This is for the benefit of my English friend’s, who don’t know what to think about the current political arguments concerning Scottish independence. Personally, I’m against independence, as are the majority of people in Scotland. Financially, it could work, but there would be 20 years of grief, that I’d rather do without. And frankly, I’m just not that patriotic. Despite the noises made by the SNP, the governing Party in the Scottish Parliament, it remains extremely unlikely to happen.
Here are some salient bullet points, to bring you up to speed.
- A referendum on public support for Scottish devolution was held in 1997, as it was a manifesto pledge of the newly elected New Labour UK government.
- The Scottish Parliament was formed in May 1999, following the election of 129 MSP’s.
- Government powers devolved to the Scottish Parliament include, Agriculture, Forestry & Fishing, Education, Environment, Health, Housing, Enterprise, Trade & Investment, Justice, Policing & Courts, Local Government, Fire Service, Economic Development, Transport.
- This means that Scottish MP’s in Westminster have far less responsibilities and work than their English colleagues. They also get to vote on laws affecting England, which don’t cover Scotland
- There have been 4 elections (every 4 years) using proportional representation. The first two formed a Labour / Lib Dem coalition government, the third a minority SNP government, and the forth, in 2011, an SNP majority government.
- The current First Minister is Alex Salmond, who has served since 2007.
- For 2012-13, the Scottish Government has an annual budget of £33.9 billion.
- Scotland’s revenues from taxes and duties in 2009-10 were £41.2 billion.
- As Education is devolved to the Scottish Government, Scottish students were unaffected by the UK Parliament’s introduction of Student Tuition Fees by Labour in 1999.
- In January 2000, the Scottish government, decided to replace annual tuition fees for Scottish students studying at Scottish universities with a £2,000 charge after graduation. This charge was abolished in 2008. Only the (very) minority Conservative Party proposes to introduce tuition fees, if elected.
As with different states in the USA, the greatly differing political views of the Scottish population meant that a devolved parliament was sensible. Like it or not, Scots resented being governed by parties that didn’t represent them, or with policies that they didn’t agree with. 18 years of Tory rule led to no Tory MP’s in Scotland, and that resentment remains today. The SNP have capitalised in the UK election of a Tory / Lib Dem Coalition government, and plan to harness this in a referendum for independence.
The SNP plan to hold their referendum just after Glasgow hosts the Commonwealth Games in 2014, which is also the 700th anniversary of the Battle of Bannockburn. By then they pray enough nationalistic fervour will be summoned, ably assisted by the David Cameron in Westminster. This could also be a great result for David Cameron, as a generation of landslide Tory victories would ensue in England. Ironically, the last 3 UK Prime Ministers are Scots. Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were born and educated here, and David Cameron’s family are from Aberdeenshire.
For these reasons, I’m not entirely persuaded by David Cameron’s insistence on a referendum now, rather than later. The SNP would definitely lose, if it were held this year. Already this week, there have been Tweets from South of the border, calling for “Scotland to **** Off!”, which plays right into the SNP agenda. The devolved parliament is popular in Scotland, but I don’t believe there is enough appetite for full independence.