Is it really 6 years already? Seems like a generation ago. (Very poor joke – I apologize) Anyway, as things stand at the moment it would seem that the SNP will get a solid majority in next year’s Holyrood elections which will mean there will be only one thing on the SNP’s mind – indyref2. Now the official UK government’s position is that the Scots only held indeyref1 in 2014 and this was supposed to be a once in a generation affair (hence the pathetic joke above) and so the answer is NO. Whether this will hold is debatable and it might serve the current government’s purposes to hold indyref2 at a time of their choosing. So let us all ponder a few things going forward:
When will indyref2 be held?
The election timetable is complicated and the best guess at this time would be some time after the next UK wide elections, hence the possible advantage to the current government, so the earliest date would be likely to be 2026;
What would be the timetable be should Scotland vote to leave the United Kingdom?
Should Scotland vote for independence then we only have to look at the Brexit debacle for some idea of the timescale which means that Scotland could be a fully independent country around 2030;
How will the separation negotiations go between Scotland and the UK government?
Well if you thought that the Brexit negotiations were tense then you ain’t seen nothing yet. I am not sure that Scotland or the portion of the population who might vote for independence really have any understanding of the resentment that they have stoked within England. The impression, fair or otherwise, south of the border is that the Scots’ government is only too willing to blame everything on the UK whilst being only too happily taking advantage of being members of the UK – the jobs furlough is the latest example of this. It will be very difficult for Scotland to negotiate any deal with the UK government that they might see as helping Scotland thrive in the future. I don’t think it is in the UK’s advantage to see an independent Scotland fail or struggle for that matter. I am not sure that will be the view from the English shires. My suspicion is that if the whole of the UK was to vote for Scottish independence then it would win in a landslide. In short the negotiations will be very tough;
What will the sticking points between the two sides?
Where to start? I guess it is all going to be about money, money and money – after all the union was established after Scotland, or at least the ruling classes, were bankrupted by a foreign adventure and so were bailed out/bribed (delete as applicable) by the Bank of England. Anyway money got the Scotland into the Union and money will be the one thing that could cause Scotland huge problems once independent unless the UK government is willing to help the transition. This time around the SNP/Scots government are going to have to come up with something better that the dodgy dossier they produced before ideyref1;
What about the oil?
By 2030 oil prices are likely to be even lower than they are now as most of the industrialised world starts to move away from a fully carbon economy. This will make the remnants of the oil industry in the Scottish sector even more unprofitable. It might even be that by 2030 Scotland might not have an oil industry to talk of. This is bit far fetched but it is not outside the realms of possibilities. One final thing to consider is the Shetland Isle sovereign fund (The Shetland Charity). How will this be protected in an independent Scotland? We might be in the complicated position whereby Shetland might wish to stay in the UK or perhaps wish to return to the Norwegian control or some form of hybrid system. Anyway, it is far from clear what part oil would play in any future Scottish settlement;
The population of Scotland has been around 5 million since the second world war. Over the same period the population of England has grown from around 38 million to 56 million. In short Scotland has a population problem. This might be made far worse by people moving to England after any vote for independence. Now of course this might also strengthen the newly independent Scotland: The people left would be motivated to make a go of things. However, if too many younger people move south then this would create even more demographic and financial problems for the new country because of the loss of taxation compared to increased costs of an aging population.
These are just some of the headline issues from a frightening long list. However, Scotland can be a very successful independent country – just look at the Republic of Ireland which is roughly the same size. However, there is the one obvious caveat to that statement: the Republic of Ireland is a member of the European Union. By 2030 Scotland will not have been a member of the EU for 10 years. There is no way of knowing how the 2030 EU will view any Scots’ application for membership. It is reasonable to assume they would want the Scots to have come to some settled relationship with England before they can join the EU so perhaps such membership may well not be forthcoming until 2035 at the very earliest.
In the end, and this is still the same problem for the Republic of Ireland as it would be for a newly independent Scotland, it is all about how to deal with England. Even with the probable financial muscle of the EU and a special relationship with the United States of America, the Republic of Ireland has failed to come up with an answer that really addresses the England question. Scotland will need to find some form of answer to this question before their newly independent country can thrive. It might help in the short term help to blame the the English and thus win indyref2. However, in the long term such an approach is most likely self defeating.
Scotland can thrive and be a very successful country. It won’t be easy and will take many years to achieve. But their future will be in the hands of the Scots and that is all that counts. The only problem with this is that Brexit has demonstrated that simple slogans don’t actually reflect the problems ahead. I wish Scotland well but it is going to be very tough.