Friday, March 14, 2014

The Independence Debate

There are trying times ahead.
At least until the 14th September – then heavens alone knows what will happen.
That is the day of the referendum to decide Scotland’s future - whether we should go ahead as an independent nation or stay as part of the United Kingdom.

The arguments are in polar terms; the Braveheart vote OR the economic vote….

Scotland joined with England in an Act of Union (1707). They didn’t invade us and take over – well not on that particular occasion. It was beneficial financially to both parties and we have rubbed along, annoying each other ever since.

The deep rooted issue is that Scotland is a much more socialist country than England - far removed from those in the south, we would never vote for a Conservative government but often end up being ruled by one.  As I have said before we have more pandas than Tory MP’s. It’s the  gulf between us and the shiney/Etonian/gentlemen’ club that run Westminster. But many would argue that we act as an anchor on England drifting too far to the right.

 But I do know that we (Scotland in its current devolved state) is a pretty froody place to live. Free education right through university with many preschool places partially paid for by employers’ vouchers. A country who's health promotion campaign is so well regarded that both China and Russia sent a delegation here just last week, as whatever we are doing, it is working and the degree of underage smoking and drinking is falling. Admittedly, the level was very high to start with. Our health service is free, totally free. We don’t even pay for the prescription – never mind the drugs, the treatment, the hospital bed.  Our health boards outperform those in the south.  A free aggressive screening programme for breast and bowel cancer is available population wide.
                                                                The economist

Our immigrant community is well integrated (maybe because we are still suffering the effects of sectarianism, or because we know we are a mongrel race ourselves). Our legal system is very different, some say far superior, to England.
And if it didn't rain in Scotland for the next 100 years, we would still not run out of water. And if water is the new oil……

                                 To boldly go where no accent has gone before... 

We have loads of the wet stuff. And we are still world leaders in forensics, engineering, medicine.  As well as producing loads of really famous dudes that I won’t bore you with (again).
And we pay tax at 20%. It’s a beautiful country. When you can see through the rain.

I am writing this to reflect the views of those I have spoken to this week ... re what are you feelings about it so far? (Sadly no cheesecake involved in this research).
The answers were not 'yeses' and 'noes' as you might think but more 'I’m fed up of the whole thing already.'  To quote one senior businessman, ‘The only question is who to shoot first once I’ve put the whole lot of them against the wall.’
He was joking.
I think.

The problem is that the more we ask, the more we realise that nobody seems to know much about it. There’s a lot of feeling that we are making it up as we go along. The yes campaign say that this is because ‘Westminster’ are simply not giving answers so there is no definitive way forward.  The no (Better Together) campaign says that it’s up to the independence campaign to come up with the answers.
Here’s a potted example of the confusion .
This came to light three weeks ago. The yeses seem to have believed that we could still use the pound as currency in some kind of joint monetary system.  Westminster pointed out that this will not be so, basically go and find your own currency if you feel that way about it.  One SNP then said, well if you feel that way about it, we will walk away from our portion of the trillion pounds plus worth of debt.  (It was handbags at dawn). Or as one commentator put it, like two old fishwives having a shouting match down the close. The SNP then accused Westminster of being bullies.
There was a similar reaction when Westminster pointed out the rules for the EU state that a nation has to be independent for four years (I think) before it can apply to join.  And then it will be forced to use the euro but as no currency union is allowed we need to use another currency in the meantime.  That’ll be three changes of currency in four years.
My head hurts.
The latest thing is Alex Salmond, SNP Leader, saying that all kids should have free school meals. The council say they can’t afford it –they are being subjected to extreme cutbacks due to the economic downturn. So it has been reported Salmond says he will fine them if they don’t…
The council pointed out that they couldn't afford that either.


I spoke to a pal who is retired from BAA and is in receipt of a big pension. BAA is of course British Aerospace. He told me the company has not informed them what will happen to their pension if it has to be converted from one currency to another. And then another.
Big companies are now ‘threatening’ to pull out if independence goes ahead. And I can understand that as err… we will have no currency! Shareholders are sensing the instability and will vote to move and there’s nothing the Scots can do about it. It was also pointed out that banks, by EU regulation, have to locate their head offices in the country where their gold reserve is and where the greatest population of customers are. That’ll be goodbye to Royal Bank Of Scotland then!


The leader of the SNP, Alex Salmond, introduced voting for the 16-18 year olds for the referendum, thinking that they would automatically vote yes. Some thinkers say that the majority of the youth ‘yes’ comes from families where there is no voting tradition.   So that remains to be seen.

The oil debate is a huge argument for independence, but there’s only 20 years worth left and it is becoming more and more difficult to get at. It’s American money that gets it out the ground.  We keep getting told to look at Norway… but they pay tax at 37%. And have a great sense of civilian ship that we just don't have. You can’t even put Glasgow and Edinburgh crime writers in the same room without them arm wrestling! 

The nationalists want the nuclear threat taken away - the bases are 40 miles from Glasgow- or as far away from Westminster as they could get. Most sensible folk would agree to get rid of anything nuclear… but how many jobs would go? The Ministry of Defence? The Army?
Figures out today show that our (Scotland’s) debt is growing.

The devolution max vote was another option to go on the polling card… simply more autonomy than we have now. But that was ruled out, it’s a straight yes or no.
Some have pointed out that the rest of the UK should be able to vote also – to get rid of us.
And my head still hurts. Just thinking about it, we still have another six months of will we, won’t we, to go.
                                                    The Guardian
Here is a joke - A Scot and Englishman and an Irishman were washed up on a desert island. The Englishman built a church, the Scot built a pub and the Irishman started a fight with himself on the beach.  Three years later the Scot has a chain golf clubs and the Irishman is still fighting with himself but is now in the pub. The  Englishman is still ignoring them both as they have not yet been formally introduced.

Anyway, how do I persuade my London based agent that I should not be treated as an overseas author and pay her a higher % in the event of a Yes result.  Maybe I should tempt her with cheesecake and fine wine…


Looking globally, at all that is going on in the world, I think this country (either country, all four countries...) could move forward better without drawing any more lines in the sand.

Caro  14/03/14  GB for now 


  1. Well, it actually sounds as though Scotland won't be too badly off either way. As for the currency story, I thought there was already such a thing as a Scottish pound (=English pound) and a Bank of Scotland? I suspect that if Scotland does decide to go it alone, all these sorts of issues will just get dealt with by sensible people...if there are any...

  2. A line in the sand? You have sand in Scotland??? I thought all you had was water and wet rocks! Whale, thut unt paple what yur kint oonderstund...

  3. Gazing on your situation as I am from the security of an economically rock solid Greek perspective, I tend to agree with Michael that the legendary resourcefulness, pride, and determination of the Scots will have Scotland prevail no matter what happens in the vote. Even if YES wins, I doubt Westminster will allow Scotland to crash...the EU certainly won't, four year waiting period or not.

    And now back to our regularly scheduled frivolity.

  4. I didn't know Everett was from Aberdeen!!

  5. Hi caro - as always I loved your post. And the 20% tax makes Scotland seem like heaven (here it is a bit higher than in Norway). Amazing that you manage to have free health care etc. with such a low tax rate. Here we must always pay something unless admitted to hospital. Which is why they do not admit you unless you are holding your deatched arm in your other hand. Even then they might try tokick you out once it has been sewn back on.

    I hope this all goes well for you, whatever the outcome. If you need a currency you are welcome to the Icelandic KRona and we are told that the US allows any country, anywhere to take up the dollar. Which is probably a better bet than the Icelandic króna.