Scottish Independence: Yes Scotland’s interesting take on reality

Robbie Travers – Executive Director

If you are fortunate enough to live in Scotland, then over the past few weeks you will have noticed the mass deployment of advertisement for both Better Together and Yes Scotland. It has now reached the point that there are very few places to go to escape from the increasingly nauseating, ubiquitous and all-encompassing referendum debate.

Working in the international field, and being naturally a political person, sometimes it’s nice to turn my phones, laptops, computers and tablets off and escape the world of politics, economics and international relations every so often. However, I was sitting in the cinema, relaxing, when adverts for both sides of the independence debate suddenly appeared. I was genuinely frustrated that I couldn’t escape the debate, however the Yes Scotland advert was the last straw and it truly enraged me.

Yes? Our Director doesn’t think so: he predicts a 8% win for No.

It’s worth watching this video, which can be found here, before I begin the substance of this article.

Why? Because, it’s highly problematic, it’s factually incorrect and it paints an incredibly dangerous and unrealistic picture of many aspects of the world we live in. However, I call it a Yes Scotland broadcast with some hesitance, because it is the same broadcast used by the SNP for the European Elections. While many people dogmatically insist that Independence is “more than the SNP,” I think it’s somewhat telling that the campaign cannot think beyond the SNP version of independence. While the SNP version is the majority of Yes Scotland members’ preferred version of independence, it is also nowhere near the only version, with the Greens and the SSP offering other, and despite my opposition to independence, admittedly more credible alternatives that seem to be more aspirational and coherent.

So I decided to show people why the SNP/Yes Scotland advert, while well filmed and cleverly conceived, is ultimately flawed and brings little to the debate other than continuing Yes Scotland’s high levels of sophistry that will win the Yes Scotland side some support, undoubtedly, but at the price of policies that are little more than a façade for a lack of substantial thought or consideration.

First, we see a baby girl called Kirsty, who asks important questions about Scotland’s future:

Will I grow up in a Scotland that’s fairer, that’s more prosperous and where I can reach my full potential?

But yet, we are only told that voting Yes is the solution, we aren’t told how voting Yes will make Scotland a fairer country, we aren’t told how voting Yes will make Scotland more prosperous and we aren’t told how Kirsty will reach her full potential in an independent Scotland. However, let’s examine this fairer, more prosperous Scotland that Kirsty will grow up in. How will they achieve there aims? Well, the SNP have systematically said that an

independent Scotland would have more spending power,

But I think this claim can easily be disproven, look at the Institute of Fiscal Studies report on the viability of independence and it prints a stark conclusion that:

an Independent Scotland would face choice of tax rises or deep cuts

there is no avoiding that Scotland would have to make cuts of around 6.2% to its budgets across the board, which may fluctuate, or raise taxes by 9.1%, which may again fluctuate – neither of which are appealing to an electorate, or economically attractive prospects.

So, to make a country fairer and more prosperous you would need to have the spending power to do so, as most accept, however where are we going to get our money from? That’s another important question and one many answer with oil. Many people will be surprised that I accept this analysis, however what I do not accept is that all our money will come from oil and that an Independent Scotland will have no need to borrow as we will be in a “surplus.” Even countries that were in a surplus, like Norway, needed to borrow, it’s simply an economic reality. So, how would Scotland be more fairer and more prosperous if every financial ratings authority on the planet downgraded us. This isn’t hypothetical, but it is likely that Scotland will end up downgraded simply because as a new country it is an unknown element and credit agencies have little records of how an independent Scotland does or would pay its costs for borrowing and how likely it is to pay back its borrowing. I’m not suggesting that Scotland wouldn’t pay back its debts, I’m not trying to say Scotland wouldn’t be able to pay back a vast majority, I think it’s essential however, to point out that according to major financial ratings services, our credit rating would be downgraded significantly.

Scotland would be downgraded, says Moody’s

It’s important to stress that this economic downgrade isn’t just a badge of honour, as it is often portrayed in the press, but it also has serious repercussions for the potential Scottish economy. Moody’s point out that effects on Scotland would be significant, but not fatal:

Scotland’s downgrade wouldn’t be catastrophic, but it would lead to borrowing costs being higher by a minimum of 0.25-0.45%, and that’s if Scotland manages to attain an A rating.

It’s important to place what our borrowing costs would be as relative to another country, our record and costs would be just above Botswana, according to Moody’s. Moody’s aren’t alone, Fitch also said that Scotland regaining the current triple A status that it enjoys in the UK would be a distant prospect

I’m sorry, Kirsty, (back to the little girl in the Yes Scotland video), the UK may have many problems around inequality, and I would be the first to say their needs to be a concerted effort to fix them, but an independent Scotland alone won’t solve your problems, nor will it be a fairer or more prosperous society.

Kirsty also asks some other important questions: she asks whether

it will be a Scotland where education is free for all, or a United Kingdom where privilege rules?

But I’m afraid, this is misrepresentation of Scottish Education system both currently and as the SNP would plan to have it because education isn’t free for all. English students and beyond currently have to pay for the privilege of being educated in Scotland if they haven’t lived here for three years and Mr Salmond knows it would be economically unsustainable for the SNP to promise this, so his Scotland wouldn’t include free education for all. Actually, it wouldn’t be free for English, Northern Irish or Welsh students, but it would be free for EU students, something which the EU, UK, Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies and many legal experts have declared as

illegal and discriminatory as Mr Salmond, regardless of Scotland’s place in or outside the EU, would be breaching the law by having certain groups of EU students pay more than others.

Does this sound like a fairer, more prosperous Scotland in which you can reach your full potential, Kirsty? It seems more like potentially a Scotland profiteering by discriminating against different types of EU students and it seems to be an ill-thought through policy.

Penultimately, Kirsty asks the serious question, one which most interests me: whether her nation will be a

cheery nation, which will stand proudly alongside all other nations?

All other nations, Kirsty? I don’t think that is a policy that Scotland can afford to pursue. Would you have Scotland stand proudly beside the authoritarian regimes of North Korea, Belarus, Iran, Sudan, Russia and China, but to name a few? The current global and international strategy is to isolate regimes like Russia, yet we already know that Salmond, de facto leader of the Yes campaign claims that he

admires Putin’s restoration of national pride.

Look at how Putin has restored the national pride of Russia, by defying a United Nations resolution enshrining the territorial sovereignty of Ukraine by annexing the Crimea, countlessly breaking international territory agreements and law by having Russian Airforce make incursions into Ukrainian airspace and escalating the conflict by amassing troops on the Ukrainian border, which has since been removed.

However, by far the worst part of this broadcast is when Kirsty accuses the UK of engaging in “illegal wars”, with pictures of Tony Blair obviously being shown, because Yes Scotland aren’t quite brave enough to directly accuse Blair of war crimes. I presume that Kirsty has missed out on the key facts surrounding the legality of the Iraq war, but that’s unsurprising when one reads the UK press. Iraq was legal in three simple ways that make a conflict legal, the first is events in the UK parliament: the motion to engage in a war with Iraq was passed by 412 to 149 votes, a clear majority. Therefore, Blair had a clear legal mandate to begin UK engagement with the conflict in Iraq. Again, consider that United Nations resolutions that Sadam didn’t comply with 678, 687 and 1441 all justify Blair’s actions, as they all allowed for “serious consequences “enforced “by member states.” You may disagree that Iraq was ethically the right thing to do, but calling it illegal and alluding to Blair being a war criminal is simply ridiculous. While the SNP say that the people of Scotland didn’t want a war, this is historical revisionism, as the majority of Scottish MPs voted for the Iraq invasion. I don’t know Kirsty, it seems that the version of Scotland you would desire backs significant breakages in international law regarding Russia, yet would brand a clearly legal conflict, illegal.

And one final note, Kirsty alleges that

decisions are made for Scotland by governments that we didn’t even vote for

That’s simply wrong. Scotland voted in the 2010 general election, and more people voted for Conservatives and Liberal Democrats than voted for SNP, and a fair majority voted Labour, so we did vote for the government of the day, it just might not suit the Yes Scotland agenda of “Scotland being oppressed by Westminister.”

Overall, I know what side I will be voting for in September, but I do empathise with Yes Scotland and some of their campaigns. However, I think that as they gradually become more aggressive and more condemnatory, they begin to lose their renowned positivity. The Yes Scotland campaign used to represent positivity, and that was something that I didn’t think Better Together could match, but it seems that behind their positivity was nothing but empty promises and behind their negativity lies the intent to gain votes from sophistry.

I for one, am not impressed.

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