Scottish independence: 10 reasons for Yes and No

Rachel Grant on Yes We Can beat Carol Bartley on Neigh Thanks in the Ladbrokes Referendum Race at Musselburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow

Rachel Grant on Yes We Can beat Carol Bartley on Neigh Thanks in the Ladbrokes Referendum Race at Musselburgh. Picture: Jane Barlow

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IT’S less than 48 hours to go until the polls open – and some people have still not made up their mind on how to vote in the independence referendum.

With the clock ticking, the Evening News has distilled some of the key arguments on each side.

TEN REASONS FOR YES

1. Decisions about Scotland are best made by the people who live here

The Yes campaign says the fundamental issue in the referendum is not about nationalism or the economy, but democracy. Governments formed at Westminster often do not reflect the majority vote in Scotland. With independence, Scotland would always get the government it voted for.

2. Scotland can be a successful country in its own right

The Scottish Government says statistics show an independent Scotland would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Spending per head in Scotland may be higher than the rest of the UK, but so is Scotland’s tax contribution. Independence is not an end in itself, says the Scottish Government. It says prosperity and fairness are at the heart of the case for independence. It argues controversial policies such as the bedroom tax would not have been allowed if Scotland was in charge.

3. An independent Scotland would make decisions that reflected Scottish priorities

Devolution has allowed Scotland to follow its own direction in areas such as health end education. Independence would mean that ability to choose a distinctive approach was extended to all aspects of policy.

4. Independence would be a declaration of confidence in ourselves and our nation

The Scottish Government claims independence would release a period of energy, ­effort and ambition with the power to realise people’s hopes and expectations and transform the country.

5. Scotland could set its own welfare priorities

At the moment, Scotland is tied into welfare reforms pursued by the UK government. Under independence Scotland could tailor the welfare system to suit its needs and priorities. The SNP has pledged to halt current UK reforms and create a fairer system.

6. Scotland could get rid of Trident

Banishing nuclear weapons from Scottish soil is a clear commitment from the SNP. Critics say moving the submarines to England will make little difference, but anti-nuclear campaigners believe Scotland’s refusal to house them could be the catalyst for deciding against renewal of the weapons. It would also save money.

7. Scotland would not get dragged into illegal wars

The SNP says with control of its own armed forces, an independent Scotland would never become involved in “illegal” wars or invasions of other countries like Iraq. The SNP proposes to spend less money on defence, focusing on maritime capabilities, such as air and sea-based patrols, and a military totalling 15,000 regular and 5000 reserve personnel.

8. North Sea oil revenues would be put to good use

Up until now, tax revenue from North Sea oil has gone to the UK Treasury and been used for general expenditure. The SNP says it would set up an Energy Fund, both to bring stability when oil prices fluctuate, and for ­investment to ensure future generations also benefit from oil and gas reserves.

9. Scotland could adopt a different immigration policy

Scotland needs an increase in the working population to balance the growing number of older people. Campaigners also argue it is losing out on overseas students because of the tough line on immigration from the UK government. Under independence, Scotland could adopt an immigration policy more suited to the country’s needs, including a return to the Fresh Talent initiative introduced by Labour’s Jack McConnell, allowing overseas graduates to stay on and work here for a couple of years once their studies were over.

10. Scotland will continue to have good relationships with England, Wales and Northern Ireland but on a more equal basis

Independence campaigners say many aspects of the current social union, including family, history, culture and language, will continue to flourish and strengthen.

TEN REASONS FOR NO

1. The UK is a successful union dating back 300 years

Scotland has taken part alongside the rest of the UK in building an empire, fighting two world wars and more.

2. Being part of the UK offers more economic security

Better Together argues the integrated UK economy means risks are pooled and opportunities shared within a home market inside one of the world’s largest economies. It offers a single market and barrier-free trade which has secured investment and trade.

3. Jobs could be lost

Edinburgh is recognised as a major centre for the financial services industry, but Better Together says independence would mean separate tax and regulatory regimes which could see banks and finance moving operations south of the Border, leading to serious job losses.

4. Major projects could be frozen

Uncertainty following a Yes vote could mean proposed ­developments are put on hold, as investors hesitate to ­commit amid fears of higher costs and a flight of capital. 
Anti-independence campaigners say Scotland would face higher interest rates for borrowing, deterring would-be developers.

5. Prices could rise

Anti-independence campaigners quote warnings from big retailers such as Asda and John Lewis that higher trading costs in Scotland could be passed on in higher prices. However, Tesco played down the claims, saying they were “entirely speculative”.

6. Scotland benefits from UK research funding

Much pioneering medical and science research in Scotland is backed with funding from UK research councils and charities. Indeed Scotland currently wins a disproportionate share of such finding. Anti-independence campaigners say that could be at risk, shrinking Scotland’s research ­community.

7. No-one knows what currency Scotland would use

Better Together insists there will be no currency union between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK, despite the SNP’s claim this will be the “common sense” deal arrived at after a Yes vote. Even if there was a currency union, it would mean Scotland’s economic policy being decided in London rather than Edinburgh, the pro-UK camp adds.

8. Scotland would have less influence in the world

The UK has a permanent place on the United Nations security council and is one of the largest member states in the European Union. Anti-independence campaigners say an independent Scotland would inevitably hold less sway. They question whether an independence Scotland would be accepted into Nato and say membership of the EU would only come with strict ­conditions.

9. The BBC should not be put at risk

Anti-independence campaigners say a Yes vote would mean breaking up the BBC, which they say is the best public broadcasting service in the world and vital to sustaining a common culture and identity.

They say that it also offers a range of information and ­entertainment at least ten times wider than what Scotland could hope to produce alone.

10. Security is better handled on a UK-wide basis

Better Together argue that sharing an island makes, it makes obvious sense for Scotland to share its defence with the rest of the UK.

It says the first task of an independent Scotland would be to form a close military alliance with its nearest neighbour and points out the UK has world-class intelligence and security services, with expertise and technology Scotland alone could not hope to replicate.

iswanson@edinburghnews.com