The Westminster parliament’s Scottish Affairs Committee (which includes several English MPs in its membership), has published a short report on the questions it feels need to be answered before people can make an informed choice in the independence referendum, or “The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Unanswered Questions”, as they prefer to call it. Now, you just need to read the pejorative title to know it’s going to be a load of uninformed nonsense, but it’s perhaps worth going through some of the questions and highlighting just how uninformed it really is.
The report can be read here, and it really is a short report (they’ve decided not to include any evidence why these are “unanswered” questions, or who is actually asking these questions) so it’s worth having a look.
This section is probably the most ridiculous of the lot, since it has nothing to do with independence. We’ll know exactly what the referendum looks like long before we have to vote on it. Still, here goes:
Should there be more than one question on the ballot paper?
Well, the Scottish Government’s consultation will find out if there is widespread support for this, so we’ll find out soon enough.
Should there be a minimum threshold for voter turnout?
Aha! Straight away you can see where they’re going here. I’m sorry, but to even suggest such a thing is, to me, indicative of an anti-democratic tendancy. Would these same people require a 40% threshold if the question was worded the other way around, meaning “do you want to remain in the United kingdom?” would need 40% of the population to vote “yes” to keep us in the UK? Of course they wouldn’t. This sort of political shenanigans comes from the minds of people who want to fix the referendum in their favour. Sorry, but if someone doesn’t vote, they’re not saying “no”, they’re saying “I don’t care enough either way to get out and vote”.
If the referendum is a mandate to negotiate, would a second referendum be required in order to allow the Scottish people to accept/ reject the package?
No other country has needed two referendums to become independent. Again, this clamour for a second referendum, effectively saying “are your sure you want independence? Really? Go on, here’s your chance to give the RIGHT answer this time” is indicative of an anti-democratic persuasion. There will be one referendum, and the result will be a clear indication of the Scottish people’s will.
There is more nonsense in this section. Really, some of these are quite hilarious.
What is Scotland’s share of the national debt?
Fair enough, perhaps this is something we need to know, although it must be put into the context of other countries’ national debts, including the UK’s, because whatever number it is, it’ll sound scary unless people understand the sort of size of a typical national debt. But we can make a pretty good stab at the answer – it’ll be proportional to our population.
How would North Sea oil revenues be defined and distributed?
This is easy, because there are international rules that dictate how ocean beds are distributed. It’ll be 91% to Scotland, although considering the disgraceful actions of Tony Blair’s government in 1999 (fully aided by the then First Minister Donald Dewar), you have to wonder why they would even want to bring this one up, because it’s an easy example of the union trying to deny Scotland of its natural resources.
Would Scotland retain the use of Sterling? If so, would it be fiscally independent?
Right, we’ve been over this pretty much every day for the past month: YES, SCOTLAND WILL KEEP STERLING AT THE OUTSET. Would it be fiscally independent? Well, yes, because fiscal policy concerns revenue and spending, neither of which are currently determined by the inaccurately-named Bank of England.
Would there be a Scottish Central Bank?
Well since we’ll be keeping Sterling for the time being, a Scottish Central Bank would have naff all to do…
Can the population of Scotland produce sufficient tax revenue to sustain a separate Scottish economy?
A roundabout way of accusing Scotland of being subsidy junkies. Really, was this question put in by the English MPs on the committee, or the self-hating Scottish MPs? We contribute almost 10% of the treasury’s tax intake, despite having just over 8% of the population. So in a word, YES. Really, let’s grow up a bit, huh?
What would be Scotland’s credit rating?
Well, what will the UK’s credit rating be in 2014? Besides, just think about what a credit rating is – it’s a measure of the risk of lending, determining how likely it is that the borrower will be able to pay the loan back. The higher your collateral, the lower the risk to the lender. £1 trillion of oil in the North Sea is a pretty substantial size of collateral for a wee country…
What is the income derived from Scottish exports, and how much does Scotland pay for imports?
Dunno. Exports are in the billions though, are they not? Doesn’t Scottish whisky alone contribute £4 billion to the UK economy? As for paying for imports
What is the potential impact, in both the immediate and longer term, of constitutional uncertainty on inward investment into the UK as a whole, and Scotland specifically, in the period before a referendum?
We’re already in the period before the referendum, although again, what has this got to do with what we’ll be voting for in 2014? But anyway, as has been demonstrated already, we’re seeing no negative impact on inward investment. Quite the opposite, in fact. Do keep up.
In addition to these major economic issues, many questions were also raised concerning specific policy issues in relation to fiscal policy, for example, whether the Scottish Government would meet existing UK Government state and public sector pension commitments. A range of questions were also raised in relation to potential levels of income tax, national insurance contributions, corporation tax, road tax, fuel duty, VAT and welfare benefits in a separate Scotland.
Right, the tax stuff is all dependent on who runs Scotland after independence, so can be completely discounted. Seriously, we can argue all day long about whether we should lower or raise certain taxes, but the simple fact is we will decide which way we want to go in the first post-independence Scottish General Election. The important question here is if we think the Scottish Government should have the power to determine these things, or if we’re happy to leave them in the hands of the UK government. In fact, it’s almost pointless even speculating on welfare and pensions, because we have no idea what state these will be in when we get to the referendum, never mind in an independent Scotland. One thing is for sure, if people want these things protected, then they stand a much better chance of seeing that happen under independence than under a Westminster government which, regardless of which party is in power, has contrived to destroy pensions and welfare over the past few decades.
At this point, the focussed questioning of the previous sections seems to have disappeared, replaced by meanderings which look more like a scatter-gun approach to finding the all-important “Unanswerable Question”, rather than a concerted attempt to define points that are of most importance to people. Still, we can answer them anyway:
The primary focus of concern expressed in relation to the defence of Scotland was the question of whether Scotland would have separate armed forces, and if so, how they would be constituted, configured, funded and equipped. Correspondents were specifically concerned about jobs, contract and defence procurement. Questions were also raised in relation to the type of role Scottish Forces would have. A further issue raised was whether Scottish citizens would, or could, continue to serve in English, Welsh and Northern Irish regiments, and vice versa. Scotland’s position in relation to international organisations, for example, NATO and the United Nations, also remains unclear.
Of course we’ll have a separate defence force. Alex Salmond has already said they would look something like that set out in the recent UK defence review. They’ll be funded using our taxes (duh!) and they’ll be equipped better than the UK has been doing. Fears over jobs and procurement likely relate to fears that the UK would stop using Clyde shipyards etc – but EU rules state that you can’t just give contracts to domestic companies, so it’s actually insulting to suggest that these contracts are awarded for any reason other than superior workmanship and competitiveness. As a result, they’ll continue to be used.
The role the Scottish defence forces would have would be more in line with those of other small nations – supporting coalitions of countries embarking on legal warfare and peacekeeping, rather than just trying to impose our will on other countries. As for Scots serving in the British Army, Salmond has already pointed out that non-Brits already serve in the British Army (Irish guards and Ghurkas to name but two), and no one would prevent Scots from doing the same. It is SNP policy to not have Scotland in NATO, due to the requirement for members to harbour nuclear weapons, even if the member state is not a nuclear power itself. This would see us joining Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Austria and Switzerland as European non-NATO states. As for the UN, we’ll be a member as soon as international recognition of Scotland’s independent status is confirmed. Unlike Kosovo, who declared UDI from Serbia, it’s unthinkable that countries would not recognise Scotland’s independent status – particularly as we already have very close relations with Russia and China.
Uncertainty was expressed as to how the scale and nature of any Scottish defence estate would be established. Would the Scottish defence estate be configured on the basis of a proportion of the UK’s defence estate, or based on another formula? Questions were also raised as to how Trident would be managed – and what the future might hold for Faslane and Coulport. Finally, correspondents raised issues around Scottish border controls and security.
How will Trident be managed? Easy – it won’t. We’ll be telling the UK government to get it off our shores as quickly as possible. The future of Faslane and Coulport looks distinctly nuclear-free, and if people are seriously going to suggest we should keep nuclear weapons on our shores because of jobs, then I would like them to explain if it would be reasonable to start up a professional lynch mob in order to create some “jobs”.
As for security, the single biggest thing we could do to make our country safer is to distance our foreign policy from that of one of the world’s main aggressors (the UK) and it’s obedience to the number one worldwide aggressor (USA).
These questions border on moronic.
The main constitutional issues raised related to the Monarch’s status as the Head of State, and whether Scotland would be a Commonwealth country
Right, we know the answer to this one already. The Queen will remain head of state until Scotland decides otherwise. Simple stuff. As for the Commonwealth, we’ll remain in that as well, just like Australia, Canada and India have remained in it.
Will a passport be required to travel?
Obviously this means in relation to the rest of the UK. Again, this has already been answered, and it has been pointed out countles times that the UK already shares a border with another country (Ireland) and does not require passport checks at that border. Really, grow up.
Will Scottish citizens have free access to NHS services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and vice versa?
We’ll be entitled to free treatment just like any other citizen of the European Economic Area. Really, this question says more about peoples’ ignorance towards the benefits of being in the EU than it says about independence.
The broader issue of the consequences of the Separation of Scotland for the constitutional status of the remainder of the ‘UK’, and specifically whether the constitutional relationships between England, Wales and Northern Ireland would need to be re-configured, was also identified.
You know what? It’s not really any of my business. That’s for those involved to decide, not Scotland.
Many correspondents raised questions as to the future of existing UK wide institutions in Scotland. For example, there was uncertainty as to whether the BBC would remain as the main public broadcaster in Scotland. Similar questions were raised in relation to other organisations such as the Royal Mail and the NHS, and shared standards and regulatory bodies.
Oh look, they’ve included the NHS in a list of “shared” institutions, thereby highlighting how ill-informed this entire exercise is. In regards to the BBC, they sell their programmes worldwide and people in Ireland get to see BBC programmes, so there is no need for people to worry that we’ll miss David Attenbrough’s documentaries etc. Let’s face it, when people talk of the BBC, it’s the actual programmes they are referring to, not the institution itself. Nobody cares if Mark Thompson is the head of Scotland’s state broadcaster. We’ll have a separate Scottish state broadcaster, and hopefully it’ll be far less politically biased than the BBC has shown itself to be, both in regards to Scottish affairs, and international ones (the Israel/Palestine conflict being a particularly blatant example). The inclusion of the Royal Mail is another example of misinformation, because it ignores the passing of the Postal Services Bill 2011, allowing 90% of the Royal Mail to be sold off. Face facts: if Scotland wants a proper postal service, we’d better establish our own.
Would Scotland automatically become a Member of the EU, or would it have to apply through the normal membership procedures for candidate countries?
There is obviously still some debate as to whether Scotland would be an automatic member of the EU (due to EU membership being increasingly predicated on EU citizenship, meaning since Scots are already EU citizens, Scotland is therefore an EU country), or whether there would be some sort of simple majority vote to decide whether to allow Scotland to just remain in the EU. However, the idea that we would have to rejoin from scratch like a brand new country is almost ludicrous, especially considering the unnecessary upheaval and costs associated with severing our ties to the EU only to reattach them once we’re let back in (which we would be). Still, this question would be more accurately described as “unproven” than “unanswered”.
Would adopting the Euro and Schengen be conditions of entry?
Urgh, more uninformed nonsense. There are a variety of reasons why Scotland would not be forced to adopt the Euro, mainly that compliance with ERM 2 is a prerequisite for Euro membership, but joining ERM 2 is not mandatory, as Sweden’s example shows. But possibly more importantly, since we intend to keep Sterling, then it’s impossible for us to complete the necessary steps as we would have to force the Sterling into ERM 2, which clearly isn’t going to happen! Scotland would need a separate currency before going into the Euro. As for Schengen – oh look, Ireland isn’t in Schengen either. Although having been worried about needing passports earlier on, it seems we’re now worried about NOT needing them. Make up your minds, eh?
Would Scottish membership of the EU (and potentially the Euro), be subject to a referendum?
No. Unless there was a clamour for one post-independence, which is unlikely since EU-scepticism is a Tory fetish, and therefore a minority sport in Scotland.
Predictably, this document is an almost complete waste of time. Most of the questions have already been answered, either in previous SNP literature, or just by the First Minister himself on TV and in newspapers. Of those that haven’t, almost all are so blatantly obvious that you have to wonder why someone would even ask the questions. As is so often the case with unionists, this is not an attempt to clear up genuine questions they have, it’s just an attempt to throw as much mud as possible, in the hope that something sticks. Even if Alex Salmond himself appeared on TV in prime time and went through each question one-by-one, I would be amazed if we then didn’t get more “unanswered questions” suddenly popping up.
Just like when I go through a variety of excuses for why I don’t want to do something, none of these are reasons for unionists not wanting Scotland to become independent. The truth is they quite simply don’t want to do it – and that, my friends, would be an awful reason for Scotland to remain in the union.