Scottish Independence has been a contentious and at times controversial issue within British Politics. Because of a bizarre relationship and history with the nation the power that be decided to agree that the union between the two nations of England and Scotland (established 1707). However, recently the Scottish National Party, a party for Scottish independence, formed the devolved Scottish government, with their election promise of a referendum on Scottish independence. A few days ago Alex Salmond, the leader of the SNP announced that the referendum would be in the autumn of 2014. However, the sensibility of this action has been called into account.

On one hand, it is the democratic right of the people to vote yes in a promised referendum. As a manifesto pledge this should be kept sacred from any other powers, the severity of the pledge and the cultural resonance this has should also be taken into consideration. For instance, the referendum on membership of the EU under the prime minister Edward Heath bound the government to result. This resulted in the membership of Britain in the European Union. Therefore it is a constitutional and democratic right of the British Government’s to grant the Scottish people independence in the likely chance that they vote for it, evident through opinion polls. 

On the other hand, this could be said to weaken the democratic and constitutional standing of the United Kingdom as a whole. It’s constitutional standing would weaken as the devolved government of Scotland is not the same as that of the one of Wales, in fact the devolved parliament of Scotland is stronger than that of Wales and Northern Ireland, the Welsh Assembly being called described as having the powers of ‘a local council’ by former Prime Minister Tony Blair. On top of this England itself does not have a national government or first minister. If Scotland does vote yes for independence that would mean that the criticism of England as a ‘non-state’ would increase as it would only have Wales and Northern Ireland for constitutional and Democratic backing and not to mention the sovereignty of the remaining British government. This could conversely demand a shift for codification at a time where it is seen as inconvenient in light of what many critics call more pressing economic challenges.

Conversely, independence would mean a more democratic Scotland in respect that the usually left wing governments of Soctland would not be tethered by the usually right wing governments of England. Scotland is the core of Labour votes, with a popular fact being that there are more pandas in Scotland than there are Tory MPs. This would allow Scotland to take a new political approach to the austerity measured Britain. This is evident in their stature on tuition fees, which are considerably lower for Scots than the English. This would also unshackle a more left wing part of the Labour Party from the centrist one seen in Westminster and may even give way to the other socialist parties such as the Scottish Socialist party or the Greens, which currently enjoy two SNPs. This would end the shackling of a consensus that has proved to be unpopular within the nation.

That said this would also deprive the Labour party of the bulk of their seats. It is a theory amongst critics of his that the only reason that Cameron has approved the setting of a date for now is that it would completely derail the Labour party, leading to a future whereby the remaining British nations would be under the constant and relatively unchallenged rule of the Conservative party. The danger of a tyrannically present Conservative party, while seeming Orwellian, would lead to a complete hopelessness of the left wing. The socialist politician, campaigner and critic Tony Benn has said that “hopeless people don’t vote.” This theory therefore shows how voter would lose hope as the party that represents the rich, as the left say the Conservative party does, it would “demoralise” the poor and the left. Moreover the democratic standing of the left would be diminished to the same standing as the turn of the 20th century.

On the Contrary, independence to Scotland could also give the nation a standing on the global stage. This would be one separate to that of the rest of the United Kingdom. Scotland’s possible socialism could find a new way of handling an economy in a global market place. That said it could easily find loans from such bodies as the IMF or by increasing production as to create a better exporting centre. Even deep integration in the EU could prove to be a economic safeguard. For a new nation there are opportunities to grow wealth or to find a new more socialist alternative to the system used in the United Kingdom.

However, independence could damage Scotland’s economy beyond measure. Scotland in and of itself does not produce enough to sustain an economy and public sector. Therefore if Scotland were to fail and go to the IMF it would endure even further austerity measures than the rest of the United Kingdom. This is an enticement to a system that favours the invisible hand of the state over a state that helps its citizens. Unfair or not that is the realistic standing of the situation. It is also unlikely that EU membership or Euro membership would safeguard its economy because of the current ‘Euro crisis’ which has seen the weakening of Portugal’s, Greece’s and Ireland’s economies, all leading to austerity within their borders. What is more any sovereignty gained by their independence would be sacrificed by Scotland if it chose to join the Euro, proving the exercise to be a circular and pointless expedition.

In conclusion while many would argue that it would lead to better constitutional standing of Scotland, a more legitimate and popular government and allow them to find their own way on the global stage it could equally be argued that it would damage the constitutional and democratic standing of English governance and damage Scotland in the global market place, not allowing them to fulfil their more leftwing proposals. To conclude while it may eventually be a force for good and may one day win a democratically legitimate referendum, now is not realistically the time for it to be held. This proves the weakness of the global structure and of global capitalism whereby democracy must be sacrificed for pragmatism.


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