Will Scottish independence be an ace, or mulligan? A simply majority “yes” vote is all that is needed for Scotland’s succession movement to succeed. Until recently, polls had shown that residents were split evenly, but new polling indicates that the “Yes” movement has pulled ahead in the race. Scottish voters will decide the issue at the polls on Sept. 18, and all registered votes in Scotland will be permitted to cast a vote. The ballot is very simple and reads: Should Scotland be an independent country? The only answers on the ballot are check-offs for a yes or no.
The country’s election commission says that they are expecting approximately 3.4 million people to cast votes, saying it would represent a turnout of 80 percent of the voting population. A simply majority wins, deciding the future of Scotland. A similar proposal in 1979 failed because the low voter turnout did not meet the requirement for the election to be legitimate.
One large issue just underneath the surface to Scottish independence is the question of oil reserves in the North Sea. Some Scottish nationalists claim that the UK, of which Scotland is currently as member nation, has stolen oil. They hope that an independent Scottish government could set up an oil fund, much like Norway, to benefit Scottish citizens for generations to come. Norway deposits revenues from oil sales taxes into the government pension fund (formerly named The Government Petroleum Fund) as a trust fund for citizen retirement payments.
Whether an ace or mulligan, Scottish independence is not a new idea: Scotland was an independent country through the Middle Ages until 1707 when it entered into an alliance with England, creating a unified Great Britain. In 1801, Ireland joined the alliance, creating the United Kingdom. Scotland’s capital is the city of Edinburgh, also the second-largest city in Scotland.
The British currency, the pound sterling, has been in decline since the announcement of poll trends for the independence movement. According to reports in The Scotsman, the pound has declined below 1.62 against the dollar, capping off losses from last week. Scottish independence leaders have declared their desire to keep the pound as Scotland’s currency. The BBC says that Scotland’s leading export trading partner is the U.S., although Scottish exports to the rest of the UK, not including oil and gas, are at approximately £47bn. That is roughly twice the number of Scotland’s global exports elsewhere.
Of primary concern to many Scottish voters is what will happen to their health coverage. The UK’s famed National Health Service (NHS) and the Scottish NHS are linked, although separate in administration. Spending cuts or increases are automatically tied to both systems. A new independent government would be responsible to take over management and funding of the Scottish NHS. Of the UK nations, life expectancy is lowest in Scotland.
Scotland has a fully developed military as part of the armed forces of the United Kingdom. Several army, air force, and naval bases exist in Scotland. Writing in The Telegraph, David Blair reminds readers that the sixth largest economy in the world is Great Britain, and with that economic clout comes the ability to extend influence all over the world. However, should Scotland choose a path of independence, not only would Scotland have little influence in the world, but a smaller UK would likely suffer loss as a global power, too.
Forming an independent country requires opening embassies and consuls around the world. Currently Scotland has 22, and Scottish deputy First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, suggested that Scotland might share embassies and staff with the UK. Ms. Sturgeon told a special meeting of the Scottish Parliament’s foreign affairs committee that an independent Scotland could expect to maintain about the same number of consular offices worldwide as Norway. (Norway has 100 embassies and consulates in key cities across the globe.) The British Foreign Office is currently represented in 170 countries at 270 diplomatic offices.
Scotland is home to the game of golf, and many are wondering whether Scottish independence would be an ace, or mulligan? Some voters are banking on independence to bring Scotland back into the “sweet spot,” while others fear that a “yes” vote will lead Scotland into the sands of a political bunker.
By Jim Hanemaayer