Is scottish independence realistic law constitutional administrative essay

Nathan WalkerMs. HoltzmanEnglish 10 Pre-AP21 February 2013Is Scottish Independence Realistic? Recent polling numbers state that 70 percent of the Scottish population approve of increased separation from the United Kingdom (UK), feeling that the UK is in some way limiting the success of the Scottish people. 30 to 40 percent of these people even support complete independence (Burns np). However, a return to independence for Scotland brings into question many factors. Could Scotland survive and continue with its current budget and revenue? Could Scotland develop its own armed forces? Could Scotland prosper politically with the European Union and other allies? While many Scots support a movement for independence from the UK, Scotland’s limited resources cause concern for its independent success. The modern movement for Scottish independence originates to the creation of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Scottish Parliament. John Burns of the New York Times mentions that the SNP has been supporting a movement for Scottish independence since the 1930s. Now, Scots may finally get to vote on their independence, as both the Scottish and UK Parliaments have set 2015 deadlines for a public vote (Burns np). However, some may wonder why Scottish leaders choose independence over the strength and security of the United Kingdom. William Lace, author of Scotland, notes that while Scotland received its own Parliament in 1999, the Scottish Parliament has a debatable amount of power. While legislation clearly grants a few powers to the Scottish Parliament, it only vaguely describes the full reach of the Scottish Parliament (Lace 65). In order to create a legal structure for the Scottish independence referendum, SNP leader Alex Salmond and UK Prime Minister David Cameron signed the Edinburgh Agreement. BBC News reports that in the Edinburgh Agreement, the Scottish and UK governments agreed on a number of points regarding Scotland’s movement for independence. Primarily, the governments agreed that the Scottish Parliament should organize the referendum and should establish a clear legal structure for the vote itself (” Scottish independence: referendum agreement” np). Generally, the agreement is a compromise between the desires of the UK and Scottish governments. Alan Cowell of the New York Times notes some of the basic points of the agreement. The vote will be simply for or against independence, without an option for simply granting further powers to the Scottish government. Scottish citizens aged 16 or older will be able to vote, even though only Scottish citizens 18 or older can vote in normal elections (Cowell np). While the framework is set for the independence referendum, Scotland would still have a large number of obstacles to overcome if it even could achieve a majority in favor of leaving the United Kingdom. A number of factors could greatly limit Scotland’s independent success. For example, one must examine whether Scotland’s economy could survive without the United Kingdom. Additionally, leaders have not yet made it clear how Scotland would separate its defenses from the UK or how the country would operate politically. These unclear portions of the independence plan could easily dissuade voters from choosing independence. Scotland’s changing population is one key issue that raises concern for their independent success. While Scottish leaders may currently believe that their nation could survive independently, the current population trends may cause Scotland to struggle financially in the future. Lace notes in Scotland that many of the country’s younger population are emigrating away for unclear reasons, and many people still in the country are growing significantly older. This change in the population could eventually lead to an overall decrease citizenship, and therefore tax revenue (Lace 65). If the Scottish government loses a significant portion of its revenue, the government will have to cut back state-funded public programs in order to avoid accumulating large amounts of debt. Meanwhile, the average age of Scottish citizens will be generally increasing, so the number of retired citizens requiring the benefits of state-funded programs will increase. Without the assistance of the UK, an independent Scotland could possibly lead to a Scotland with a financially struggling government and citizens unable to receive the financial assistance that they require. Scotland’s potential revenue decline is not the only threat to the independent country’s budget. Even with the current population, the country cannot afford all its public programs by itself. Ashley Seager of the Guardian notes that compared to England, Scotland spends more money on public programs and does not have the revenue to fund these programs. The country spends more than 50 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on public programs, but its tax revenues are only about 40 percent. Taxpayers in the rest of the UK must finance the rest of Scotland’s expenses (Seager np). An independent Scotland does not have a clear solution to funding its public programs without support from the UK. If Scotland’s revenues do not increase sufficiently after splitting with the UK, the country would have no choice but to increase taxes for its citizens or cut public programs, both of which the public would probably dislike. The lack of a definite plan for an independent Scotland to meet–and continue to meet–its budget could be one factor that dissuades citizens against voting for Scottish independence. Another issue that an independent Scotland faces is an economic dependence on fossil fuels, especially oil. In different book titled Scotland, Lise Hull recognizes the significance of fossil fuels in modern Scotland. The production of oil and natural gas is a major component of the Scottish economy, especially when examining the city of Aberdeen. As has occurred before, a drop in the value of oil or natural gas would cripple the city’s economy and would have an impact on economy of Scotland as a whole (Hull 56). As alternative energy sources to oil become more popular, Scotland’s oil industry could be at risk, along with a significant portion of its economy. Adding to the issue, the oil deposits in Scotland’s North Sea may become less productive in the next few years. The BBC warns readers that North Sea oil production currently is declining. This decline could be significant by the time of the vote for independence in 2014 (” Warning” np). Even if the world is still heavily dependent on oil for energy during the next few decades, the decreasing production of oil from the North Sea could lead to less revenue for Scotland. As an independent nation, Scotland may struggle without the economic support of the UK if the oil revenue dramatically decreases. One of the only positive statistics in Scotland’s economy is that it is growing, although very slightly. Writers at the BBC News revealed that last year the Scottish GDP grew about half a percent on average throughout the year. The manufacturing and energy production industries grew significantly more than the overall economy, demonstrating slight promise for these fields (” Scottish economy” np). The GDP growth shows a bit of promise for Scotland’s future, and the growth in profitable fields such as energy and manufacturing is even more promising. However, one must also consider the present issues and not merely the future of the economy. Scotland’s economic problems currently would require them to make severe cuts to their budget as an independent nation, unless they could find some way of making additional income, which seems unlikely. In addition to economic issues, leaders must decide on how Scotland would be defended as an independent nation. Obviously, the country could not keep their current defenses provided by the UK, so they must decide how they would establish their own armed forces. In a Guardian article, Severin Carrell points out that although the UK’s security policies are unpopular in Scotland, the SNP offers little explanation to what Scotland’s defense strategy would be. Some argue that the armed forces of the UK are one of the major advantages to the union between Scotland, England, Wales, and Northern Ireland, so separating the forces could harm both Scotland and the rest of the UK (Carrell, ” How would” np). Still, Scottish leaders do have a few ideas on defending their country. In another article, Carrell reports that the country plans to vote on joining the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), although they have been opposed to the alliance in the past. Additionally, Scotland believes it will have a defense budget similar to that of smaller European countries like Norway and will base its military on a small portion of the resources currently controlled by the UK’s forces. The nation also wants the UK to remove all of its nuclear weapons from their current location in Scotland (Carrell, ” Scottish independence: the essential guide” np). While Scotland would like the UK to fulfill all of these wishes if they achieve independence, these requests would require a significant amount of cooperation from the UK, something that may be unlikely given the political tension between Scottish and UK leaders. While the economic and security issues are arguably the most important in the Scottish independence movement, the possible political consequences could also harm an independent Scotland. The country’s current trade partners and neighboring European countries are likely to continue to cooperate with an independent Scotland, if only to continue receiving goods from the nation, especially oil. However, the ease of trade and tourism between Scotland and other European countries depends on admission to the European Union (EU). As the UK is a member of the EU, some might assume that Scotland would receive automatic membership. On the contrary, Simon Johnson of the Telegraph reports that Scotland’s admission to the EU is not certain. The leadership of the European Commission is refusing to discuss EU membership with Scottish leaders, as they will only discuss possible situations with a member state such as the UK (Johnson np). Essentially, Scotland would have to apply to the EU after achieving independence, and its acceptance is not definite. Without the guaranteed political, military, and trade benefits of the EU, some Scottish citizens may decide to choose the secure option and continue as part of the United Kingdom. An additional political choice that an independence Scotland is what ties it keeps to the United Kingdom. Carrell reports that Scotland will continue to have the British monarch, currently Queen Elizabeth II, as their head of state. The independent country probably will continue to use the pound for their currency but will lose all control over the Bank of England, as Scotland would no longer be part of the UK Parliament (Carrell, ” Scottish independence: the essential guide” np). However, Scotland’s desire to join the European Union may cause difficulty for the nation in keeping the pound. Stephen Castle of the New York Times mentions that if Scotland were to join the EU as a new country, they would be required to adopt the euro as their currency. This choice is unpopular among Scots and was not required of the UK as it was a member of the EU before this policy came into effect (Castle np). Additionally, having a currency separate from the UK would cause significant trade problems with Scotland’s nearest neighbor, the UK, as consumers would have to struggle with currency conversions before being able to trade with Scottish businesses. While it is a logical decision, Scotland’s desire to keep ties to both the UK and the EU would make independence significantly more difficult. Although many people support Scotland’s independence from the United Kingdom, the outlook currently looks gloomy for the 2014 referendum. SNP leader Alex Salmond stated his goals for an independent Scotland in the Guardian last fall: Independence will allow us to create an exciting new Scotland – fit for the 21st century. We will have the power and the responsibility to find our own solutions to the challenges we face, and to engineer fairness, confidence, innovation and prosperity…An independent Scotland will embrace the interdependence of the modern world, but we would do so on our own terms (Salmond np). Salmond may have ambitious goals for his country but offers little evidence supporting his beliefs that Scotland could prosper as an independent nation. The public opinion of Scottish citizens seems to reflect this uncertainty as well. Carrell notes in his guide to Scottish independence that most polls show people against separation from the United Kingdom. In some polls, as many as 67 percent voted against independence. However, the number of votes tended to change based on how the question was phrased (Carrell, ” Scottish independence: the essential guide” np). While Scottish independence would allow the country to make its own choices for its future, the evidence is simply not present that Scotland can find their ” own solutions to the challenges [they] face, as Salmond phrased it.