This is the final part of our three- part debate on Scottish Independence. To see the background of Scottish Independence please click here
Scotland is an ancient European nation with a strong identity and long history of inter-action with the international community including its European and Commonwealth partners (including those in the rest of the UK) and broader international community. On 18 September 2014 the people will vote in an Independence Referendum on whether or not to re-establish Scotland’s status as an independent nation. I intend to vote yes.
Scotland is a wealthy country with the best renewable energy and oil reserves in the European Union, a healthy and vibrant food and drink sector that is growing quickly across the world, successful Life Sciences industry and some of the best Universities in the World. It has a thriving and diverse economy that more than pays its way contributing more to the Treasury in London than it gets back. Indeed for the past 32 years Scotland has generated more tax per head than the UK as a whole.
This was reflected in the recent Financial Times article showing that Scotland is a significant contributor to the UK’s wealth with 9.2% of the UK’s GDP coming from Scotland compared to having just 8.3% of the population. Indeed the London based Financial Times stated that “An independent Scotland could also expect to start with healthier state finances than the rest of the UK.”
In short I want to see Scotland’s status restored as a normal Independent country. I believe that we will all be better off if decisions about Scotland are made by the people who live and work here.
That will not only be better for Scotland but also will lead to a better relationship between the nations of the British Isles. I worked in the European Union in Brussels for a number of years and have seen the strong and constructive partnership between Ireland and the UK there. A partnership of equals where the two States work together when it is in their national interest to do so and agree to disagree where the two countries do not. That means a better and more constructive relationship between the two countries. Scotland would give England a strong ally in Europe and in the rest of the World where our interests are in common. England and Scotland would benefit from a strong but more equal partnership.
Scotland is fortunate and has strong ties across the World. This Summer we look forward to welcoming countries from across the Commonwealth including Bangladesh to Glasgow for the Commonwealth games. That will be followed by the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles, one of the biggest sporting events on Earth and the MTV Europe Music awards in Glasgow. Those ties will remain and for Scotland will be strengthened by the opportunity to engage with our partners internationally on our own terms rather than through a middle man in London.
That means making our own policy where it suits Scotland determined by the democratic will of the Scottish people. Scotland will be a partner for peace and security in the World on its own terms. Independence means that we can remove Trident nuclear missiles from Scottish soil. That will save the Scottish taxpayer hundreds of millions of pounds every year – Trident is estimated to cost about £100 billion over its lifetime – and at the same time removing what many Scots consider to be immoral weapons of mass destruction from our soil. We will also be able to decide where Scotland takes part in military engagements, it is very unlikely that an independent Scotland would have taken part in the Iraq War for example.
In Europe we will also be able to make Scotland’s case rather than relying on the UK. This is all the more important as the UK loses influence in the European Union as the UK edges towards the exit. Europe has a huge impact on the energy, fishing, education and agriculture industries among others. Right now we depend on the UK Government for representation and often Scotland’s interest are considered secondary to the rest of the UK as Scotland’s fishermen in particular will testify (when the UK joined the EEC the UK Government described Scotland’s fishing interests as ‘expendable’).
We want Scotland to take its place as a full Member State that will work with our partners in Scotland’s interests rather than carping from the sidelines. Scotland will be a roughly medium sized EU Member State and critically have significantly more clout than it does at present. There is also a very real possibility that an Independent Scotland could remain in the EU if the rest of the UK leaves after 2017.
Domestically Scotland will be able to make decisions that best suit Scotland. In a wide range of areas it is clear that the Scottish and UK Governments are diversifying in domestic policy. In Scotland the principle of free education is an important one that the Government here has committed to whereas the UK Government has decided to charge for access to higher education. Many Scots would like to see a more open approach to immigration and may companies have complained about the overly stringent UK policies. Scotland has also embraced the opportunities posed by the transition to the low carbon economy and meeting its obligations to tackle climate change. This resulted in significant investment in the renewable energy industry for example with some of the most ambitious climate change targets in the World giving industry much needed certainty. This contrasts sharply with a UK Government that is increasingly opposed to taking meaningful action on global warming.
These are just a few examples of where there is clear divergence in policy priorities between Scotland and England. Where there are differences that should be up to the democratically elected Governments in both countries to decide for themselves. All we are asking for is that Scots should be represented by a Government it votes for and working with our colleagues in England on a more equal basis. The only way to deliver that is by re-establishing the normal powers of Independence.
* Stephen Gethins is an SNP (Scottish National Party) candidate for the European Parliament elections. Stephen was also a Political Advisor with the Committee of the Regions in the European Union, a position which saw him working with local authorities from across Europe. He also worked at Scotland Europa, helping Scottish organisations gain influence and funding in the EU.