A White Paper for Scotland (Guest Blog Post)

Deacon Brodie's, Edinburgh, Scotland

So I haven’t paid too much attention to the Scottish Independence referendum (I think my first real glimmer of awareness is when Ryan Meili picked “Better Together” as a campaign slogan a couple years ago and a team member pointed out we’d be working with the “No” side in the Scottish referendum in the world of Twitter hashtags since they were using that slogan too.)

So other than a wee bit of reading, a tenuous connection via a grandmother born in Campbelton, Scotland, and a long ago visit to Edinburgh which provided one of the single most insane nights of my life, I have to admit that my instinct is that I hope to see Scotland vote “Yes”.

This photo is a re-enactment of a vaguely remembered situation.  It also has no bearing on my feelings on Scottish independence.

Slight tangent: This photo is a re-enactment of a vaguely remembered situation. It also has no bearing on my feelings on Scottish independence.

I admit that I struggle to reconcile this in light of my equally desperate hope to see Quebec *stay* a part of Canada during their own referendum in 1995 (coincidentally, the Quebec referendum happened while I was on that same England exchange where I visited Edinburgh and also had the surreal experience of waking up in a York college dorm room, unsure of whether I would be returning to the same country I left.)

Seven Americans, A Canadian and a Brit Walk Into A Bar

Seven Americans, A Canadian and a Brit Walk Into A Bar

An English bloke who married one of my high school friends and tends to post all kinds of hilarious, astute, insightful stuff on Facebook posted the following essay which I’ll share as perspective from someone closer to the issue than myself and who’s also neither a pundit nor a politician. (And for fairness’ sake, I’ll also link to an essay from the Globe & Mail appealing to Scotland to stay but try to follow the Canadian experiment.)

My White Paper for Scotland

The facts as I see them

Jason Bransfield

When the decision to allow Scotland to decide its own destiny in a referendum was announced my initial thought was that this was a bad idea. I couldn’t understand why a union that had created an empire that the sun never set on, that had created a nation of such wealth, had inspired inventors and entrepreneurs that propelled the world into the modern age could be dismantled. I was fervently against the break up of this marriage.

A year later and I have changed my opinion and done what lady T never did a U turn and here are my reasons why

Much debate has raged across Scotland with the No campaign making much of the financial insecurity of a Scotland going its own way. They claim that services will have to be cut, that business will leave and prices will rise. The oil wealth in Scotland is about to run out a week on Thursday if we are to believe the No campaign. This is all pretty strong and compelling stuff that any rational person would be concerned about. Maybe the comfortable blanket of union with shared responsibility for debt and prosperity alike would be better for if we fall on hard times we know we have the support of the UK government to fall back on.

But is this the case?

A recent EU study found that the UK was found to have nine of the ten poorest regions in Europe.

Parts of Britain are now poorer than Poland, Lithuania and Hungary, official figures reveal. People in the Welsh Valleys and Cornwall, Britain’s two poorest areas scrape by on less than £14,300 a year on average. Because Britain is so expensive, this leaves families in these areas worse off than those vast swathes of Eastern Europe, according to the EU study.

So if the UK outside of the prosperous south east of England has now fallen behind the recently enrolled members of the EU what is really happening? Well the debate has centered on projected figures with both sides of the debate misleading and embellishing in equal amounts. So the only way to establish an answer as to what may happen in the future is to look at the recent published figures of the recent past to gain some insight into the economics at work.

The first claim of the no camp is that Scotland is too small a nation to hold its own in the new world, that it will not have a voice and will enter into terminal decline. I found this a curious claim as there are an abundance of smaller countries in the EU that in my mind seem to be doing just fine. So I decided to look at the population comparisons for Scotland against other EU countries and found that Scotland has a population that is 5.295 million (2011) which would put it at 20th in the European table of countries by population. Indeed not very high up the table but comparable with Denmark, Finland, Slovakia and slightly more populous than Ireland.

Each of the countries listed have functioning institutions with Denmark and Finland enjoying some of the highest quality of life in the developed world so it appears to me that a country with a population of 5 million people can exist and exist prosperously.

Another claim of the No campaign is that Scotland would struggle to develop an economy in the new world post independence. Again I have gone back to figures previously published on this to establish what the economy of a new independent Scotland may be. I discovered that Scotland’s estimated economic output in 2013 was $245.267 billion (including revenues from
North Sea oil and gas) and that the list of exports included Aerospace & Naval Systems, Barley, Buses, Business & Financial Services, Chemical Products, Computers, Computer Software, Electricity, Electronics, Fish, Pharmaceuticals, Potatoes, Renewable Energy, Scotch Whisky, Ships, Shortbread, Textiles, Timber, Water & best of all Irn Bru.

But the economic figures that talk of billions do not best explain a countries wealth as the have no meaning in relation to other countries, which is why for comparison nations are rated on GDP per person. This is where things really started to get interesting; the income of a country divided by its population give the GDP figure that best describes a countries wealth. If you look at the European union we find the following figures:-

Italy – $33,111
France – $36,104
Germany – $40,901
Denmark – $42,086
UK – $36,901

Scotland – 45,904

So the myth that Scotland cannot afford to become independent is clearly not true when we analyse the figures from the most recent reported years figures.

I must state that I am not a fan of Alex Salmond, my first hope for a newly independent Scotland is that they vote in a new leader as he is not the man to carry a young nation forward. And I am not going to pretend that a newly independent Scotland hasn’t got some big challenges ahead, things like obesity, an ageing population and high levels of drug use will pose challenges to the new government but at least these will be Scotland’s problems for Scotland to solve. For too long now the proceeds of Scotland’s mineral wealth and Human wealth have been exported out of the country. The education system in Scotland continually produces generation after generation of highly skilled gifted, motivated young people that upon qualification head to London and elsewhere as there are no opportunities for them in Scotland.

What if a fairer society emerges, where the wealth of the nation is divided up in a fairer way, a nation with a social conscience that regards fairness above getting ahead at the expense of your neighbour is the norm not the exception? A nation that after independence develops a social contract between citizen and government that looks after the sick, educates the young, leaves the aged in comfort, and provides a minimum standard of living for all not just the connected.

This is the dream that can be achieved if the nation believes and when asked say YES!! It certainly wont be achieved if you carry on with the same system you have got.

The definition of madness is doing the same thing day in day out and expecting a different result. Change what you are doing and the result will change too.

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