Long Live Scotland!

Willy Clauzel et Laure Curien
28 Juin 2013

Scotland is on its way to independence. The SNP, Scottish National Party, a devolutionist party in power in the Parliament, thinks that Scotland would be an economically viable country thanks to oil and gas concentration in the the North Sea. However, opinion polls referring to September 2014's referendum are not in favor of the independence of the Highlands' region.

Are the Scots really in favor of a secession from the United Kingdom? The Scottish National Party (SNP) is looking for an answer on autumn of 2014, official date of the referendum. “I have the honor to announce that we will organize a referendum on the 18th of September 2014, an historical day for the citizens who will decide of the future of Scotland”, declared Alex Salmond, current Scottish Prime Minister.

The SNP, whose leader was Alex Salmond when it arrived in power, kept its promise when announcing the plan of a referendum on independence. It stands up against three other political parties - The Conservative Party, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour- which are in favor of a “No” to independence.

A separatist tradition

Scotland has had a separatist tradition over history. Wars of Scottish Independence that occurred from 1290 to 1358, represent a significant period across the Scottish past. On several times, Scotland came within a hair of loosing its independence because of the attacks led by England and moreover by Edward Balliol, a Scottish nobleman who belonged to a group named the Disinherited.

The sovereignty of the land was kept thanks to figures who became famous in Scotland, such as William Wallace and Robert Bruce, known as the Guardians of Scotland. Many people who defended independence were jailed, but the Scots had no hesitation in paying the enormous amount of the ransoms, even if they had to get themselves into debt and plunged the country into a headlong crisis. The purpose of such independence wars was to retain the sovereignty of Scotland, and that was finally done with the Treaty of Berwick in 1357.

The connexion between the Scottish and British realms will occur three centuries later. The time James VI of Scotland became James I of England marked the start of the process. The Union Treaty of 1707 dissolved the two parliaments to create the Parliament of Great Britain. The realm of Great Britain was created.

However, the Scottish identity remains very strong. They succeeded to keep their culture such as their languages. The first claims for independence appeared during the XIX Century. It stopped during the First World War and started again in 1934 with the creation of the Scottish National Party, main independent political party. The party expanded its audience in the early 1970s with the discovery of oil in the North Sea. That reinforced the idea that an economic independence was possible.

The creation of a Scottish Parliament has already been considered. In the 1970s, the election of seven, and later eleven Members of Parliament in favor of independence in the Chamber of Commons made this idea grew up. The 1990's Labour Party supported the Parliament project. 75% of the votes cast were in favor for the 1997's referendum. The Scottish Parliament held a session in July 1999, the first since 1707.

In May 2011, the left centrist party (SNP) that ran for the Scottish independence surprised everyone by an overwhelming victory of the representatives election of Scotland. The separatist party obtained an absolute majority among the members elected to the Scottish Parliament, that is to say 69 Members of Scottish Parliament out of 129.

When arriving in power, the leader of the SNP and Scotland's first Minister, Alex Salmond, announced an independence referendum within the next five years.

The Scots plan to go to the polls on September the 18th of 2014 for that referendum of self determination. Even if such referendum will have consultation value only, it will allow the current government to measure the population opinion toward this critical issue.

A distinct culture

The Scots have a different culture from their English neighbors, and this apart from the complicated past they share with them.

Politically speaking, Scotland is likely to be left-wing and pro-European. That is quite a significant difference when we know the attraction of England for the United States. Religiously speaking, Scotland is more catholic that England, turned toward the Anglican and Protestant churches. Finally in the sport fields, England and Scotland compete as two distinct nations, with their own anthem.

If both regions speak the same language, the accent is dissonant in the North. The Scots are very attached to their own culture, as Catalonia or Corse inhabitants do. Unlike these separatists, the Scots differ more on cultural aspects rather than on political ones. On the basis of a poll which purpose was the possible independence, only one third of the surveyed people were in favor.

Christian Allard, French and Scottish member of the SNP in the North East of Scotland, praises the benefits of hisnation: “Scotland is a modern country looking to the future, with its own Parliament, a country that owns natural resources that most of the countries does not have. It is also a traditional country, with its own gastronomy: the salmon, the prawns and other fresh fishes, the Angus cattle, the red-legged partridge and the haggis. It is a very touristic destination where there are many things to see.

So is Scotish Independence still a good idea?

The energetic resource remains the Scottish separatists' main argument. Deep down in its waters, Scotland has an important oil reserve. According to the demarcation of fishing grounds, only 10% of its hydrocarbon would be located in England territory. Following that statement, the SNP declares that the amount of money collected with the petrol would permit Scotland to balance its books.

Christian Allard confirmed that the black gold is very important in the accounts but also states that it is not the only energetic resource of the country. “For sure Scotland is a very rich region thanks to the gas and oil of the North Sea, but also thanks to renewable energies that provide wind, seas, tides and wind pumps. Besides the fact that the amount of hydrocarbon reserves in the North Sea are at least equal to the amount of hydrocarbons we have already extracted, Scottish oil companies explore abroad and are diversifying into renewable energies.

Can Scotland be financially independent? That is the key issue that divides the pro independence Scots and their opponents. The current tax revenues are withdrawn from Britain, and then redistributed to the whole country. “The Scottish Parliament is in charge of managing Scotland but has no responsibility in collecting taxes”. That remains an anomaly for Christian Allard. It also appears that London grants-aid to Edinburg by redistributing a higher amount than the tax collected. Opponents wonder if Scotland would be able to be financially independent if they cut these subventions.

The objectives of 2014

2014 will be a year of challenges for Scotland.: Commonwealth games, 700th anniversary of the victory over the British troops of Edward II at the Battle of Bannockburn and of course the independence referendum.

If the Scots vote Yes in favor of independence, what will happen to Scotland?

The Scottish Parliament is currently managing the issues on education, health care, environment and justice, but matters relative to foreign policies are still responsibility of the Britannic government. “Since 1999, Scotland took a different path than the rest of Britain and we want every political decisions concerning Scotland to be taken by the Members of Scottish Parliament”, says Christian Allard.

Even if the new State aims to keep the pound Sterling (even if it prints its own banknotes) and Elizabeth II as sovereign, the government is willing to remove itself from the British nuclear program. According to Christian Allard, “ the nuclear submarines' base is located 40 kilometers away from Glasgow, that is the biggest most populated Scottish city and the third urban area of Great Britain”.

Scotland might be independent but will remain European. With one of the oldest flag of Europe, the region remains an integral part of Europe. “The European Union is the union of European peoples, we are the Europeans of Scotland”, added the leader of the SNP.

Christian Allard emphasized that the organization of the referendum is “an opportunity not to be missed, an opportunity for those who live and work in Scotland, an opportunity for our children and great children, an opportunity for the future generation to live in a wealthy country, inequality free and supported by the confidence of a sovereign people”.
Sean Connery summarized quite well the Scottish speciality: “Scotland shall get back its status of independent nation, not because it is different but just because it is similar to any other rich country in Europe.”

Translated by Ophélie Vernerey