Independence: The issues

My excitement at the implications of the national election result on May 5th, has been tempered over the last few weeks with the realisation that, despite a majority in Holyrood being from a party whose principal raison d’etre is to obtain Independence for Scotland, it looks likely that Salmond will push the SNP to promote “fiscal autonomy” over the coming years, rather than Independence. He has already announced that this will appear as an option on the referendum ballot paper.

While fiscal autonomy appears at first glance to be a positive step on the road to Independence, however further examination leads me to think that it may well be an unnecessary detour. In 1979, the Scottish people voted for Independence and were denied it by the use of a rigged referendum. In the intervening 30 years, Scotland has grown in confidence and stature …and grown apart from the UK. Despite polls showing between 30-40% support for independence, this is likely to grow both as our nations financial precocity grows, unable to raise its own revenue and dependent on the largesse of an austerity promoting UK government.

Given that it is domestic finances that are likely to dominate the agenda over the coming four years, fiscal autonomy may appear an attractive option to address resource allocation. Depending on the design of the ballot paper, some independence supporters may be tempted to support Fiscal Autonomy, should the threat of the status quo loom large, if independence appears not to have significant support.

It is critical therefore that the independence movement build a strong case for independence both to win support and also that existing supporters do not get overcome with defeatism masquerading as realism. To do so, means rather than extolling the virtues of an Independent Scotland through romantic notions of destiny fulfilled, but time should be dedicated to identifying how Independence can shape both our future nation and the context in which it lives.

I look forward to seeing re-invigorated Independence supporters engaging not only with campaigns but with thinking around, what independence means, what its possibilities are and what kind of Scotland we wish to be.

Issues which must be examined, dissected and discussed include

– The share of the UK national debt that an independent Scotland would assume responsibility for
– The coastal territories of the UK, and the negotiation of the 1999 boundaries.
– The relationship with the ex-UK monarchy within a Scottish Republic and the ceding of Crown Property
– Scotland’s relation to the EU and our positioning within it
– The Scottish currency and our relationship with the Eurozone – or possibly the Sterlingzone
– Defence and International relations, including NATO membership
– Scotland’s positioning within the UN and access to committees and councils.

This is not an exhaustive list and there are no are there easy answers to the above. What is clear however is that unless an understanding of our future position in relation to the rest of the world is described, developed and communicated widely in advance of any coming election we may be denied a substantial opportunity to improve not only the lives of Scottish citizens but through the destruction of the exploitative UK state, the lives of the rest of the world as well.

First published on Bella Caledonia on 25th May 2011.

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