Scottish Independence: Ten key issues

The date is almost upon us, but have you decided how to vote yet? Pic: Jane Barlow
The date is almost upon us, but have you decided how to vote yet? Pic: Jane Barlow
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Have your say

After intense campaigning there are just three days left before Scotland casts a historic vote on the future of the country.

Despite the lengthy run-in however, there are still plenty of people unsure on just how they should vote.

Both sides of the argument are determined to gain as many votes as possible in the run-in, so here we take a look at where they stand on the key issues that have dominated the independence debate.

BETTER OR WORSE OFF?

YES: The Scottish Government says Scotland is a wealthy country. It says in each of the last 32 years, Scotland has contributed more tax per head of population than the UK as whole. And it says even without North Sea oil and gas, Scotland’s economic output is almost exactly the same per head as the rest of the UK. With oil and gas, it is almost one-fifth bigger.

NO: Better Together says Scotland benefits from being part of the UK because spending per head is higher here than in the UK as a whole. It claims leaving the UK could mean cuts in public services or tax rises.

CURRENCY

YES: The SNP says the best option is for Scotland to share the pound with the UK in a currency union. It claims the main UK parties are bluffing when they reject this and they would soon change their tune after a Yes vote. Alex Salmond refuses to say what his second choice would be, but the other possible options are using the pound without a formal agreement or setting up a new Scottish currency.

NO: The three UK parties have explicitly ruled out a currency union and say that means an independent Scotland would not have a central bank to safeguard its economy. They also argue a currency union would mean economic policy being decided in London rather than Edinburgh. They won’t say what they believe the best currency option would be for an independent Scotland.

EUROPE

YES: The Scottish Government says Scotland will be able to agree terms for continuing membership before independence takes effect, allowing a smooth transition. It says there is no way Scotland can be forced to join the euro. And it says staying in the UK carries the risk of Scotland being forced to leave the EU against its will if the Tories hold a referendum and the vote is to pull out.

NO: Better Together claim Scotland would face delays and hurdles in gaining membership of the EU as an independent country. It argues Scotland would lose many of the opt-outs which the UK has negotiated for itself and might have to sign up to the euro. And it warns that countries such as Spain and Belgium, which have their own independence-seeking areas, would not want to encourage new states.

PENSIONS

YES: The independence white paper promises that current pensioners will carry on receiving their pensions as now and all accrued rights will be honoured and protected. It also proposes a single-tier Scottish pension set at £160 per week – £1.10 a week higher than the UK – and says pensioners’ incomes would be protected with the triple lock, increasing by either inflation, earnings or 2.5 per cent, whichever is highest.

NO: Better Together says leaving the UK means leaving behind the UK pensions system. and claims there is “no plan how pensions and benefits would be paid” under independence.

FINANCIAL SERVICES

YES: Alex Salmond does not believe there will be an exodus of banks and finance firms. He says Edinburgh’s financial services sector will flourish under independence thanks to the skills and talents of the people employed there. He points out that even if a company does move its registered office to London, it is no more than a “brass plaque” and will not cost jobs.

NO: Alistair Darling believes there is a risk that finance companies who move their registered offices to London will also move key operations out of Edinburgh. He says most of them have a majority of their clients south of the border and an independent Scotland would mean different regulatory and tax regimes.

BORDER CONTROLS

YES: The Scottish Government says an independent Scotland would remain part of a Common Travel Area meaning there will be no border controls and no need for a passport to travel to other parts of the UK, Ireland, the Channel Islands or the Isle of Man.

NO: THE No campaign says if Scotland adopted a more liberal immigration policy there would have to be a Border control or people could arrive in Edinburgh and take the train straight down to London.

NORTH SEA OIL

YES: The SNP says there is estimated to be as much North Sea oil – by value – still to come as has already been extracted. The Scottish Government has pledged to establish two oil funds based on tax receipts from North Sea oil and gas – one “stabilisation” fund to soften the blow of any sudden collapse in oil revenues on public spending and a long-term savings fund for future investment.

NO: THE No campaign claims the SNP has overstated the amount of oil still left and says an independent Scotland would need all the tax revenue from North Sea oil to fund current spending. It also argues an independent Scotland’s economy would be more dependent on oil and therefore fluctuating prices would have more effect.

BBC

YES: The Nationalists say they would create a new public service broadcaster, the Scottish Broadcasting Service, based on the staff and assets of BBC Scotland and funded by the £320 million raised in licence fees in Scotland. It would negotiate a joint venture agreement to ensure all BBC services continue to be available in Scotland.

NO: Better Together claims breaking up the BBC could lead to higher licence fees and more adverts on TV. It has also claimed people may not be able to use the BBC iPlayer.

DEFENCE

YES: Yes Scotland says an independent country would be able to get rid of Trident nuclear weapons from the Clyde and refuse to get involved in “illegal” wars like Iraq. The SNP has also set out detailed plans for the maritime, air and land forces it believes an independent Scotland requires.

NO: Better Together says there are many defence jobs in Scotland and these would be at risk in an independent Scotland because the UK would not want to build warships and other equipment in a foreign country.

IMMIGRATION

YES: The SNP proposes a more flexible system which could include incentives to migrants who move to live and work in remoter geographical areas or have special skills which Scotland needs. It also complains the current system deters many valuable overseas students from coming to Scotland.

NO: Labour says it wants to see the Fresh Talent scheme – allowing overseas students to stay on a couple of years after graduation – to be reinstated. But the No camp also argues a more liberal immigration policy would be impracticable without border controls.