Scotland 2012: we’re 2 years from a referendum that presents the most important vote its people are ever likely to make – should Scotland be independent like most world countries or should we remain in the UK political union that sees Westminster control our government? On the implications of Scottish independence I’m happy to do a bit of research to answer questions that people may have…
Questions such as, what does this vote mean? It is so fundamentally different to any choice that we’ve ever been presented with before that some help is needed. You’d think it was a dream scenario for Scottish journalism and an opportunity to reverse the recent industry decline: the chance to present the options, analyse the implications and debate the merits of the potential solution. Instead, they seem determined to report meaningless polls and remain focussed on personalities (mostly Salmond since they know he’s loved and hated in almost equal measure).
To look at change, we have to look at what happens just now? Council tax aside, all of our taxes go to Westminster – for most people that is ~30% of your salary, ~60% of your petrol (http://www.petrolprices.com/the-price-of-fuel.html), 20% of anything that you buy in the shop, 35% of what you pay for a pint (http://www.camra.org.uk/beertax) and so on. Business gets taxed as well – take Scottish whisky industry for example, the UK (Westminster) gets ~£3.9 billion each year (http://www.scottishreview.net/DonaldBlair14.shtml?utm_source=Sign-Up.to&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=275934-We+should+resist+this+man%27s+bleak+vision+for+Scotland). Across the UK this builds a big pot, with David Cameron & George Osborne or the equivalents of the day getting ~£650,000,000,000 to spend each year. Can you actually imagine divvying up such a sum? Is it any wonder that politicians with such an intangible budget quickly morph into megalomaniacs who ‘plan wars’ and build Weapons of Mass Destruction?
Once the self-indulgence is done and dusted, the Scottish Government gets ~£30 billion to spend on health, education, policing, providing extra funding to councils, and some infrastructure / business investments. There are a few of these policies where Westminster has responsibility for Scotland as well, creating an unclear overlap, so it is quite hard to know who is responsible for what.
Roughly another £33 billion of UK spending comes to Scotland (£63 billion in total) – which accounts for the various benefits (pensions, sick pay, paternity pay, unemployment pay) & a proportion of ‘defence’ spending.
So, what does this vote mean? The decision is whether we keep the complex structure that we have just now, with a UK government completely unaccountable to the people of Scotland. The alternative – the Yes vote for independence – is to have all of our taxes going to a Scottish government, and then the people who decide on how to spend that money become accountable politicians. Effectively we are voting for democracy – independence will allow the people of Scotland to decide on the government and how they run the country. Our alternative is to just keep hoping that things will work out for us elsewhere. In Westminster we trust? I think not.