As the referendum for Scottish independence draws ever nearer, what sort of impact a â€˜yesâ€™ vote would have on Scotland and Europe is still very much unclear. Joe Sutherland investigates
A protester in a panda suit makes an unusual demonstration. (MĂ rtainn MacDhĂ˛mhnaill)
“A CHANCE TO INVENT SOMETHING NEW”
believe in a representative democracy where the parliament works for the people, not the other way around. Westminster has failed everyone across the United Kingdom equally. Here in Scotland we have a chance to invent something new that does what it is supposed to do.” Aberdeen-based Ste- by the people with the greatest stake in vie Kearney may soon getting them right—the people of Scotget that chance. Scot- land,” says Ian Hudghton, a Member of land is preparing to the European Parliament for the SNP. make arguably its big- “In practical terms, that would mean gest decision in over an end to situations where policies can 300 years this autumn. be imposed on Scotland by Westminster Currently one of the despite a majority of Scottish MPs votfour countries that ing against [them].” make up the United Kingdom, Scot“In the European context it would land’s five and a half million people mean Scotland would be able to speak will go to the polls on September 18 to with our own voice and build our own answer just one question: “Should Scot- positive relationships with our Europeland be an independent country?” an neighbours, instead of being repreIndependence has been serious on the sented by a Westminster government minds of Scots since devolution became more interested in anti-European posa reality almost two decades ago. A pos- turing than securing results for Scotitive result in a 1997 referendum, con- land.” doned by the ruling party in the United “It’s not something I really want to Kingdom, the Labour Party. contemplate,” said Christine Jardine, The new Scottish Parliament was first Liberal Democrat MEP candidate, beelected two years later, and had the fore the European Parliament elections power to change income tax rates with- in May. “For me, it’s not the best future in Scotland separately from the rest of for Scotland.” the UK. “I know we could be independent, but With the rise in popularity for the for me it’d be much better to stay within Scottish National Party becoming in- the UK, build up the Scottish Parliament creasingly apparent, the party made in- with more powers and move towards dependence a major part of their 2007 the more federal state that [the Liberelection campaign’s manifesto. The bet al Democrats have] always wanted. A paid off—the campaign was successful ‘yes’ would mean complete uncertainty. and the SNP became the largest political None of us actually know what it would player in Scottish politics. Their minor- mean.” ity was supported by the two-member The Guardian’s Michael White argued Scottish Green party, and they quickly Alex Salmond’s brand of politics “rebegan to outline plans for a referendum. duce[d] complex issues to the simpliciThe plans however failed to secure op- ty of the national dimension”. Possibly position support, and were abandoned to be expected as a nationalist party, at just two years later. least in name, though it could be argued The 2011 general election in Scotland that patriotism is being used liberally as saw the SNP gather enough seats for a trump card in the buildup to the vote. a majority in the Scottish Parliament. “I don’t think [pro-independence Again, leader Alex Salmond stressed his campaigners] are being blinded by anyparty’s desire for a referendum, which thing,” Jardine says. “I’m sure they feel was, after several challenges by West- very strongly. I can accept that people minster, allowed to take place. The Ed- think that independence is the best inburgh Agreement, signed by various way ahead, I just don’t agree agree with parties in Scotland’s capital in October them. I hear the arguments but for me 2012, outlined the legal requirements they don’t stack up. for such a referendum. The date, 18 “For me, [independence gives] smallSeptember 2014, was confirmed by Roy- er benefits, but I would have to give up al Assent in 2013, and a thorough white much bigger benefits that I really don’t paper on independence plans was pub- want to lose.” lished in due course. The SNP, along with the Scottish “A ‘yes’ vote for an independent Scot- Greens, are the only parties in Scotland land would fundamentally mean that advocating for independence. “We are, decisions affecting Scotland are made in essence, the ‘no’ campaign,” said Ian
Duncan MEP, speaking in advance of the European Parliament elections in which he was elected as the sole representative of the Scottish Conservatives. “Part of that is to negate what I would call half-truths, or untested propositions lacking evidence put forward by the ‘yes’ campaign.” The Scottish public has been divided by the debate. Opinion polls from various sources consistently suggest a tight vote, getting ever tighter as the ‘yes’ camp attracts more support. Despite the gap narrowing, the opposition has almost always come out on top. Masters student at the University of Saint Andrews, Hannah Kunzlik, finds it difficult to tell what is idealism and what is actually on the cards as an independent state. “I frankly don’t believe a lot of the stuff the ‘yes’ camp comes out with,” she says. “I know that there are exaggerations and ‘scare-mongering’ on both sides— each side of any ideological conflict has its own propaganda—but I can’t bring myself to support a cause that outright lies about so much.” “We spoke to the EU—EU says you didn’t. We spoke to the Bank of England—no, you didn’t. It’s one thing to say ‘this is our ideal plan and we are seeking to discuss it with the relevant parties’, and another thing to lie about these talks. Utter lies.” “I’m optimistic about the prospect of federalism in the UK,” says Macleod Stephen, director at the Auld Stag Theatre in Aberdeen. “We can govern ourselves but with the benefits that the UK provides in terms of economic security, defence, trade, and general standing on a world stage.” “Even if this is a distant eventuality, the finality of independence closes the door on that opportunity forever, and I do not want to compromise the chance of a better solution just because the current situation isn’t perfect. Independence is a snap reaction to disillusionment with politics at the moment, and will have permanent consequences despite the temporary nature of the problems.” There are, however, a great many Scots preparing to vote ‘yes’ in September. Ross
Smith, a web developer from Aberdeen, says this referendum is a chance to reinvent the political system. “The current system is far too favourable towards the moneyed elite and its two-horse system,” he says. “I don’t see any change coming with such a disinterested populace that doesn’t like what’s happening, but who don’t want to change the status quo due to fear of the unknown. They promise us change over and over and we see nothing, they promise us meaningful devolution and don’t deliver, that’s not good enough for me.” “I’ve never shown more than a passing interest in regards to politics on the run up to each election, but this is something I’m definitely passionate about. I see it as the one opportunity that Scotland is going to have for decades to enact real change for our benefit.” Cover: Scots as young as 16 can vote in the referendum. (Neil Winton) Previous page: Much of the fighting has taken place in Holyrood in Edinburgh. (Dave Morris) Below: Greenzowie Photography Right: Salmond’s plans have divided the country. (Scottish Government)
REDDIT USER ‘MUZZ’
Redditor ‘Muzz’, a Scottish audio-visual technician now living in New Zealand, uses his situation to make his point. “I was a staunch Unionist until I moved away and discovered that it was just too difficult to be British and a Scot. England dominates all UK viewpoints overseas. Recognition and respect is very important and politically Scotland has as much respect and voice in the world as Narnia does. “I now live in a small independent country, with no oil, and our government is leaner, quicker, more responsive and people are more positive about it. It’s wonderful.” And Glasgow-based student Greg Stewart says a ‘yes’ vote is a chance for a new form of government. “I, like many other Scots, don’t feel fairly represented at Westminster, partially due to the FPTP electoral system,” he says. “I feel like the majority of MPs prioritise self and corporate interest over that of their constituents and that the upcoming referendum is our only chance to change that.”
A CURRENCY AFFAIR
NO COMPLAINT... IS MORE COMMON THAN THAT OF A SCARCITY OF MONEY ...Or so wrote Scottish philosopher and economic ponderer Adam Smith. But some on the opposition side of the independence debate argue a scarcity of money is the last of an independent Scotland’s worries. The Scottish National Party, leading the charge for independence, insist a currency union is the best way forward for Scotland. This means Scotland would keep the pound sterling, currently the national currency of the United Kingdom, and use the same exchange rates. To the average Scot, nothing will change. Banks in Scotland already have the right to issue their own, Scotland-branded banknotes, a fact many a tourist will bemoan. It is thought that this approach is the most stable and the most sensible, since it means retaining the status quo: not fixing what isn’t broken. However, it isn’t quite that simple. Various parties on the opposition, including the ruling Conservatives, have been hesitant to allow Salmond’s vision of a currency union. Numerous speakers have effectively ruled out the prospect. Nick Clegg, leader of coalition partners the Liberal Democrats and deputy prime minister, said “the idea that Scotland can pull itself out of the UK but still enjoy the stability of being part of a wider currency union […] is simply not available. They cannot have their cake and eat it and remain part of the sterling currency union.” Members of the SNP have continually dismissed this as “scaremongering”, noting that a currency union would be the ideal solution for the United King-
dom as a whole. “A shared sterling area is in the best interests of both an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK,” says Ian Hudghton, a member of the European Parliament representing the SNP. “A report in the Guardian revealed that, in private, UK ministers agree there is a deal to be made on this issue,” he adds. “A union is our plan A because it is the best option for all concerned. We fully expect agreement to be reached on the issue once the bluff and bluster ends following a ‘yes’ vote in September.” Ian Duncan, who represents the Scottish Conservatives, condemned the use of “half-truths” by those supporting independence, particularly regarding the issue of currency. “The white paper asserts that a currency union will happen, and that I believe is flawed. The parties that will make up our government in the next election have all said it will not be so.” He also points out that a currency union is not just for Scotland to decide upon, but for the rest of the UK as well. “I have a strong suspicion that the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland wouldn’t simply accede to [a currency union] either. When confronted Left: The currency the Scottish National Party is fighting for. (William Warby)
THEY CANNOT HAVE THEIR CAKE AND EAT IT AND REMAIN PART OF STERLING NICK CLEGG by the proposition that there may need to be a referendum in the rest of the United Kingdom, they assert that there’s no need for that referendum, knowing full well what the answer to it would be.” Both sides of the independence debate are clearly at odds as to the viability of a currency union, but both seem to agree that joining the eurozone—which currently is composed of eighteen member states—is not an option. As it stands, twenty-six of the European Union member states, not including the United Kingdom and Denmark, are obliged to take up the currency once they meet criteria for doing so. Lithuania is currently the closest to joining
the euro, with the litas Above: Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg has ruled out a currency union. (Alex Folkes) scheduled to be replaced Opposite: A Scottish pound coin. But will this by the euro in 2015. Even exist after a ‘yes’ vote? (Tristan Martin) Sweden, who have no Below: Images Money plans to join the euro, are obliged to under the Maastricht treaty. However, Scotland would need to have a currency pegged to the euro, through a process called the European Exchange Rate Mechanism, for at least two years before joining the eurozone. “We’re not eligible,” explains Alyn Smith, the second of Scotland’s two SNP MEPs. “You also have to have various debt levels which are within prescribed limits. To be fair,
HOW DO YOU JOIN THE EURO? New European member states are obliged to join once they meet the convergence criteria. The five criteria are macroeconomic indicators. They were defined in the Maastricht Treaty as: • Price stability, judged by proving inflation is within reasonable ranges • Sound public finances, to ensure there isn’t a sizeable government deficit • Sustainable public finances, generally by having a debt figure lower than 60 per cent of GDP
• Durability of convergence, by ensuring long-term interest rates are stable • Exchange rate stability, usually by participating in the ERM II for two years without incident
OUR OWN CURRENCY WOULD GIVE US FULL CONTROL CHAS BOOTH
many eurozone members aren’t actually eligible to join the euro, but the fact is it’s not an option anytime soon. “We’re not dogmatic, we’re not theological about any of this stuff. The clear and best option, that has been recommended by the independent experts who get this stuff better than any of us, is maintaining the sterling zone in a new arrangement with the Bank of England going forward.” The Scottish Greens have a rather more extreme vision of fiscal policy in an independent Scotland. They are so far the only party to advocate a standalone, totally new currency as an alter-
native to a currency union. This is perhaps the most risky and most expensive option for an independent Scotland, since it means essentially starting from scratch and building up financial trust from nothing. “The SNP Government may find itself playing a weak hand in negotiating the terms of a common currency arrangement if there is no plan B in readiness,” the party’s own document on independence states, “and we therefore call on the Scottish Government, at the very least, to begin exploratory work to determine the steps which would be necessary for the development of a Scottish
currency, in order that Scotland truly has the freedom to do so if and when it becomes an accepted necessity.” Chas Booth, who ran as a Green candidate in the recent European Parliament elections, says the SNP should be “more ambitious” with their plans for life after a ‘yes’ vote. “I think that we could be a lot more progressive,” says Booth, “for example, setting out plans for our own currency, which would give us full control over the fiscal levers that control our economy. If we want a fairer society, then the best way to do that is ensure that we have all the powers at our disposal.”
NORWAY A MODEL or
With a population figure similar to that of Scotland, and an economy based on roughly the same factors, Norway is consistently looked towards as an example of how an independent Scotland might operate. Though a European success story, Norway are not a member of the European Union, which is potentially a position Scotland could find itself in following a ‘yes’ vote in September. Norway has the highest Human Development Index on the planet, indicating a high standard of living for its five million citizens. Per capita, their economy is the world’s fourth-best, sitting at over $55,000 per person. Though sparsely populated, the country is sitting on a wealth of natural resources—and, like Scotland, has a large stake in crude oil extracted mostly from the North Sea to its west. Norwegians have twice voted against joining the EU. Referenda in both 1972 and 1994 resulted in ‘no’ votes each time, but they subsequently fought their way into numerous free trade agreements within Europe. They are a European Free Trade Association member, and pay dues to the EU to form a part of the European Economic Area. Norway is the fifth-largest importer of goods to the Union.
Though they have some level of representation in the various European bodies they are part of, there are a number of EU regulations relating to trade that they are required to follow. And since Norway have no representation within the European institutions, they have less of a say on the rules they need to follow than the twenty-eight member states do. George Lyon, a Member of the European Parliament (MEP) for the Liberal Democrats, argues that Norway’s position is not to be envied. “Norway is in the position of having to sign up to a substantial body of EU law without having any say on the way that these rules are drafted,” he says. “I do not think that would be right for the UK or right for Scotland.” “In terms of oil, of course Norway has a substantial oil fund and good public services—but it also has high taxation. Many within the SNP point to Norway as an example of the sort of public services they claim independence could deliver, but they then present a prospectus that claims this could be achieved with no increases to personal tax and cuts to businesses rates. Their sums simply do not add up.” Conservative MEP Ian Duncan agrees.
He notes that while Norway is not technically a member of the EU, they are still forced to abide by many of its regulations in order to trade with member states. “Norway’s biggest challenge right now is it has to be fully compliant with the acquis communautaire,” he says. “So the very trade laws that bind us also bind Norway. Up to 70 per cent of the laws in this area are simply adoptions of European laws driven and determined without any involvement of Norway. That means they are bound by it, but have no influence over it—and that, to me, is daft.” “If you follow the commentary from the Norwegian government, they know the people will not in a referendum support membership, and they also upfront say ‘here’s why it would be a benefit to us as a trading nation with ambition’. So Norway is a curious example of a semi-detached relationship with Europe, but none-the-less a fully-fledged member of all the laws of Europe.” Norwegian opposition to EU membership was based mostly on feared loss of sovereignty—something their ally Denmark clearly has in mind given their currency opt-out. The opposition also argued Norway’s dependence on oil and
fish for income was in contrast to the more industrial economies in the union. By not being a member of the EU, Norway has a bye on certain aspects of EU law that would impact on several key Norwegian industries and cultures—for instance, farming, fishing, tax, foreign affairs and justice policy. “By [choosing not to join the EU], Norway more-or-less protected its fisheries from any interference by the Common Fisheries Policy and Brussels,” Duncan explains. “Norway had a vibrant fishing community and industry and we’re only now managing to recover and restore it—in spite of the EU, not because of it.” Duncan also notes that the SNP has, historically, been anti-European. He argues this generational split could rear its head following the referendum in September. “I think Scotland’s biggest risk right now is… how welcome would
“NORWAY ESSENTIALLY PROTECTED ITS FISHERIES FROM EUROPE” IAN DUNCAN
Previous page: Many have pointed to Norway as an example of prosperity outwith the EU. (Espen Feilberg) Below: Alesund is one of the many Norwegian communities that depends on fishing. (Iulian Gheorghita) Opposite: President of the European Commission, José Manuel Barroso, claimed it would be “extremely difficult” for Scotland to join. (European People’s Party)
Scotland be? The assertions from the SNP side are ‘we’re energy rich, wind rich, resource rich, so how could they not want us?’. The answer’s very simple: in certain countries, a separatist movement with an easy admission to the EU would create instability.” If Scotland were to become independent, membership of the EU is unlikely to be automatic. José Manuel Barroso said earlier this year that it would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for Scotland to join the Union immediately, comments that were however rebuffed by former European Commission director general Jim Currie. The question of whether an independent Scotland would be immediately allowed into the Union is hotly debated between sides— and since there is no precedent for this situation, the waters have been muddied further.
“It’s true that there is no precedent,” says Chas Booth, a former MEP candidate from the Scottish Greens, “however, we’ve heard quite strongly from a very senior advisor to Angela Merkel in Germany who has said that it’s effectively not a question. Of course Scotland would be a member of the EU, there would have to be negotiations on the terms of that continued membership, but none the less they can’t see any reason we’d cease to become a member.” “We’re an attractive prospect, the EU is lucky to have us. We have other options,” says Alyn Smith, MEP for Scotland, who represents the Scottish National Party. “Norway and Iceland do exist quite happily inside legally the EU, but they’re absolutely enmeshed with the European Economic Area and the various arrangements that we have. The Norwegian Academy of Sciences did
“WE’RE AN ATTRACTIVE PROSPECT; THE UNION IS LUCKY TO HAVE US” ALYN SMITH
a study concluding that Norway is actually considerably more enmeshed in the acquis communautaire than the UK is. “If we want to trade with the EU we are going to need to implement the EU’s standards and regulations and rules, because if we want to be part of the single market, which is a huge benefit, then we need to trade according to the weights and measures that are set in Brussels. I don’t think being outside the EU is a good option.” Smith also admitted there was no alternative plan to EU membership, since Scotland as a member state is his party’s vision of the best future. “I’ve less interest in talking Plan B when Plan A is our best estimate of the way forward. We have other options, but by far and away the best option is to remain in the EU as a new member state in our own right,” he says.
A RADICAL SOLUTION
Opposite: Protests, such as this one in Edinburgh, have been more frequent. (Phyllis Buchanan) Next page: The RIC has organised pro-socialism rallies in various Scottish cities. (Neil Winton)
Though the most widespread vision and the one that will be paraded before voters in the build up to the referendum, the Scottish National Party’s independence model is by no means the only one. In 2012, a new grassroots campaign for an independent Scotland came to be in Glasgow, called, fittingly, the Radical Independence Campaign. As the name suggests, the RIC advocates a radical form of independence, involving a great deal more changes to the fabric of Scottish society than the SNP is offering in their white paper. Some ideas are fundamental—such as the transformation of Scotland into “a modern republic for real democracy”—while some are shared with other left-leaning groups such as the Scottish Greens, the Scottish Socialists and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament.
They campaign heavily for a greener Scotland committed to ridding the country of Trident, a nuclear weapons system that is controversial because of its immense cost-to-use ratio. The RIC also wants a “social alternative to austerity and privatisation” in an independent Scotland. Duncan McCabe is a campaigner from the Dundee section of Radical Independence, which came to be at the very start of 2013. Since then, they have
campaigned vigorously for a ‘yes’ vote in Scotland’s fourth-largest city. However, he stresses the movement is just that, and likely will remain so for the foreseeable future. “We are a very loose and broad coalition of radical and progressive forces within Scottish political life,” he says. “Therefore it wouldn’t be right for the RIC to morph into a political party at some point. Having said that, in an independent Scotland there will be political realignment—the existing political parties may fissure, they may re-emerge in different guises. So there maybe is room for a radical left political party in Scotland as well but the people who want to do that will have to do that themselves.
It’s quite a subtle distinction, but a very important one.” The movement has support from independence-supporting parties, as can be expected. “Yes Scotland is a grassroots organisation involving members of many parties and political colours and has people who have never been involved in politics before,” explains Kevin Stewart, an SNP Member of the Scottish Parliament for Aberdeen Central. “RIC adds to the rainbow coalition that makes up the campaign for an independent Scotland.” “What we agree upon is that we first of all need a ‘yes’ vote if we are to then offer those visions for an independent Scotland to people at the Holyrood elections in 2016,” adds Ian Hudghton, SNP MEP for Scotland. One notable issue on which the SNP and the RIC differ is European Union membership. Though McCabe notes since movement does not have a manifesto, their position on Europe is not definite, as their supporters’ positions differ. He chaired a workshop on Europe last year in Glasgow, attended by over a hundred progressives from all over the continent. A straw poll found only four attendees thought the EU was “reformable as a body for radical change”. “You’ve got this position between what you might call reform or revolution within Europe,” he adds. “For most of us, Europe is a neoliberal institution now. For a long time, Europe somewhat defended its member states against the neoliberal globalisation agenda which was really pushed through in this part of the world through Britain, and through Thatcher.” He says the Radical Independence Campaign condemns how the Troika— the trio of the European Commission, the European Central Bank and the International Monetary fund which supplied bailout loans to various member states following the economic crisis— operates, in particular its use of austerity policies across southern Europe. The growing privatisation of public bodies and free trade deals being negotiated with the United States are other causes for concern. “It’s effectively opening up Europe to the multinationals in a big way,” he explains. “This is more likely to take Europe in the wrong direction, further down the neoliberal road. That’s the exact opposite of where we want to go.” For McCabe, a radical Scotland may be better off outside the EU. “I think
that an independent Scotland should be looking to make more links with the Nordic countries an possibly other countries around the periphery of Europe,” he says. “European policy, especially now with the monetary union in Europe, is really focused around the centre—the golden triangle of London, Brussels and Frankfurt. Policy is determined for them. “The policies don’t tend to work for the periphery, much in the same way as Westminster’s economic and fiscal policies are designed for the southeast of England’s economy rather than the Scottish or Welsh or northern England’s economy. The periphery is then dependent on handouts. We think that’s the wrong way around. Strong as sustainable local economies right across Europe should be what we’re looking for.” As far as the relationship that Scotland does have with the EU, McCabe concedes that it will be entirely in the SNP’s hands. There is a planned eighteen-month buffer period between September referendum and the final independence day, after which Scotland will in theory be entirely independent. It is in this period that Alex Salmond’s government will finalise various aspects of the separation from the United Kingdom—the European relationship being just one of them. “The eighteen months will be absolutely crucial. The [SNP’s] negotiations with the UK government and with the EU will be crucial in determining what sort of Scotland we’re all going to get as an independent country. I think it’s important, and I certainly that the SNP government listen not just to the statesmen and the bankers, but actually listen to the people and the grassroots, because they’re the people that independence is for.” The referendum, if nothing else, has seen people engaging in politics when they perhaps wouldn’t have before. It has triggered an emotive debate unlike anything the country has seen before. And this, argues McCabe, is pivotal. “We need to come together as a country,” he concludes, “to build a better society here. That’s what we all want, whether we’re ‘yes’ or ‘no’. We’re going to have to work together to achieve it—it won’t just happen. It’s too big for politicians, it needs ordinary people engaging with the political process. It’s not just about parties and voting, but what people do.”
IT’S NOT JUST ABOUT PARTIES
AND VOTING, BUT WHAT PEOPLE DO DUNCAN McCABE
SCOTLAND THE BRAVE TEXT AND LAYOUT Joe Sutherland • www.jossu.co.uk PHOTOGRAPHY Phyllis Buchanan, European People’s Party, Espen Feilberg, Alex Folkes, Images Money, Iulian Gheorghita, Greenzowie Photography, Tristan Martin, Màrtainn MacDhòmhnaill, Dave Morris, Scottish Government, William Warby, Neil Winton. Editing by Joe Sutherland. All photographs are licensed under various valid Creative Commons licenses and used under the restrictions of those licenses. All text released under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. More information: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-sa/4.0/ Europe in the World 2014 Danish School of Media and Journalism Olof Palmes Allé 11 8200 Aarhus N www.dmjx.dk