MORI poll released on Thursday found that 54 percent of Brits want to stay in the EU. When the pollster asked the same question in November 2012, just 44 percent said they backed membership against 48 percent who wanted to get out.

Two other polls published in March by YouGov also found that most voters support staying in the bloc. Read more “Scottish Referendum Raises Risk of British EU Exit”

Scotland May Not Fare Better Outside United Kingdom

Eilean Donan Castle Scotland
Eilean Donan Castle in the western Highlands of Scotland (Unsplash/Manu Bravo)

In less than two years’ time, the people of Scotland will decide in a referendum whether to stay in the United Kingdom or not. Despite intense debate between opponents and proponents of secession, how the ordinary Scotsmen might fare under independence is less clear.

A recent University of Edinburgh study is fairly devastating for the ruling Scottish National Party which advocates secession. It polled a thousand teenagers who would be just old enough to vote in the 2014 referendum and found that 60 percent wanted to stay in the union. 21 percent backed independence. This is the very demographic the nationalists fought to extend the vote to. Read more “Scotland May Not Fare Better Outside United Kingdom”

Ahead of Referendum, Confusion Over Scottish Oil

Oil platform in the Cromarty Firth, Scotland, June 19, 2011
Oil platform in the Cromarty Firth, Scotland, June 19, 2011 (Dave Conner)

North Sea oil and gas will likely be one of the most divisive issues in the 2014 referendum on Scotland’s independence. Who does it belong to and do they own all of it?

The first North Sea oil came ashore in June 1975 and production is believed to have peaked in 1999 with more than forty billion barrels extracted so far. There are arguments about how much oil is left but historically high prices have made it feasible to drill for reserves that are harder to get with new and expensive technologies.

International convention says that a maritime border between two countries is an extension of the frontier on land. The land border between England and Scotland points upward on both the east and west coast. The maritime border used to follow this convention, putting a large portion of North Sea hydrocarbon reserves in English waters.

However, the maritime boundary was tweaked years ago, without consulting the English, to give the “Scottish sector” more of the oil. Which isn’t a problem as long as Scotland remains in the United Kingdom, since revenues flow to London and are then distributed across the country. But if Scotland decides to secede, the English might demand that the boundary is corrected.

Scottish nationalists argue that the region’s resources are subsidizing the rest of the kingdom, omitting mention of the revised maritime border. It could be argued that Scotland’s oil is really England’s, given to the former region to pacify nationalists there.

Confounding the issue is the Treasury which says that the oil really belongs to no one. The department in Whitehall argues that the continental shelf where the oil is located should be treated as a separate region. To what effect is something of a mystery since the area is obviously devoid of human population.

The Scottish National Party seems determined to fight all the same for what it sees as Scottish oil and gas. It has good reason to. Without the North Sea revenue, projected this fiscal year to be £33 billion, it’s far from certain whether the sparsely populated region could maintain its high living standards.

Independent Scottish Defense Would Amount to Little

Britain’s defense secretary, Philip Hammond, made light of Scottish plans for an independent defense on Thursday, arguing in an interview with The Daily Telegraph, “Taking random units and putting them together does not make an army. Half a destroyer would be no use to anyone, neither would be one frigate.” If crude, it is a fair assessment.

The Scots will vote in a referendum next year about whether they wish to secede from Britain. Opinion polls show there isn’t majority support for independence although the separatist Scottish National Party is by far the dominant political force in the region. It promises to commit £2.5 billion per year to defense if Scottish voters decide to break away from the United Kingdom.

Paul Cornish, a professor in strategic studies at the University of Exeter, writes in The Daily Telegraph that that’s significantly less than the £3.3 billion that Scotland currently contributes to British defense spending, totaling some £35 billion — which is hardly enough to finance the country’s defense needs as is. Read more “Independent Scottish Defense Would Amount to Little”

Independent Scotland Would Give Conservatives Majority

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

Since the announcement that a referendum on the future of Scotland will be held at some point in 2014 — also the centenary of the beginning of World War I, a ploy to remind the nation of what a United Kingdom can achieve? — there has been much discussion about whether the region’s secession would leave the Conservative Party with a permanent majority in Parliament.

Scottish independence seems a win-win for Conservatives. If a majority of Scots votes against secession, the union is saved. If Scots vote in favor, the Tories win a huge advantage over Labour. While Ed Miliband’s party would be stripped of 41 seats in Parliament, David Cameron’s would lose just one. Read more “Independent Scotland Would Give Conservatives Majority”

Barroso Dampens Scots’ Hopes of Independence

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

European Commission president José Manuel Barroso said Thursday that regions that secede from European member states would have to reapply for membership and ultimately carry the single currency.

“A new state, if it wants to join the EU, has to apply to become a member of the EU, like any state,” Barroso said on BBC radio. He added that all existing member states have to give their consent before a country can join. Read more “Barroso Dampens Scots’ Hopes of Independence”

Miliband Fears “Race to Bottom” If Scots Secede

Britain’s Labour Party leader has argued that England and Scotland share “one economy” and predicted a “race to the bottom” on salaries and working conditions if the two separate.

Speaking in Glasgow, Ed Miliband said he feared regulatory competition between an independent Scotland and the remainder of the UK would prompt companies to move “wherever the rules are weakest.” Read more “Miliband Fears “Race to Bottom” If Scots Secede”