You’ve got to have balls of steel (figuratively) to be one of the three Falkland Islanders who voted against remaining a part of the United Kingdom in a referendum earlier this month. How they could look the 1,517 yes-voters in the eye I do not know… Maybe they can’t, which would explain why they ticked the wrong box.
The Falkland’s referendum was a blatant political statement, but it’s not the only one catching headlines at the moment. It was announced today that Thursday 18 December next year is the moment of truth for Scotland: to stay in the UK, or to leave it.
For the first time, young Scots aged between 16 and 18 will be give the opportunity to vote ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to the question: “Should Scotland become an independent county?” Alex Salmond, Scotland’s first minister, is a slippery fish on this one. He campaigned to allow young people the vote, but more because leaving the UK is a popular idea among Scottish youth than because he believes in their mental faculties. Although if you’ve ever seen Are You Smarter than a 10 Year Old on TV or watched this YouTube video, you’ll know that it’s not the intelligence of young people we have to worry about…
Salmond still has a battle to come – a majority of Scots still want to be part of the UK. But the gap between the yays and nays is narrowing. My view on this is clear: if a majority of Scots want to leave the UK, they should absolutely have the right to do so. I cannot put a figure on how important it is for Scots to think of themselves as their own country, but I can help unpack the three most important points.
Show me the Money
Oil and gas. Most of the UK’s oil supply is actually in Scottish waters. An independent Scotland could cash in on that and Salmond’s Scottish National Party believes there will be a big “boom” in the North Sea (economically, obviously). The independent Office for Budget Responsibility disagrees. A boom sounds good (and is) but the problem is what to do when the oil runs out. There are about 24bn barrels left in Scottish waters, which may last about another 40 years. When the wells run dry, Scotland will have to find something else to take the place of the black gold which comprises 18 per cent of its national income every year.
Then there’s the debate about how much Scotland contributes to the UK’s coffers compared to how much it takes. Let me solve this one for you: it’s pretty much the same. Again, the big danger here is unforseen….let me leave the economic case with this point: the Royal Bank of Scotland was bailed out by the British taxpayer in 2008. At its peak, the company was worth 13 times all Scottish wealth.
He Said She Said
Many pro-independence fans say that the Scottish parliament (Holyrood) should have more power to make decisions about its own country. The Scottish parliament has an excellent summary of what powers they have and don’t have. Essentially, they can’t change stuff that affects the whole UK, like immigration and foreign policy. Housing, education, health, police, roads etc are all under Scottish control, which are arguably the things that really make the difference to people’s lives. This argument really comes down to who you think will do a better job. But…seeing as Scotland and the rest of the UK (sorry Northern Ireland, you are the exception) are attached, things like immigration and defence really are a landmass thing anyway.
The Stronger Voice
The third and final point I want to touch on is diplomacy. Whatever you think of the European Union, negotiating with it and the rest of the world is as important as that last wee before bed – you just won’t sleep right unless it’s done. The rest of Europe thinks that Europe is important and an agenda is better pressed in foreign diplomacy when you can put your economy where your mouth is – the bigger bet the better. Together, we have a stronger voice.
I know this is a contentious issue. People will probably abuse me in the comments section below. But the same reason I took the restrictions off the comments box is the same reason I think a referendum is a good idea: people have the right to say what they think.
The flag won’t look so good if Scotland leaves, though.
Bottom line: Vote with your head, not your heart.