Pages tagged with "independence"

Ten reasons to be confident of independent Scotland's economic future

Scotland is at a crossroads - should it remain as a region of a stagnant, Brexit-bound UK economy - or step out confidently into an independent future? Last week the Scottish government published a report on how an independent Scotland can build a strong economy, one that is fairer, greener, stronger and considers the wellbeing of the nation as well as its economic growth potential. The report itself was barely covered by the Unionist media - who confined themselves to reporting on the press launch and trotting out the usual attack lines.  However, it has been well received by those who have actually read it. 

The report looks at how Scotland is performing at the moment; where are the barriers to growth and offers a road map for an independent future. Scotland starts from a position behind that of the UK - it has a lot of undeveloped potential; rejoining the EU will be a huge boost; and an independent Scotland can make the most of its natural and human resources. 

Here are some of the ways Scotland can build a better economic future for all. (Unless otherwise linked, facts and figures are drawn from the report.) 

1 Scotland’s economy is on an upward trajectory compared with the UK

When the Scottish Parliament was reconvened in 1999, Scotland’s economy was lagging behind England’s. Wages were lower, the productivity of Scottish workers was far below that of English workers, and there were few opportunities. In those days, the public sector was the biggest employer.

Now, the biggest employer is business services and finance, at almost 30%.  Scotland is the only part of the UK where productivity is increasing significantly. While productivity has barely changed in the UK, Scotland has gone from being 8% behind to just 2% behind. Average wages are also rising at a faster rate in Scotland and have come from a lower base to equal the UK average. Scotland is now one of the wealthiest parts of the UK, with the highest GDP per capita of any of the UK’s nations or regions, outside London and the South East.

Devolution has helped Scotland but there is still a long way to go. Westminster still controls most of the economic levers, and imposes policies that don't work for Scotland. Scotland and the UK are now falling behind EU countries in terms of average income, income inequality and the situation of the poorest in society. An independent Scotland could regain some of the ground lost since Brexit by focusing on a well-being socio-economic approach. 

2 Scotland already leads the UK in terms of green jobs and growth

The Green Growth Index by Oxford Economics, commissioned by the Lloyds Banking Group, places Scotland first in the UK for green economy opportunities. This reflects Scotland’s existing green industrial base with a growing number of green jobs and innovation activity, access to skills and training, and development of the renewable energy infrastructure. 

With independence, Scotland could make longer-term planning and investment decisions - ones that are no longer dependent on the ‘Barnett consequentials’ of ever-changing policies made by Westminster governments Scotland didn’t elect. 

3 Vibrant sectors include life sciences, space, and gaming

The professional, scientific, and technical activities sector is now the largest sector in Scotland in terms of the number of businesses, and is growing 1.5 times faster than the economy overall. 

Scotland has one of the biggest life sciences clusters in Europe with world-leading expertise in drug discovery, medical technologies and agri-tech.  Almost 20%  of all UK jobs in the space sector are based in Scotland. Scotland currently produces more small satellites than any other country in Europe.  Another strong area is gaming, centred on the Dundee video games cluster. These sectors are all international - they will benefit from Scotland rejoining the EU and the return of free movement. 

4 Scotland’s population is the most highly educated in Europe

Scotland has a higher share of the population aged 25 to 64 years with a tertiary (degree level) education than any country in the EU.  It stands 8 places higher than the UK in the table, reflecting a broad education, and greater equality of access than in the rest of the UK. The University sector will benefit from rejoining Erasmus which used to see thousands of Scots study abroad each year; and from rejoining Horizon, the world’s biggest science fund. 

5 Independent Scotland will be in a stronger economic position than as part of UK

The current assessment of Scotland’s financial position is called ‘GERS”. Unionists often say that it shows a deficit. About £75 billion in raised in total from tax in Scotland; and roughly £56 billion of that comes back to Holyrood. Westminster says it spends the remaining £19 billion, plus another £20bn or so, on Scotland’s behalf, on things like welfare, defence, and servicing the national debt, leaving a nominal ‘deficit’ of £20 billion. 

But this sum reflects the fact that the UK government controls policy and regulation. So for example, the UK chooses to tax oil and gas lightly at source - but to take in a lot of revenue at the petrol pump (£26bn), which is almost all tax raised in England. The pattern is repeated with other assets like whisky and renewable electricity.  Under independence, Scotland will control tax policy and can ensure it works to Scotland’s advantage rather than Westminster’s. 

6 Rejoining the EU will deliver massive benefits to trade

The economic opportunities for Scotland of re-joining the EU as a member state in her own right for the first time are potentially enormous. The EU is the largest single market in the world. The most recent available data, for 2019, shows that the value of Scotland’s manufactured goods exports to the EU and the rest of the world was £19 billion - almost double the value of exports to the rest of the United Kingdom - £11 billion. 

If Scotland can increase export levels to the same as other comparable high-performing countries, that will deliver a boost to prosperity and tax revenues. The top target countries for increasing exports are almost all within the European single market. 

7 independent Scotland will control immigration

Scotland's immigration needs are different from England’s. Scotland has an older population, particularly in the Highlands and Islands. In the Western Isles, the average age will soon reach 50, and the rest of the Highlands is not far behind. Scotland’s average age is 42. The shortage of younger workers is impacting the economy - there is just not the pool of people available that are needed by local businesses, health and social care and so on. 

Scotland’s population at the time of the Union in 1707, was about one-fifth of England and Wales’s. But today the figure is about one-twelfth of the overall UK population. Free movement will increase the pool of workers. Independent Scotland will also be able to set its own figures for things like the salary levels needed for a visa,  the number and cost of agricultural visas,  student work visas, and so on, at an appropriate level for Scotland’s needs. 

8 Independent Scotland will have one of the largest marine zones in Europe

As an independent member state of the EU, Scotland’s marine zone would be the fourth largest of EU member states’ core waters; larger, for example, than those of Ireland, France or Portugal.  These waters are not only significant geographically, but are also among the richest in the world in terms of fisheries, marine biodiversity, and offshore renewable energy potential.

9 Independent Scotland can make the most of vast renewable potential

Scotland’s renewable energy potential is vast. In 2021, Scotland generated enough renewable electricity to power all households in Scotland for three years, and exported electricity with an estimated wholesale market value of £2.4 billion. And in the coming decades the potential to create and export energy from onshore, and offshore wind, hydrogen, carbon capture, solar, pumped hydro is enormous.

Currently, the UK government and the privatised National Grid decide how energy is regulated, paid for and taxed. An independent Scotland could ensure the long-term affordability of electricity, as its offshore and onshore wind farms provide electricity at a lower cost than nuclear or gas power plants, which the UK relies on.

10 Independent Scotland will set up a £20 billion investment fund 

The report from the Scottish government sets out plans to take oil and gas and other windfall income out of day-to-day spending and instead invest it “for the long-term benefit of the Scottish people.” 

The aims of the “Building a New Scotland Fund” would be to enable the transition to net zero - it will be used, for example, to fund investment in insulating existing homes and to build new ones that are easier to heat. 


Scotland has so many reasons to benefit from independence. Scotland’s constitutional  choice has become much starker than it was in 2014. To stick with a chaotic, Brexit-bound, increasingly unequal UK suffering from a collapse in political governance and international credibility? Or set out on the path towards becoming more prosperous, sustainable and fairer, like most comparable European countries? 

We think most Scots will choose the latter. 

Further reading

Read “A Stronger Economy with Independence” report 

Independence lessons for Scotland from Jamaica

Clearly, there are no direct comparisons between the way Jamaica became part of the British Empire and Scotland. Many British businesses and individuals participated in the slave trade and huge profits were brought back. Scotland's participation in that trade has only recently begun to be acknowledged . Nevertheless, Scotland has strong links to Jamaica - both positive and negative. It is important to recognise these.  

A country with a population of under 3 million, Jamaica has a big influence, famous around the world for music, sport and food. Jamaica has serious economic and social issues to contend with, many of which are bound up with its complex history, but it has made remarkable progress on some of these in recent years - such as reducing infant mortality.  

Despite facing huge hurdles, Jamaica has been able to take on the challenges of governing itself. It has built a network of strong international relationships, particularly within the Organization of American States. Jamaica has made impressive progress in reducing uneployment and poverty rates while also tacking its high public debt thanks to the country's "Herculean efforts". 

Looking back at a connected past and forwards to its own independent future, Scotland can learn lessons from Jamaica’s example. 

Links between Scotland and Jamaica

Many people would assume that the country outside of Scotland with the highest percentage of Scottish surnames might be Canada or New Zealand, but it is in fact Jamaica. It has been said that up to 60% of names in the Jamaican telephone directory are Scottish in origin. The most common name is Campbell. 

Glasgow’s first Afro-Caribbean elected representative is SNP Councillor Graham Campbell, who represents Springburn and Robroyston. Councillor Campbell, a cultural producer, musician and dub poet, is a veteran political activist and as part of “Flag-Up Scotland-Jamaica” has worked to build awareness of the links between the two countries.  

As part of its commitment to reparative justice, the University of Glasgow has committed to raising and spending £20m on the Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Development Research, which is based jointly in Glasgow and Kingston.

One of the centre’s priorities is working to reduce the rates of diabetes type 2 and other chronic disease, which affects both Scotland and Jamaica. Another is supporting technological transformation of the economy.  This kind of partnership working can be a source of strength for both countries in the future.

Understanding and acknowledging the past 

Many Jamaicans got their names from slave owners and overseers, in Jamaica many were Scots. Some imposed their names; others fathered children with slaves - including some of Jamaica’s most celebrated radicals and anti-slavery campaigners.  But there were others such as the nurse Mary Seacole, whose father was a Scottish soldier stationed in Kingston and whose mother was a landlady.  

Scottish prisoners of war from both the Cromwellian wars and the Jacobite rebellions were exiled to Jamaica, as were some Covenanters. Many of these exiles were indentured servants working alongside slaves of African descent in the sugar plantations. At the end of the eighteenth century, Colonel John Campbell from Inverary left the failed Darien experiment and came to Jamaica where he had a large family, which initiated the spread of the Campbell name all over the island. 

Campaigner Sir Geoffrey Palmer, whose mother was a West Indian woman with the Scots name Lamond, wants Scotland to engage more openly with the legacy of slavery. He said:  "I think a lot of West Indians want to know about their Scottish heritage. Perhaps they can even take some pride in it. For a while, there was a movement towards dropping these names, but I think that would be to lose something real, a real record of our history."

One of Jamaica’s best-known anti-slavery campaigners was Robert Wedderburn. When Robert, whose mother was a slave, traveled to Scotland to visit his father James at Inveresk Lodge, he was turned away with a cracked sixpence. That was part of his journey to radicalism - he later became a prolific speechmaker, writer and protestor. 

Becoming independent

The island of Jamaica was first conquered by Spain in 1509 and then Britain in 1655. The island’s First People, the Taino, were of South American origin. They took refuge in the mountains where over time they were joined by escaped slaves, exiled Jacobites,  and other fugitives. They formed a multi-racial group of rebels called the Maroons. The well-known Jamaican dish ‘jerk chicken’ comes from Maroon cooking techniques of cooking meat in mounds to keep the smoke from giving away their position to British soldiers. 

The slave trade was abolished in 1807, but existing slaves were not freed. Slavery was finally ended in Jamaica in 1838. After that, the plantation system gradually collapsed - leaving much-needed agricultural land abandoned by its owners. 

The Morant Bay rebellion was sparked when a black man was arrested for ‘trespassing’ on a long-abandoned plantation. Its leaders included George William Gordon, the son of a Scottish planter and a slave woman, and Paul Bogle. They were both hanged by the British Governor. Jamaica’s Assembly was abolished and replaced as a Crown Colony where only the Governor had decision-making power. 

By the 1930s, dissatisfaction was growing. The economic depression led to economic hardship and there were riots. At this time, many Jamaicans were prevented from voting by poll tax requirements. Universal suffrage was not brought in until 1940. In the post-war period, the island began to pressure and prepare for self-government under unofficial leader Alexander Bustamante, who became the first Prime Minister. 

Between 1958 and 1962 most of the British-controlled Caribbean was integrated as the new West Indies Federation in an attempt to create a single unified future independent state. The West Indies Federation fell apart when the largest island, Jamaica, withdrew from the federation and declared itself independent in August 1962, closely followed by Trinidad and Tobago.

The Jamaican dollar

Jamaica started a central bank two years before independence. The Bank of Jamaica became the sole issuer of currency for the island and it continued to issue British pounds and shillings. Seven years after independence, in 1969, it moved to the Jamaican dollar. George William Gordon features on the $10 note.

The Jamaican flag

The only national flag apart from that of Scotland that includes the saltire is the flag of Jamaica. As the time of independence in 1962 approached, an initial design for the flag with three vertical stripes in green, black and gold was deemed unsatisfactory. A Presbyterian minister, Rev William McGhie, who had become a friend of the Prime Minister Alexander Bustamante, suggested that the national flag should reflect Jamaica’s status as a Christian country and have a cross in it. At Sir Alexander's request, he drew out the Scottish flag substituting the blue and white of Scotland with the green, black, and gold of Jamaica. This design was accepted and the Jamaican flag has become one of the best-known in the world.

The Jamaican National Dress includes vibrant reds and yellows and a plaid-like design. This red and white chequered costume is often called the bandana costume, which is a mixture of African kente and Scottish tartan. 


The links between Scotland and Jamaica go back a long way. Important figures in Jamaican history such as Robert Wedderburn and George William Gordon should be better known and studied in Scotland, the country which influenced their journeys to radicalism. Scotland is finally beginning to understand and acknowledge the part it played in the story of slavery. 

Jamaica is working to overcome the challenges linked to its complex past. Its people and culture are influential across the world. Jamaica has a wide network of international partnerships and Scotland should look to be part of that. 

As Scotland looks to its own independent future, it will be able to build stronger connections with Jamaica in the future, working together to confront shared issues. Glasgow University is showing the way, with the co-located Glasgow-Caribbean Centre for Developmental Research. 

Lessons From the Edinburgh Agreement that Westminster Forgot

NEXT WEEK the Supreme Court will adjudicate on the Scottish Parliament’s right to hold an independence referendum. The case comes almost exactly ten years after the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement, setting out the basis for a referendum on Scottish independence. 

Prime Minister David Cameron and the then Scottish Secretary Michael Moore met First Minister Alex Salmond and his deputy Nicola Sturgeon at St Andrew House in Edinburgh on October 15 2012 for a ceremonial signing of the document.

A breezily-confident Cameron stood in front of the Edinburgh skyline on that sunny autumn afternoon and told the assembled press that he was showing respect for the Scottish people and their decision to vote for a party with a manifesto commitment to a referendum.

The backdrop was that SNP had won a landslide victory in 2011’s Scottish general election. In response, the Conservative/ Liberal UK government published a consultation on “Scotland's Constitutional Future”. Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg wrote: 

"We will not stand in the way of a referendum on independence: the future of Scotland's place within the United Kingdom is for people in Scotland to vote on."

Here are three lessons for today’s situation from that historic event

1 Respecting the “Union of equals” was part of the UK’s case

Asked what he had got in return for giving Salmond control of both the date and who could vote in the poll, Cameron replied: "What we have is what I always wanted, which is one single question, not two questions, not devo max, a very simple single question that has to be put before the end of 2014, so we end the uncertainty.”

Ironically, Salmond and Sturgeon did not want a third question either. But saying they were prepared to accept one was part of their negotiations. Giving in gracefully was part of Cameron’s show of respect. (This however was revealed as sham when the day after the ‘No’ vote in 2014 he emerged from Downing Street to announce that Scottish MPs would henceforth be treated a second class, unable to vote on most domestic issues.*) 

Cameron’s view that the United Kingdom is a voluntary union of equals, established by the Treaty of Union of 1707,  is in contrast with the “muscular unionism” of the current Conservative government, which regards itself as having the right to rule over the Scottish people and deny a referendum indefinitely. 

Many Unionist commentators fear that this approach is unlikely to be a winning strategy in the long term, and could push support for independence even higher than it currently sits. Writing in the Spectator recently, Alex Massie argued

“The nationalists would love few things better than a British government determined to in some strange sense 'put Scotland in its place'. Nothing could further or more fully demonstrate the SNP’s belief that Scotland and Britain are no longer compatible entities.”  

2 The Labour Party tried to hold back the tide for too long

The backdrop to that moment in 2012 had actually been five years of negotiation. After the SNP became the largest party in Holyrood in 2007, the Labour Party misjudged the reaction to blocking a referendum on Scottish independence. Feeling that Scotland was being denied rights that the Labour Party trumpet for countries all around the world only made the calls grow stronger. 

In 2008, on BBC Scotland's Politics Show, Scottish Labour leader Wendy Alexander declared: “Bring it on”. Later, she clarified her position, saying she supported a referendum on Scottish independence if it also had a question on more powers for Holyrood, and if it happened before the end of the year.

Alexander believed a ‘No” vote would damage the SNP and lead to Labour regaining power in Scotland. She was certain that the middle option of more powers would win the ballot. Even in 2008, it was obvious that the trend showed support for independence rising -  so there was little point in waiting. 

Scotland’s Unionist establishment, including the Conservative and Liberal Democrats, were furious. Alexander was immediately denounced for “misjudgment and political naivety”. Leaks - possibly from within the Labour party machine - led to claims that donations had not been properly declared. Alexander resigned just a month later. Kicking the can down the road by refusing a referendum did not make the issue go away. Instead it laid the way for the landslide victory for the SNP in 2011. 

3 The current democratic mandate is stronger than 2011

The SNP went into the May 2011 Scottish election with the top line on the manifesto being a promise to legislate for a referendum on independence. The balance of support was such that they took 53 constituency seats but they still were able to gain 16 additional members on the regional lists. The upshot was that the SNP ended up with an overall majority of 69 out of 129 members in a system that was designed to make that all but impossible. 

They had 45% of the vote in the first, constituency voted, and 44% in the second. At that time, the Scottish Green Party was not signed up to a manifesto commitment to a referendum on independence and they got just 2% of the second vote and two seats. 

In 2021, the SNP got almost 48% of the first vote and won 62 constituency seats, ten more than in 2011. They had 40% of the second vote and won two of those seats. The Scottish Greens, who had by this time moved to supporting independence, got 8% of the second vote and eight seats, giving the independence movement 70 seats in total. 

The democratic basis for a referendum is even stronger than in 2011. The change in material circumstances caused by Brexit, which was imposed on Scotland against its democratic will as expressed in the 2016 referendum is another strong argument for a referendum. 

The baseline support for independence is far higher now than it was in 2012. An Ipsos Mori poll that week showed support for independence running at 28%.

The UK government now argues that it does not recognise Holyrood’s right to call a referendum on Scottish independence. That could backfire and increase support for independence.


For both sides, October 15, 2012, was the beginning of a campaign for hearts and minds. The ceremonial signing was not really necessary; they wanted to take the opportunity to set out their positions to the waiting media.

Blocking a referendum after the Scottish people elected a government with an independence-supporting majority would have been likely to backfire.

Agreeing on a democratic arrangement set a precedent that should apply a decade later when the mandate is even stronger. Now the UK government has abandoned this commitment - how will it make a positive case for the Union? 

* That policy known as EVEL - English Votes for English Laws - has now been rescinded but it doesn't much matter now - it was a successful attack on Labour in Scotland. SNP MPs don't vote on purely English matters. 

Five Reasons Why Scotland Has the Legal Right to Self-Determination

The UK Supreme Court in London is considering whether Scotland can have a referendum on its constitutional future.  The case will be heard in the Supreme Court on 11-12 October 2022. 

This week, lawyers acting on behalf of the Scottish National Party submitted a written case as to why the Scottish Government has the legal right to call a vote.   Here are five key points it makes. 

1 Scotland is a country within the UK

Scotland has a long history as a separate country. The laws of the UK recognise the UK is made up of four countries. When King Charles III acceded to the throne he had to make separate declarations in regard to Scotland. The written submission says: 

“The Union With England Act 1707 refers expressly to ‘the two kingdoms of Scotland and England’....the 1707 Act makes express provision for Scotland’s separate legal, educational, and ecclesiastical systems to remain separate from those of England.” 

Many recent laws, including the Scotland Act 2016, recognise Scotland as a separate entity within the UK. This section of the legal response concludes there is ample legal proof that: 

“The people of Scotland are ‘a people’ for the purposes of the right to self-determination.”

2 In Scotland, the people are sovereign

The UK Government argues that it can decide whether or not Scotland is allowed to hold a referendum because it is ‘sovereign’ over the whole of the United Kingdom. Its lawyers argue that Westminster effectively holds all power to make law and only lends some to Holyrood. 

Scotland’s lawyers argue that this is an English idea; it does not respect the traditions of Scotland where sovereignty rests with the people.  It quotes a famous judgment by Lord President Cooper in MacCormick v Lord Advocate 1953:

‘The principle of the unlimited sovereignty of Parliament is a distinctively English principle which has no counterpart in Scottish constitutional law. It derives its origin from…considering that the Union legislation extinguished the Parliaments of Scotland and England, and replaced them by a new Parliament. I have difficulty in seeing why it should have been supposed that the new Parliament of Great Britain must inherit all the peculiar characteristics of the English Parliament but none of the Scottish Parliament, as if all that happened in 1707 was that Scottish representatives were admitted to the Parliament of England. That is not what was done.’

3 The UK has argued strongly for the inalienable right of self-determination of all peoples

The UK government has made strong representations to the UN to support “the inalienable right of self-dermination”. One example is over Kosovo, leaving union with Serbia. Another is the Falkland Islands. That archipelago was recognised as having the right to self-determination and chooses to be an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. The UK called on other nations to support this right after the Falkland war.

The UK representative to the UN General Assembly in 1983 said: 

“The Committee has repeatedly declared its belief in the inalienable right of self-determination. Inalienable is a very strong word. It means birthright; it means you cannot get rid of it; it means that the Falklanders have a right of self-determination which no one can take from them. The United Kingdom shares that view.”

In 1984, the UK representative told the UN: 

“Self-determination is not a one-off exercise. It cannot be achieved for any people by one revolution or one election. It is a continuous process. It requires that peoples be given continuing opportunities to choose their governments and social systems, and to change them.”

The Scottish submission concludes that:  

“The United Kingdom’s position, therefore, at least on the international stage, appears to be clear in that ‘a people’ has an inalienable right to self-determination which cannot be taken away from them, and that ‘a people’ can exist within a state boundary.”

4  The Scottish Government has a mandate to deliver a referendum

The UK’s lawyers argue that a manifesto commitment is a matter of party politics and has no standing in law. But Scotland’s lawyers argue that the people have a right to expect their elected representatives to do what they said they would do. It says:

“A people is entitled to expect its government to seek to govern on the basis on which it sought to be elected. That is a fundamental principle of government and to find otherwise would wholly undermine the legitimacy of any executive branch of government and the trust of the public in government as a whole.”

When the SNP (and the Greens) fought the recent Scottish election:

“Holding a referendum on Scottish independence is, and was understood by the public to be, at the core of its policy offer and programme of government.” 

5 If the Supreme Court says no, it means Scotland has no effective right to self-determination

The UK argues that the issue of Scottish independence is a matter for the whole UK to decide and not for Scotland alone. But Scotland’s lawyers argue that self-determination can’t depend on what another country wants. It quotes a judgement by the Canadian Supreme Court which allowed Quebec to hold two referenda on independence. 

  “The Advocate General, in his written case to this court, has suggested … that the Union of Scotland and England is, ‘par excellence’, a UK-wide matter and that is why it might be reserved. The clear implication of that is that the Advocate General believes as a matter of law that, should Scotland wish to become an independent country but the remainder of the United Kingdom does not want that, the remainder of the United Kingdom should have the ability to prevent Scottish independence.

“A right to self-determination is not dependent or conditional on others agreeing with that decision. The right to self-determination of a people is exercised by that people and that people alone.”

It concludes that if the Supreme Court rejects the right of the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum, it effectively will be saying that Scotland does not have the right to self-determination. 

“Of the 650 seats in the House of Commons, 59 are for Scottish constituencies. MPs from Scottish constituencies account for less than ten percent of the chamber. The UK leaders of the Conservative and Labour parties have indicated they will not countenance a further referendum on Scottish independence. There is accordingly no practical way in which the right to self-determination can be advanced through that legislature. If there is no way in which to exercise a right, it is no right at all: ubi jus ibi remedium.”


After the Scottish general election of May 2022, the Scottish Government published a draft bill for a referendum. That was passed by the Scottish Parliament. The Lord Advocate of Scotland submitted this to the Supreme Court rather than waiting for the UK Government to rule it out of order, which could have meant a long delay. 

The UK government originally tried to have the case thrown out, but it will now be heard. Scotland has a strong case for being allowed to hold a democratic referendum. 

Further reading

Read the written response on behalf of the Scottish National Party, of September 26  here

Read the Scottish Government’s original submission, of August 10 here

The arc of history bends towards independence for Scotland

Ice hockey player Wayne Gretzky famously said “I skate to where the puck is going, not to where it has been.” This is much-quoted by business people - because it says in a line what they spend much of their time trying to do.  

They aim to get ahead of underlying trends, and focus on the opportunities that those throw up. And anybody living and working in Scotland - and the UK today - would do well to take a leaf out of Gretzky’s book and start to plan for Scottish independence. 

Sociological study looks for trends, not snapshots

The latest Social Attitudes Survey, released this week showed a majority of Scots want independence. But the significance of this gold-standard sociological study is more than a simple snapshot poll on voting intentions. It is carefully calibrated to monitor trends.

The same question is asked of a randomly selected sample each year and the results can be plotted on a graph. This survey is based on research carried out almost a year ago. But it reveals the fact that for more and more Scots, the current constitutional settlement is no longer acceptable.

Over the last decade, the number of Scots supporting independence has gone from around 28% to above 50%. The Social Attitudes survey began in 1997 and can map the trends since then. 

Ipsos Mori data goes back still further and confirms the trend. In 1979, on the eve of the first devolution referendum, support for independence stood at just 14%. It gradually rose to around a third by the millennium and stayed there until a decade ago, when another upward trend started to appear. 

Some key points from the survey:

  • Over the last decade, support for independence in Scotland rose from 28% to 52%
  • A third of Labour supporters in England think Scotland should be independent
  • Almost four in ten Labour supporters in Scotland support independence
  • 65% of Remainers in Scotland now back Scottish independence, up from 44% in 2016
  • 37% of people in Northern Ireland think it should be either part of Ireland or independent, up from 17% in 2015

(It's also worth noting that 8% of people in Scotland want to abolish the Scottish Parliament, thus demonstrating that not all that do not yet support independence are on the same page.  The majority of those who would abolish Holyrood are supporters of the Conservative Government in Westminster and that demonstrates that devolution is not in safe hands if Scotland were to vote No to independence again.)

Support for independence was boosted by Brexit

The way the UK government enacted its hard Brexit appears to be boosting support for independence. Two-thirds of people who voted to Remain in Scotland now back Scottish independence, a big rise from around the time of the Brexit vote in 2016.  That is a large group as 62% of Scottish people voted against Brexit in the 2016 referendum. It’s not surprising that they are scunnered with what has happened since. 

Every council area in Scotland voted to Remain in the EU. Then, the Scottish Government offered a compromise to the UK Government, by which Scotland would stay in the single market under a protocol similar to Northern Ireland's. That was rejected out of hand and the UK government chose to force a hard Brexit on an unwilling Scotland. Since then it has:

Democracy matters - the survey’s conclusion

The survey, whose authors include polling expert John Curtice, concludes that in a democracy, what people think matters: 

“To secure the compliance of citizens with decisions with which they disagree, democracies need the consent of the governed, and that consent is more likely to be forthcoming if there is widespread public support for the rules under which political power is attained and exercised.” 

Conclusion - keep pushing, the door will open soon

In the 2021 election to the Scottish Parliament, Scotland elected parties that support a new referendum on independence. The vote share they secured - 48% - was the biggest ever and far bigger than the mandate secured by the UK government to push through a hard Brexit. 

Currently, the UK government is refusing to recognise the Scottish people’s right to self-determination. But as the curve of support for independence grows, so will the pressure. The Social Attitudes survey is another point of reference on the upward curve that leads to independence. 

They may not be making this public, but you can bet that many people who work in sectors like finance, technology and health sciences will be already making plans for their future in an independent Scotland. 

Further reading:

Read the full Social Attitudes survey report

Five reasons an independent Scotland can be confident of joining the EU

Remaining in the UK is a threat to Scottish universities

Ten ways the UK government is undermining devolution

New Zealand's century-long journey to independence

New Zealand gradually became independent of the UK in a slow and gradual manner - one tiny step after another until one day they basically realised they were an independent nation. So much so that they do not have an independence day, because no one really knows when it was. This century-long journey to independence might seem rather rapid in comparison with Scotland, where even establishing a Parliament took longer. But there are interesting lessons to learn. 

Read more

Lessons from the 1997 referendum - independence is about more than party politics

This Sunday will mark 25 years since the historic devolution referendum on September 11, 1997, which delivered a huge ‘Yes’ ‘Yes’ for a Scottish Parliament with tax-raising powers. It's instructive to look back on that moment of inspiration when Scotland stood together (minus the Conservatives) to do what was best for Scotland. 

Many in the Scottish independence movement today regard independence as primarily about creating a more progressive country. But the lesson from 1997 is how support for a Scottish Parliament grew across all parties and regions, breaking down political barriers and tribalism. At that historic moment, Scotland united to demand democracy. 

“Now is not the time” - for devolution

When John Major succeeded Margaret Thatcher in 1992, his response to the increasing consensus that Scotland needed its own Parliament was to refuse devolution, saying effectively - “Now is not the time”, much like the current and all potential future UK governments on an independence referendum. 

Major's stance felt undemocratic to many - three out of four Scots had voted for parties that supported devolution. On April 10, 1992, the day after that vote - which had been a poll-defying victory for the Conservatives, hundreds of demonstrators made their way to Edinburgh’s old Royal High School and began a “vigil for Scottish democracy” that was to last for five years. 

Aware of the growing strength of feeling, Major decided Scotland might be bought off with some attention. He sited the meeting of the leaders of the European Community in Edinburgh, which filled with delegates and representatives from all over Europe. Scotland’s response to being briefly on the world stage was a huge rally for “Scottish Democracy”, where 30,000 marched up the Mound.  Neal Ascherson records in his book Stone Voices a famous speech given that day by novelist William McIlvannay. He told the crowd: 

‘ “We gather here like refugees in the capital of our own country. We are almost seven hundred years old, and we are still wondering what we want to be when we grow up. Scotland is in an intolerable position. We must never acclimatize to it - never!"

‘And then, in a tone of tremendous pride, he said this. 'Scottishness is not some pedigree lineage. This is a mongrel tradition!' At those words, for reasons which perhaps neither he nor they ever quite understood, the crowd broke into cheers and applause which lasted on and on.

"After that December mobilisation, the game was up. The Tories knew that they were doomed; Labour knew that they must deliver Scottish self-determination as soon as they came to power"

A Popular Movement 

It wasn't so much the political parties that drove Scotland's progress towards devolution but a groundswell of popular support and grassroots action across the nation. The groundwork for devolution was prepared by the Scottish Constitutional Convention (SCC) a cooperative of civic groups, churches and Scottish political parties that developed a Scottish devolution framework.

The SNP did not engage with the SCC as the other political parties refused to allow discussion on independence as an option and the Conservatives boycotted the meetings due to their objections to devolution.  The SNP did however, campaign for devolution once the referendum campaign began.

‘Think Twice’ fails to get official party and business backing backing

At the general election in May 1997, Tony Blair‘s Labour government swept to power, with a manifesto commitment to deliver devolution. The Conservatives lost all of their 11 Scottish seats. Neal wrote that the Scottish Conservatives were “still shattered” by that. “They were sick of being abused as anti-Scottish,”  

Campaigning for the devolution referendum got underway soon after that election. There was opposition but it was much less vociferous than it had been in 1979. The No campaign in 1997 was called ‘Think Twice’ and the Conservatives declined to grant it the party’s official support and business figures also failed to back the anti-devolution campaign. In contrast, the pro-devolution group Business for Scotland reached out to businesses large and small to convince them of the advantages of devolution. Scotland's future finance Minster Jim Mather said of Business for Scotland's campaign that:

"Business for Scotland made sure that the conservative business community became the dog that did not bark".  

Business for Scotland is the only surviving 1997 campaigning group and now supports Scottish independence.

Despite their opposition, it was because the Scottish Parliament is elected under a form of proportional representation that the Conservatives were able to regain some national significance and they have made full use of the platform they get from their seats at Holyrood ever since. 

A huge majority for “Yes”

The 1997 referendum is the only one ever held in the UK where there were two questions on the ballot paper, each with two options. The voter had to mark one box with an X. They were:

“Parliament has decided to consult people in Scotland on the Government's proposals for a Scottish Parliament: I agree there should be a Scottish Parliament/ I do not agree there should be a Scottish Parliament”

“Parliament has decided to consult people in Scotland on the Government's proposals for a Scottish Parliament to have tax varying powers: I agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers/ I do not agree that a Scottish Parliament should have tax-varying powers.”

On the first question, 75% of voters supported a Scottish Parliament. The biggest ‘Yes’ was from West Dunbartonshire with almost 85%. Glasgow was just behind with almost 84%. Orkney was the lowest, with 57% in favour. 

On the second question, the overall response was a healthy 64% for ‘Yes’. Glasgow and West Dunbartonshire voted 75% yes and just two council areas had a marginal No - Orkney and Dumfries and Galloway. 

“Our only guarantee is ourselves”

In the run-up to the vote, Ascherson and McIlvanney organised a bus party of poets, musicians and writers which, rather than addressing political policy directly, attempted to boost the cultural confidence of people who had grown used to being ruled from London. The main concerns about devolution were familiar - Neal summarised them as fears that: “Maybe our small nation of Scotland no longer has the brains, skill and political energy to govern itself.” 

Neal Ascherson recalled that William McIlvanney told them:

“ ‘It is an act of self-belief to vote for this Parliament."  And that was the bus party’s line through all this, a line which no politician could dare to take. Yes, of course, this is a leap into the dark…We are asking you to take a risk and it is not a quantifiable risk. As Lech Walesa said when the Solidarity revolution began in Poland, ‘Our only guarantee is ourselves’.”

The bus party debated with the school children who would vote for the first time in the new Parliament. Neal pondered:

“They would be first-time voters at the elections for the Parliament of Scotland. If they gave any thought at all to the struggle which had brought it about, they might wonder why it had taken so long, why it had required so many false starts and hesitations to bring about something which to them was so normal and so obviously necessary.”


The Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, and the SNP all supported a Scottish Parliament in 1997. There were even some in the Conservative movement who campaigned for a ‘Yes’ vote. Michael Fry toured the North East on behalf of his organisation ‘Wealthy Nation’, arguing that Scotland needed Home Rule to become a more thriving, prosperous country. He recalled:

“My support for independence was rooted in my Conservatism - I felt that Scotland should run its own affairs.” 

Many people have differing views on today’s hot-button issues. These can be turned into “wedge issues” by a hostile media and used to divide and rule Scotland. An independent Scotland will of course have political parties from across the spectrum. There will be many issues to debate and make decisions on. But in order to get there, people who disagree on many things must be prepared to work together.   Believe in Scotland is the Yes campaign run by Business for Scotland and has 125 affiliated local Yes Groups and a campaign steering group with 17 locally elected representatives - the grassroots will once again drive positive constitutional change in Scotland.  

We salute the Yes campaign's local heroes

Let's take a minute to salute the real heroes of the independence movement:

The local activists, leaflet deliverers, stall staffers, marchers, flag wavers, banner holders, micro donors, cake bakers, meeting organisers, ambassadors and persuaders.  Whilst others complain, you campaign; whilst others shout at the social media Yes bubble, you talk to the undecided.  Whilst others ego-blog to get Yessers whooping and hollering, you engage, educate and inform voters of our plan for a better Scotland.

Scotland needs more like you.  Whilst others can claim to be part of the Yes community,  you are the lifeblood of the Yes Campaign - there is a difference.  It's campaigners, local grassroots organisers and workers that will deliver Scotland's independence - so we salute you for your hard work, your sore knees and backs, fingers mangled by letter boxes, stained by  ink as you sort newspapers into delivery bundles and your sore throats after spending all day telling passers-by on the high street, just why you believe in Scotland.   

Local activists, grassroots organisers: We salute you.

On Saturday, August 13th approximately 100 local Yes groups across the country joined in our Autumn Day of Action.  Have a look at the gallery and see the rewarding work already underway by our local heroes.

Believe in Scotland is the grassroots campaign for independence and we have 125 affiliated local Yes groups:  consider joining us - even if you can't campaign yourself. Get on our mailing list by pledging your support now at

When you upload campaign images to social media just remember to:

1.) Use the hashtag #BelieveinScotland.

2.) If uploading to Facebook, you can also post these into the 30,000-strong Believe in Scotland Facebook group.

If you think we have missed any images from the Day of Action, you can send them to [email protected] and we will add them to the gallery below.

Let's campaign - let's win

Boost for Scottish independence from contest for next PM

Well-known Unionist commentator Alex Massie amusingly told Radio 4 yesterday:

“If you were to say to me that there will be a referendum in say 15 years' time, I would probably, if pushed, expect Scotland to vote for independence,”. 

Some might have been surprised to hear Massie concede that Scottish independence is likely, although they might query the timing (*). Ironically the tipping point where support for independence hits a consistent majority is being brought much closer by the current Conservative leadership contest, and independence support will increase regardless of whether Truss or Sunak gets the keys for number Ten. 

Tipping point approaching for Scottish independence

A poll released yesterday showed that around 20% of voters said that either Sunak or Truss as PM would boost their support for independence. Only 35% of voters said they were firmly opposed to independence and that would be unchanged by the contest. That's no surprise judging by their lacklustre hustings performances in Perth last night.

Candidates vie to undermine the devolution settlement

The candidates both made clear that they plan to continue Boris Johnson’s policy of deliberately undermining the devolution settlement and both tried in vain to hide their profound ignorance of Scotland, its culture, politics and history.  The debate was chaired by STV’s Colin Mackay who said it was:

“a scary job interview…but not as scary as a general election, which is how we used to choose our Prime Ministers”.

Sunak on bypassing the Scottish Government’s spending powers

Mackay asked Sunak if he would “by-pass Holyrood for some spending”. Sunak replied:

“We have already started that and we will do more of it.”

Sunak condemned several times what he called “the civil service policy” of “devolve and forget” when it comes to Scotland. That apparently refers to respecting the devolution settlement and allowing Holyrood to run the policy areas for which it is legally responsible. 

Liz Truss effectively said there is no democratic route for independence for Scotland

Truss said that the 2014 referendum was “a once in a generation” event. Mackay mentioned the seven-year gap mandated for Northern Irish referenda and that Brexit and Covid had changed the background. He asked:

“For many people outside this room, 2014 feels like a generation. Is there a democratic route for Scotland to change its future? Is there a democratic route?”

Truss replied:

“At the time of the referendum, it was agreed by the SNP that it was a once-in-a-generation referendum. I believe in politicians keeping their promises and Nicola Sturgeon should keep her promise.” 

Liz Truss changed her mind on Brexit - why can’t the Scots change their mind on independence?

Mackay asked this question and Truss replied that she had respected the will of the people to leave the EU. She said she had been worried about disruption. But, she said, in a barefaced lie that is contradicted by authorities such as the UK’s Office for National Statistics, and the experience of many exporters and importers in Scotland, that:

“There has been no disruption [from Brexit]”

Truss boasted of trade deals she has done with Australia and New Zealand that threaten Scottish food producers by giving away all protections for Scottish and UK farmers and food producers against lower welfare imports - in a manner reminscent of “the great betrayal’ of 1921.

Sunak sneered at Scottish state education

Rishi Sunak told the audience that education was one of his family’s core values - his parents sent him to an elite private school.  He then proceeded to sneer at Scottish state education. He failed to point out that Scots children from the poorest backgrounds are overwhelmingly more likely to attend University than those born south of the border. 

Truss plans to rip up ECHR - she may not know it is the bedrock of devolution

Liz Truss gave a particularly wooden presentation with odd pauses. She talked of the UK’s economic difficulties, without mentioning the part Brexit plays - until she moved on to the “opportunity” to rip up EU legal protections for human rights and the environment. Liz Truss may not know that the European Convention on Human Rights was devised by a Scottish lawyer and is the bedrock of the devolution settlement, representing what many once regarded as shared British values. 

Truss proclaimed her determination to get rid of ECHR because it might prevent the UK government from deporting asylum seekers to countries like Rwanda. She said she was determined to expand this controversial policy to include more refugees and more third countries. 

Truss displayed weak understanding of the causes of the energy crisis

On energy, Truss promised to get rid of the ‘green levy’ - this supports insulation and investment  in renewables. It is Scotland’s renewable energy providers who supply the cheap power the UK relies on - and they could supply even more of it if the sector had not been starved of adequate investment. Onshore wind is many times cheaper than gas. 

Yet Truss proclaimed “we have to use our gas” to solve the energy crisis. What could she mean by this? Gas extracted from the North Sea is the property of the multinationals who extract it. It is sold to the UK’s privatised national grid at world prices - currently the equivalent of oil being $380 a barrel. Extracting slightly more gas would not lower world gas prices - it would just make more money for energy companies. 

Sunak and Truss may not know that 75% of voters supported devolution in a referendum

Neither Sunak or Truss appear to know that there was a referendum in Scotland 25 years ago next month in which 75% of voters supported devolution. They also do not seem to know that, while in English law and tradition, sovereignty rests with the Westminster Parliament, in Scottish law it lies with the people, in a tradition established in 1320 with the Declaration of Arbroath. 

Scottish Unionists despair of this desperate duo

On that same BBC lunchtime bulletin yesterday, presenter Jonny Dymond commented in response to a clip of some of the pair’s blunders that:

“There must be some Scottish Tories who hear those comments from Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss and just want to jump off a cliff, aren’t  there?”


*Listen to Massie’s comment here - 29 minutes in, closing a report from the BBC Scotland editor James Cook. However, some would argue he is simply running the Tory trope of ‘Yes, you can have independence but not yet’. Pushing the referendum down the road is a desperate tactic - they hope the Yes movement will give up and go away, because they fear they would lose one now.

Can the UK still claim to be a democracy?

Q In which country can the leader be elected by party members, without a chance for the population to vote?

A The UK

Q Which governing body is packed with party donors, personal friends and even relatives appointed by the leader?

A The House of Lords

Q In which country can a disgraced leader, forced from office for lying, still appoint whoever he likes to Parliament?

A The UK

The United Kingdom defines itself as a democracy - and yet, under the current Government it has departed from many of the conventions of one person one vote. 

Only about 170,000 UK citizens - largely male and over 50 - will be eligible to vote for the next PM, out of an electorate of about 47.6 million adults. This sounds like a scenario we might associate with the Communist Party of China. And yet, we are supposed to accept this as democratic.  At the same time, the House of Lords has become increasingly unregulated, and there are concerns that Boris Johnson has plans to add even more peers - without scrutiny. 

Allowing a UK PM to be elected by party members is new 

The media is reporting what journalists call ‘every cough and spit’ of the leadership ‘election’ for the UK’s next Prime Minister. But, with rare exceptions, it does not question the extraordinary and undemocratic nature of the contest. The media presents this as a traditional approach. In fact, it is new. If it actually goes to a vote, this will be just the second time a PM has been elected by the party members, the first being Boris Johnson in 2019. 

In the past, the leader of the ruling party was selected by MPs. They themselves are elected and can thus claim some democratic legitimacy. They would select someone, often behind closed doors, and that person would formally offer to form a government. 

In 1998, William Hague changed the rules to include a vote by Conservative members. The Conservatives were out of power from 1997 to 2011. Since then, they have changed leader while in power twice. When Theresa May stood to be Prime Minister, her nearest rival Andrea Leadsom stood down so there was no actual members' vote. 

When the Labour Party changed leader from Tony Blair to Gordon Brown in 2007, Brown was endorsed by Labour MPs. The only time the Labour Party changed leaders in office with more than one candidate was when James Callaghan succeeded Harold Wilson in 1976 - Callaghan was selected by a ballot of MPs.

Tone of the contest illustrated by Liz Truss’ promise to ignore Scotland

Liz Truss won cheers from Tory voters at a husting by vowing to ignore Scotland, showing that the continued undermining of the devolution settlement will continue and worsen.  Policies like further limiting the right to strike, are guaranteed to win Conservative party votes and to ensure Truss becomes the next Prime Minister of the UK. But they are far removed from the electoral priorities of Scotland. 

The current contest for the votes of a tiny minority is filling the airwaves with discussion of very right-wing policies. The "Overton Window’  is a concept familiar to broadcasters. It means the range of ideas that is regarded as mainstream and acceptable. What we are seeing is the Overton Window of UK public life being pushed further to the right.

Lord Lebedev of Siberia has a pet wolf named Boris

Meanwhile, disgraced PM Boris Johnson is still the UK”s Prime Minister. On coming to power, he found himself in possession of a half-reformed House of Lords and proceeded to hand out dozens of titles - it will be more than 100 by the time he leaves office. He has ennobled among others: his brother Jo; a Conservative donor called Peter Cruddas who the Lords committee said was not fit to hold public office; and Evgeny Lebedev, whose entry into London society was financed by his father, KGB officer Alexander Lebedev.  Lebedev, who named his pet wolf Boris, is now  Baron Lebedev, of Hampton and Siberia. The UK government while talking tough over Ukraine, has dragged its feet on sanctioning Russia. Lebedev has more right under the UK Consitution to debate and amend laws affecting Scotland than Nicola Sturgeon has. 

The House of Lords has never been democratic but in recent years it has been made subject to the PM’s personal patronage, with little in the way of checks and balances. With the 1999 Reform Act, the Labour Party under Tony Blair abolished the rights of 600 hereditary peers to sit in the Upper House, What was touted as a democratic reform was seen by some as a political move to enable Blair to create more Labour Peers. It left a baggy, over-sized Lords blowing in the political wind, with no effective regulation in place.  At around 800, the House of Lords is almost the largest governing body in the world, second only to the Chinese People’s Congress.

Boris Johnson may be poised to appoint dozens more peers

The Guardian reported recently on a draft plan by which Johnson will add 39 to 50 new Tory peers when he finally leaves office. Former PM Gordon Brown revealed he had seen an extraordinary document which includes a requirement that each new peer sign away their right to make their own judgment on legislation that comes before them. They have to give, the paper says, a written undertaking to attend and vote with the Government.

The draft plan recommends Johnson to appoint political nominees who will vote for the Tory government, especially its bill to disown the international treaty it has itself signed over Northern Ireland.


The UK prides itself on being democratic, with Westminster often described as the mother of all parliaments (despite The Althing of Iceland being by far the oldest). But it has turned out that there were few checks and balances to prevent abuse of power. The current contest for the UK”s highest elected office, accepted as normal by a supine and ineffective media, is absurd and undemocratic. 

Only with independence can Scotland escape the dangerous charade of the UK’s failing democracy.