By Sergei Sayenko
Scotland has made the decision to launch a ‘Yes Scotland’ campaign aimed at urging the Scottish public to vote for independence. The organizers of the campaign promise that it will be the largest political action in the history of Scotland which will have a definite impact on the results of the referendum on Scottish independence scheduled for the autumn of 2014.
The issue of Scottish independence has been debated for years but it was brought to the surface in January this year after the Scottish leadership announced its plans to hold a referendum on Scotland’s secession from the UK in the autumn of 2014. A month later, the leaders of Britain and Scotland, David Cameron and Alex Salmond, met for the first time to discuss the issue of holding such a referendum. They failed to overcome their disagreements on the main points, such as the timing of the referendum and the wording of the proposed referendum question. This is what British Prime Minister Cameron said in his interview with the BBC following the talks:
One should remember that England and Scotland were united into one kingdom in 1707 and since then have been together. It is true, though, that proud and freedom-loving Scots have always resented British control. For example, if you inadvertently call a Scotsman ‘English’ there will be no end to his indignation.
At the same time, until recently Scotland has not taken any definite steps to secede from the UK. In 1997, Scotland received limited autonomy under the devolution settlement, while its own parliament and executive bodies were set up in 1999. It is true that their responsibility is mainly confined to the issues of justice, education, healthcare, culture, transport, environmental protection and some other minor areas. The rest still remains under London’s jurisdiction.
The start of 2012 marked the beginning of a new era in the relations between Edinburgh and London because Scotland started talking openly of independence, which raised serious concerns in London. Small wonder, because if Scotland secedes from the UK, the British government will face a number of serious problems. This could undermine the UK’s role in the UN Security Council, its EU membership and its role as one of the leading members of NATO because the country’s armed forces will have to undergo serious reorganization. It will primarily affect the UK’s nuclear arsenal which is mostly stored at Scottish naval bases.
It should be noted that in the event of achieving independence Scotland will be able to apply certain administrative levers, such as the corporate tax or duty on alcohol, which Edinburgh is hoping to use in order to speed up the recovery of the Scottish economy and raise its people’s living standards. In addition, Scotland could receive a greater share of profits from oil exploration off its North Sea’s coast, the resources of which are estimated at 23bn barrels. We can also add that the Scottish government intends to continue its policies of free university education, free medical prescriptions and free care for the elderly. Alex Salmond believes that staying within the UK would impede the implementation of these policies.
On the other hand, we cannot ignore the strong connection between Edinburgh and London. Tens of thousands of English people are working in Scotland and studying at Scottish universities, while a large number of Scots are living and working in England. At present, when unemployment in Scotland is on the rise, a steadily growing number of Scots is heading for London and other English cities in search of work.
We can see that secession from the UK would have both advantages and disadvantages for Scotland. So there is only one thing that needs to be done, which is to hold a referendum and hear the voices of ordinary Scots. The latest public opinion poll carried out by YouGov showed that only one third of Scotsmen would vote in favour of Scotland’s secession from the UK. This means that the issue of Scotland’s independence is still up in the air and the prospects for the ‘Yes Scotland’ referendum remain vague.