Pages tagged with "The Answers You Need"

The UK is ripping up workers' rights - an independent Scotland can do better

The UK government is attacking workers’ rights in draconian new laws, which will be imposed on Scotland -  despite fierce opposition from Scotland’s democratically elected Parliament. 

The UK is also ripping up many workers’ rights that depend on EU laws - such as mandatory rest breaks and holiday pay for part-time workers. 

Meanwhile, the UK has slumped seven points to its lowest-ever place in an international ranking of government standards on honesty.

An independent Scotland would be able to get on with building a stronger, fairer country without being dragged down by the UK.

Nurses, teachers could be sacked for refusing to cross a picket line

The controversial “Strikes (Minimum Service Levels) Bill”, which was voted through by the House of Commons this week, will apply to Scotland. An amendment which would give the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments a say was rejected by the Conservatives - the Labour Party abstained.  The Labour Party does not believe that employment law should be devolved to Holyrood.  

Under the Strikes Bill, some employees in the rail industry and emergency services would be forced to work during industrial action. They could be sacked if they refuse. There will be no right to appeal for workers who lose their jobs for refusing to cross a picket line. 

The Bill gives the UK government the power to expand this provision to education, nuclear and broader health services, if the government fails to reach voluntary agreement with these sectors. 

The new law will also give employers the right to seek a court injunction to prevent strikes, or to seek damages afterwards if they go ahead.

"Henry VIII clause" gives government ministers enormous power

The bill also contains a controversial "Henry VIII clause", which would allow UK government ministers to amend the legislation after it has become law without full parliamentary scrutiny. 

It was passed by the Commons on Monday with 315 votes to 246 but will face further scrutiny in the House of Lords before it becomes law. 

Bonfire of EU laws includes holiday pay for part-time workers and much more

The UK government plans to review or revoke all EU laws left on the UK statute book by the end of 2023 - which now amounts to around 3,700 regulations. The plan has attracted fierce criticism from business groups, legal experts, trade unions and environmental groups. They warn that rushing the review will create costly and destabilising legal uncertainty.

Unison warns that : “Many legal improvements to workers’ rights in the UK, including UNISON’s recent Supreme Court victory that won new holiday rights for part-time workers, are reliant on the courts’ interpretations of EU law, and could be lost. Without the shield of EU law, workers in the UK will be exposed to an Americanised, hire-and-fire culture that makes work more insecure and dangerous.” 

Legislation due to be binned by the UK includes: working time regulations which give workers the right to legal rest breaks; rights for part-time workers to be treated equally with full-time workers; maternity and paternity leave (a recent case giving these rights to Uber drivers depended on EU laws); rights for workers whose company is acquired by another firm, and many more.

The UK slumped to its lowest-ever rating on the Transparency International Corruptions Perceptions Index. 

Meanwhile, with the UK government mired in sleaze, Britain’s international ranking for uncorrupt and honest government is the lowest it has ever been.

There have been a series of scandals, from Nadhim Zahawi’s sacking over his tax affairs, to the BBC chair Richard Sharp’s involvement in the financial affairs of Boris Johnson at the time Johnson appointed him to the job. There have also been allegations of corruption around public contracts given out by UK government ministers.

In the latest Transparency International Corruptions Perceptions Index, the UK’s score dropped by 5 points to 73, resulting in the UK’s position falling from 11th to 18th in the global table - behind countries like Estonia and Uruguay.

Only five of the 180 countries assessed for the 2022 Index saw their year-on-year scores drop by five or more points: the UK (-5), Qatar (-5), Myanmar (-5), Azerbaijan (-7) and Oman (-8).

An independent Scotland can build a brighter future

Scotland is saddled with a right-wing UK government it did not elect. This new battle over basic rights is going to consume time and energy that would be better spent elsewhere. 

As part of the UK, Scotland is now being dragged down the international rankings for honest government. Scotland doesn’t need that.

Meanwhile, the Labour Party opposes devolving employment law to Holyrood. It has the same tired old offer for Scotland - long periods of Conservative rule are a price worth paying to be part of the UK. That’s a bad deal. Scotland can do better. 

With independence, Scotland can build a stronger, fairer society, more like the Scandinavian model than what the UK is offering. 

Our Ten Most Shared Blogs of 2022

Scotland faces a media that in many cases is completely hostile to independence. News stories are spun to suggest Scots could never be trusted to run their own affairs. Good news is minimised, or just simply not reported and bad news for Scotland overblown and taken out of context.  Contrast that to the measurable and quantifiable damage of Brexit where the UK national news almost never acknowledges that Brexit is one of the root causes of inflation and economic damage. That’s why increasing numbers are turning to “Believe in Scotland” and its sister site “Business for Scotland” to find news stories that are put in context and explained from a pro-independence viewpoint. 

Most of our campaigning and engagement takes place on social media, via shareable graphics and on the streets and through leaflet drops etc but our blogs remain core to what we do. The most-read blogs on both our sites are shared far more often than almost all of the news stories on traditional, mainstream media. Take a look at the Facebook pages of The Times Scotland, The Scottish Daily Express, The Scotsman or BBC Scotland News and you will see that most stories are barely shared at all. 

In contrast, the most popular Business for Scotland post in 2022 generated 9,000 likes and shares on Facebook alone with hundreds more shares on Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media platforms. One of our blogs that is updated every year has now been shared more than 81,000 times on Facebook alone. All of the others on this list got above 2,000 engagements on Facebook alone, most were higher than that.  Obviously, the blogs get a lot more reads than shares, as only a small percentage of people share articles but its a good way to gauge the popularity as well as readership.   

#1

Business for Scotland, June. Facebook shares - 9,263

The Scottish media was filled in the summer with stories about ferries being late or overbooked, and issues with two ferries ordered from Ferguson Marine. This article looked behind the banner headlines to add some context. 

Key points

  • Scotland pays much more for its share of UK infrastructure projects which overrun or get into difficulties than it has for the 2 ferries
  • Investment in Ferguson Marine is bringing it up to date as a publicly-owned yard with a future
  • Flexible fares on CalMac ferries cost less than half similar ones in England
  • The expansion of Road Equivalent Tariff (a popular policy) has massively increased traffic, demand and wear and tear on the ferry network. 

Read the article

#2

Believe in Scotland, June. Facebook shares - 4,787

Unionists like to talk about the cost of independence - but staying in the UK is costing Scotland dear, both financially and in terms of lost opportunity  This article looked at some of these.

Key costs of remaining in the Union

  • The windfall tax on Scottish energy assets is bailing out the UK
  • Scotland’s economy is visibly shrinking due to Brexit
  • The UK has the worst economic growth in the G20 bar Russia
  • The pound has lost 20% of its value – pushing inflation upwards
  • The UK Government broke its promise on the triple lock, exposing pensioners to inflation (restoring it later has still left a lag)

Read the article

#3

Believe in Scotland, March. Facebook shares - 4,510

Norway with its sovereign wealth fund is one of the richest countries on the planet. But it has only been an independent country since 1905 –  for 500 years before that it was it was in a union with Denmark and then with Sweden. 

When Norway finally took the step of having a referendum on its independence, “there was no disagreement over arrangements as to borders, currency or trade. Norwegians had the confidence to believe they could they work those things out successfully – and they did.”

Key reasons why Norway became independent

  • Norway’s people wanted to take control over foreign policy, after being dragged into other countries’ wars
  • Norway had become a puppet state where power and control moved to an effective capital outside its borders, and the country suffered a long brain drain
  • In a technologically advanced and innovative country, Norway’s people thought they could make better use of their rich natural assets.

#4 The Great British electricity swindle

Business for Scotland, March. Facebook shares - 4,059

With higher standing charges for energy and higher charges for Scottish energy companies to connect to the UK’s privatised and outdated National Grid, Scotland is paying too much for both creating energy and using it. 

“That doesn’t seem fair because it isn’t fair. But regulation of the energy market is reserved. There is no way to change this without independence.” 

Read the article

#5

Business for Scotland, August. Facebook shares - 3,389

Scotland has huge potential to produce renewable electricity. At the moment, that is constrained by the UK’s energy policy and producing more electricity won't noticeably affect Scots' bills

“An independent Scotland could operate as a zone, setting a price for electricity across Scotland, while still exporting to the rest of the UK through hubs, charging a higher price. That could tip the market balance towards more renewable production north of the border.” 

#6

Believe in Scotland, June. Facebook shares - 2,826

In an independent Scotland, the elected government would be able to manage the university sector in a more stable and financially responsible way, without the hiccups due to waiting on Barnett consequentials of policies deigned in another country with different priorities. It could access the EU fund Horizon, and also get EU support for peripheral areas such as the Highlands and Islands. 

Read the article

#7

Believe in Scotland, April. Facebook shares - 2,752

This article compared the size of Scotland’s broadcasting sector with other independent EU countries. Scotland is powerless when it comes to how public sector broadcasting is regulated and funded. An independent Scotland would be in a much stronger position to support public service broadcasting. An overwhelming majority of Scots (75%) according to a recent poll would like to see power over broadcasting move from Westminster to the Scottish Government.

#8

Believe in Scotland, October. Facebook shares - 2,713

This article explains which countries in the EU use the Euro and which don’t and looks at Scotland’s options. 

"Yes, Scotland would have to pledge to being open to join the euro at some point in the future. It could take 15 years, like Bulgaria which is adopting the Euro in 2024, or much longer. Sweden, Denmark, the Czech Republic and Poland have no current plans to switch. But whether or not to join the Euro and the timing of that will be a matter for future governments. It will be a matter for debate after Scotland has: achieved a referendum, voted for independence, established a central bank, a Scottish currency and rejoined the EU. It’s a way down the road.

Read the article

#9 5 Things You Need to Know About Labour’s Latest Vow on Constitutional Reform

Believe in Scotland, December. Facebook shares - 2,702

Keir Starmer, flanked by former-PM Gordon Brown, unveiled Labour’s plans for "UK constitutional reform".

"There is a clue in that first sentence as to why it’s not going to blunt moves towards Scottish independence. This report is about Labour reclaiming its so-called ‘Red Wall’ seats from the Tories and it offers nothing new for Scotland. In fact, it confirms that Labour are committed to Brexit and therefore the power grab that goes with it."

#10 Scots caught up in UK energy disaster look enviously at independent Nordic states

Business for Scotland, July. Facebook shares - 2,493

Anger mounted in Scotland across 2022 as energy prices soared for consumers while energy producers announce record profits.  Scotland now pays the highest electricity bills in the world. This article compared the Scottish situation to Nordic countries such as Finland where bills are much lower thanks to plentiful, cheap renewable energy. Scotland has the capacity to produce even more energy than the average of the Nordic countries – and it could export this to the UK and EU. 

Read the article

Other content that generated around 2,000 likes and shares includes

 

Keir Starmer's "car crash" interview dooms Labour in Scotland

Labour leader Keir Starmer set out his pitch to Scotland on BBC’s flagship politics show “the Sunday Show” at the weekend. It was widely regarded as a car crash. Columnist Lesley Riddoch wrote: " a stumbling Keir Starmer hit the brick wall of Scottish political reality with a bang on TV on Sunday".

Starmer denied that Scotland has a democratic right to a referendum - while at the same time arguing that the damaging Brexit which as rejected by 62% of Scottish voters, is the "will of the people". Asked by interviewer Martin Geissler if the Union is voluntary, Starmer agreed - but then said that even if the Supreme Court rules a referendum is lawful, he would oppose one. He revealed the incoherence of his position - and doomed Labour to continued failure in Scotland. 

Given that polling shows at least a third of Labour voters support a referendum and that the party has longstanding commitments to self-determination; this seems like a historic error. At the next general election, unless Labour changes their position on a referendum for Scotland, they are unlikely to improve their performance much (they currently have one Scottish MP).

Thus the next general election is likely to be the first time in history where the UK elects a Labour government which is rejected by Scottish voters as Scotland essentially votes for independence. At that point, will Labour really be able to argue that it has a mandate to govern Scotland? Will it be able to continue to deny the democratically-expressed wishes of the Scottish people?

The parting of ways 

In his interview, Starmer said the reasons for the decline of the Labour vote in Scotland were essentially no different from in England. But this moment has been a long time coming. Scotland and the UK have been on different paths for a long time. Here is a look back at some of the points on the journey. The pattern has been that at 9 out of 13 elections since 1970, Scotland has ended up with a government it did not vote for.

1970 - Scotland votes decisively Labour but the UK elects a Conservative government 

In June, 1970 the polls suggest a Labour win, but in fact the UK elects a Conservative government under Edward Heath. By contrast, in Scotland, the Labour party takes 44 seats out of 71, with the Conservatives getting only 23.  (At an earlier election in 1959, when the UK voted Conservative, Labour took the majority of seats in Scotland but the Conservatives still got the largest share of the overall vote). This is the moment when Scotland and the UK diverge politically. 

A commitment to more powers for Scotland turns into a lengthy Royal Commission

The Conservatives come into power that year with a commitment in the Queen's Speech to increase Scotland's say over her own affairs. The Conservatives have already felt the sands shifting under their feet. The old, Presbyterian, working-class Tory vote is moving away from the party  - losing the douce suburb of Pollock in 1967 was the first inkling of the coming change. 

So in 1968, with the Declaration of Perth, the Conservatives commit themselves to introducing Home Rule. That commitment turns into a long Royal Commssion, which does not report until 1973 - and nothing gets done. 

“It is essential to maintain the system”

In his new book Scotland Rising, Gerry Hassan quotes the evidence that the Labour Party gives to the Royal Commission on devolution in May, 1970.

John Pollock, Labour MP, said: “The only effective way of solving the Sottish problem is to have a Labour government at Westminster, but we are prepared to put up with a short period in which a Conservative government might be the administration because we can more than make that good in our next administration. It is essential to maintain the kind of system in which a Labour government at Westminster in the future is able to control the country in the interests of all the people in the UK”

1974 - a Labour Government is elected but fails to deliver devolution

When the Labour Party comes to power in 1974, they are also committed to delivering Home Rule. They examine various ideas in a White Paper on devolution in 1975 - one of which is to replace the House of Lords with smaller chambers outside London,  in the four nations of the UK (more radical than their current proposals). Nothing much happens for three years. 

In 1978, the Scotland Act sets out the grounds for a referendum.  In 1979, both the Labour Party and the SNP don’t confidently campaign for an Assembly with extremely limited powers. Important sectors such as the Universities turn against it. On the eve of the vote, former Conservative PM Alec Douglas Home invites Scots to vote ‘No’ promising the Tories in government will bring forward “better devolution proposals”; this never happens.

In fact, the people do vote ‘Yes; to a Scottish Assembly - by 52% yes to 48% No. This is similar to the Brexit result of 2016, which the Labour Party now accepts as a democratic mandate to “make Brexit work”. In contrast, the Labour Government of 1974-79 fails to deliver any change for Scotland and leaves power with the country’s affairs still in the hands of the Grand Committee.  

Asked by the Royal Commission in 1970 if the Grand Committee has “adequate power of control” in the event of a Conservative Government , John Pollock, for Labour, said:

 “If you accept the United Kingdom structure, as we do, such a situation may be the inevitable outcome of it.”

1979, 1983, 1987, 1992, Labour wins hugely in Scotland - but the UK votes Conservative

In these four elections, the Labour Party never gets fewer than 40 of Scotland’s 71 seats. In 1987, Neil Kinnock wins 50 of them. But in the context of the UK electing Conservative governments in a first past the post system, there is nothing Scotland’s Labour MPs can effectively do to challenge the Conservative Party’s agenda.

Iain McWhirter’s book, the Road to Referendum, charts the unfolding disaster of these years in Scotland. Industry is starved of investment. Decision-making power is centralised to London. The process culminates in the UK government deciding to use a hostile Scotland as a testing ground for the Poll Tax. 

The Grand Committee ends up being packed with Tory MPs from the Shires, as there are too few Scottish Tories to ensure Conservative policies get pushed through.

1997 - the Labour Party takes power in the UK, continuing through 2001, 2005  

In this election, Tony Blair sweeps to power and the Labour Party runs the UK until 2010. 

During this period, they make some positive changes - but are unable to bring back the industry that was decimated. The generation that grew up in poverty and hopelessness in much of Scotland in the 1980s has been damaged - many will never fully recover - and the drugs pandemic that still rages through some of Scotland post-industrial wasteland should be understood in this context. These are ‘diseases of despair’. 

Both the Labour Party and the Lib Dems signed up to the Scottish Constitutional Convention while in oppoition and are committed to devolution.  In 1997, Labour holds a referendum, where there is a massive ‘Yes’ vote and the Scottish Parliament is reconvened after a 300-year pause in 1999.

2010 - Scotland votes Labour - but gets a Conservative/ Lib Dem coalition

Scotland now has fewer seats at Westminster - 59 instead of 71. Labour under Gordon Brown wins 41 of these, but the result is a coalition between David Cameron’s Conservatives and Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats. The first referendum on Scottish independence is held and lost, Joe Pike's book 'Project Fear' gives a warts-and-all account of the Labour party's role in Better Together and how Scotland was misled and bullied into voting no by Labour scaremongering. 

2015 - Scotland elects an overwhelming majority of SNP MPs 

The first independence referendum is held a matter of weeks before the 2015 general election. The day after that vote, the Conservatives announce that Scottish MPs will no longer be able to vote on most things in Westminster (EVEL - now repealed). Labour under Ed Miliband says it will not work with elected SNP MPs on shared priorities.

For the first time, Scotland rejects the Labour Party’s prospectus that long periods of Conservative rule are inevitable, but that the Labour Party will make good the damage whenever it gets back in. In that election, the SNP wins 56 out of 59 seats. 

Hard Brexit forced on Scotland - despite those Better Together promises

The next year, the UK holds the Brexit referendum, and Scotland votes decisively to remain in the EU. Despite a central promise of the 2014 Better Together campaign being that Scotland should ‘lead not leave’, that it was a respected member of a voluntary Union, and that staying in the UK was the best way to protect EU membership, the UK government refuses to negotiate with Scotland. 

2017 - the SNP wins a large majority of Westminster seats despite Unionist tactical voting

In 2017, the Unionist parties work more closely together - for example,  the Daily Mail issues a supplement instructing its readers to vote Labour in certain constituencies to defend the Union. The Conservatives under Ruth Davidson stage a revival. Nevertheless, the SNP holds onto 35 of the 59 Westminster seats.  

However, Scotland finds itself again being ruled by a Conservative government that Scotland did not elect. 

In 2019, Boris Johnson is decisively rejected by Scots

The 2019 general election is regarded as having delivered a landslide for Boris Johnson to "get Brexit done". Ironically, the Conservatives UK vote share at that election (43%) is less than what the SNP gets in Scotland (45%), so it must be an even bigger landslide for the SNP, which wins 48 of the 59 seats. 

But the UK Unionist parties - Conservative, Labour, and Lib Dem, claim that this election simultaneously delivers an incontrovertible mandate for a hard Brexit - but no mandate whatsoever for an independence referendum. A hard Brexit is forced on Scotland. The Office for Budget Responsibility calculates that Brexit will shrink the UK economy by 4%,  the equivalent of more than £100 billion a year. 

Even after the Scottish general election of 2021 delivers a Parliament that strongly supports a referendum on independence, Labour and the Conservatives argue there is no mandate for one.

Starmer and Labour's position is unfair to Scotland

Keir Starmer's position that he respects the democratic will of the people of the UK - but not the democratic will of the people of Scotland is unfair. He cannot point to any way that Scotland can find a democratic path to a referendum on independence. 

The UK Labour Party has not confronted the reality that many of their own potential supporters believe in self-determination for the people of Scotland. Some may plan to vote 'No" in the next referendum on independence - but they still recognise there is a democratic mandate for one. 

If the Labour Party were to change its stance on an independence referendum, that could positively impact its electoral chances in Scotland. If it doesn't, that will ensure that every vote cast for Labour at the next general election will be read as a vote against self-determination for the people of Scotland. That simple fact means that we are approaching a historic moment.  For the first time, the UK may elect a Labour government - but Scotland will voice a different preference. Independence. 

An independent Scotland can have the governments it elects all the time, not just occasionally. It can pursue its own priorities, use its own assets and build its own future. 

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. 

Conclusion

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 

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. 

Although it is bigger than the UK in terms of land mass, New Zealand's population of around 5 million is similar to Scotland’s - although it has grown from 1 million a century ago, while Scotland’s population has remained relatively flat. 

New Zealand’s Sovereign Wealth Fund

New Zealand has a thriving economy, predicted to grow 2.5% this year. The GDP (gross domestic product) per capita is only slightly higher than Scotland's - but the state pension (superannuation)  is one third more than the UK pension, at almost £15,000. 

Because New Zealand is fully independent, it can make decisions about how to use its resources to build a more secure future for its people. For example, it established a sovereign wealth fund in 2001, with the aim of partially protecting the future pensions of over-65s. It is currently worth $43 billion.

Here are some lessons for Scotland from New Zealand’s independence journey. 

1 Growing political divergence 

Gallipoli prompts desire for independence

At the outbreak of World War One, New Zealand was still an enthusiastic member of the British Empire. Around 120,000 men enlisted and 18,000 men were killed, out of a population of one million. (In comparison to that, up to 135,000 Scots were killed from a population of almost five million.) 

More than 2,700 men died in the Gallipoli Campaign. The heroism of the soldiers in this bloodbath is iconic in New Zealand memory, and often credited as prompting a drive for independence.

A widening political gulf - the “Nats” emerge

Through the 20th century, the political gulf between New Zealand and the UK widened. There were disagreements over foreign policy - New Zealand wanted more say over calls on its young men. 

New Zealand was also a socially conservative country, which saw itself as out of step with the UK’s first Labour governments.  The Liberal Party merged with the Conservative Reform Party to become the New Zealand National Party, also known as the “Nats’. Their first PM, Sidney Holland, was elected in 1949, beginning an almost unbroken 30-year period of rule by the Nats. 

Full control of  legislative powers 1947

A General Assembly had been established in New Zealand back in 1852, but this was subject to the authority of a Governor General appointed by the British Crown.  A UK statute that had been drawn up earlier for the Irish Free State was adopted in New Zealand in 1947.

It granted the New Zealand Parliament full legislative powers, control of its military,  and legally separated the New Zealand Crown from the British Crown. So, although the Queen remains also the monarch of New Zealand, she is in a separate capacity as its ceremonial sovereign.

2 Building a national currency

The New Zealand pound started out somewhat like the Scottish pound is today - it was UK sterling, produced by New Zealand banks with a localised image, until 1933. In 1934, New Zealand established a central bank, the Reserve Bank of New Zealand, which gave it control of monetary policy for the first time. 

For the next three decades, it remained part of a ‘sterling area’ -  a group of countries that pegged their currencies to the pound after the UK left the gold standard in 1931. Most of these countries were part of the British Empire; some were not. 

Emergency legislation in the second world war turned all these countries into a sterling block without exchange controls. That situation more or less persisted after the second world war, but the UK was declining as an economic power and it could not defend the value of sterling against the dollar. When the UK pound was devalued against the dollar in 1967, other countries made different choices. 

New Zealand was already preparing to introduce, a decimal currency, the New Zealand dollar, which it did in that same year, pegging it to the US dollar. Today, a New Zealand dollar is worth about 53 pence, a valuation that is in keeping with New Zealand's export strategy. 

3 Rebalancing the economy

The flip side of the Great Betrayal

In what was known in Scotland as the ‘Great Betrayal’ of 1921, the UK government abandoned support for farmers in the British archipelago. Scotland was worst affected than any other country and thousands of crofters, farmers and tenants simply walked away from land which could no longer pay. 

The flip side of this was guaranteed prices for New Zealand farmers. The UK government of the day had decided that the increasing efficiency of refrigerated shipping meant it could save money by importing cheaper food from the colonies. It gave New Zealand guaranteed prices and bought two-thirds of all of the lamb, beef, and dairy that the country produced.

Until the 1950s, New Zealand developed a closed economy with high import tariffs protecting local businesses of all kinds from international competition. 

Price shocks 

In 1955, the UK withdrew the guaranteed price, moving into a free market phase. When the UK joined the Common Market on January 1, 1973, its trading arrangements with New Zealand ceased and that caused another shock to the New Zealand economy, compounded by the oil crisis of 1973.

An open economy - with new trading partners

In the 1970s,  Prime Minister Robert Muldoon, who was known as the first world leader to adopt an abrasive, informal style -  pledged a “government of the ordinary bloke”. His government oversaw major investments in infrastructure - known as “Think Big” - which took a long time to pay off, partly because the oil price fell back. 

Subsequent governments opened up the economy, now regarded as one of the most open in the world. Its biggest trading partners are: China (32% of exports); Australia, the United States; Japan; South Korea and Taiwan. The UK takes around 2 percent of its exports. 

4 Reassessing founding myths

New Zealand does not have a national day - but Waitangi Day, on February 6, is a public holiday for most people. The historic treaty is considered to be the founding document of the country and was a source of pride for its relative progressiveness. In recent years, however, New Zealanders have begun to understand the Māori perspective on their history. 

A contested land - but the first Europeans don’t get ashore

By the time the first European settlers started to arrive in the late 17th century, the Polynesians had established the country they called Aotearoa over at least three centuries. The first European arrivals were Dutch explorer Abel Tasman and crew, who anchored at the northern end of the South Island. They named it Murderers' Bay following an attack by a local Māori tribe Ngāti Tūmatakōkiri, who killed four of their number in an ambush. Tasman did not land, but drew the rough shape of the country, and in 1645, Dutch cartographers changed the name to Nova Zeelandia after the Dutch province of Zeeland. 

A century passed before European settlers appeared again - meaning that New Zealand was the last major country to be colonised by a European power. That delay arguably saved its native people from some of the worst violence and slavery that other First People experienced. 

A declaration of independence

New Zealand's first - and only official Declaration of Independence took place on 28 October 1835, when the Declaration of the Independence of New Zealand was signed by the United Tribes of New Zealand, a loose confederation of Māori tribes from the far north of the country.  This was organised by Scot James Busby, who had emigrated from Edinburgh a decade earlier. He also suggested that the country should adopt a flag, and Māori elders chose one in 1834. 

The Treaty of Waitangi makes New Zeland part of the British Empire

The Treaty of Waitangi, of which Busby was a co-author, between the British Empire and Māori leaders made New Zealand officially part of the British Empire It was regarded as a progressive document for many years,  because it recognised full citizenship rights for the Māori - but the devil was in the detail. 

There were key differences between the Māori text and the English language version. The English version ceded all ‘sovereignty’ to the Crown; while the Māori version granted full chieftainship to the Maori leaders and awarded ‘kāwanatanga’ - governance - to the Crown. 

Wars over land soon broke out with settlers, especially after the gold rush of the 1860s which doubled the population. The Māori’s Waitangi rights were either ignored or reinterpreted. By the end of the century, they had lost most of the tribal lands, and many lived in poverty.

Recognising Māori culture and language

After the second world war, the Māori people were discouraged from speaking their language which survived only in a few remote areas. But it was recognised as an official language in 1987. There are now Māori language-immersion schools and two television channels that broadcast predominantly in Māori.  Many places have both their Māori and English names officially recognised and 4% of the population say they can speak the language. 

Conclusion: Lessons for Scotland

There are some parallels for Scotland in New Zealand’s gradual evolution to independence. Historians looking back at the long, slow rise of support for Scottish independence will likely note the emergence of a political gulf between Scotland and England in the late 20th century, which has deepened in the 21st.

That gulf grew through the long years of Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher and John Major in the 1980s and 90s. It widened again over the Brexit referendum when the UK government refused to acknowledge that every council area in Scotland voted to remain. The difference is stark when you look at a map of the vote - which was famously recast as looking like the cartoon character Maggie Simpson, with a yellow face and blue dress. 

This divergence continues to grow to this day and it is one reason why support for Scotland to have its own government, to enact its different democratic choices is becoming so strong.

Looking at New Zealand which has managed to succeed as an independent, diverse, democratic country with its own currency and a broad base of trading relationships should encourage Scots to feel confident that Scotland could do the same. 

How small independent countries create a better, more equal society

In some of our previous articles and on our recent Believe in Scotland campaign billboards we have highlighted some of the inadequacies that exist within the UK’s social support system. In particular, one of our billboards drew attention to the fact that the UK offers the worst state pension in the developed world.

In this article, we will consider the social welfare and support systems across some of the small, independent countries in Europe. In particular, we will look at Norway, Denmark and Ireland. This will allow us to analyse and compare the performance and policies of these smaller countries to those of the UK.

This will allow us to present a hypothetical picture of the type of social support that an independent Scotland would be able and likely to offer.

State pension

As we have already shown, the state pension is a gloomy aspect of the UK’s welfare system. So, how much exactly does the UK offer to old age pensioners?

The UK former state pension consisted of two tiers – the basic state pension (£137.60 a week) and an earnings-related additional state pension. The new state pension provides a flat-rate pension worth up to £179.60 a week.

Let’s see how this compares to other countries.

Flat-rate state pensions in countries across Northern Europe: a comparison of full entitlement

Country Basic Pension As a % of UK new state pension
UK (former state pension) £137.60 77%
UK (new state pension) Up to £179.60 100%
Ireland £212.08  

118%

 

 

Norway (basic rate)

 

£162.66 91%
Norway (minimum pension level) £330.38 184%
Denmark (basic rate)  

£172.27

 

96%
Denmark (with additional supplement) £366.14  

204%

 

Small, independent countries offer a much greater state pension than the much larger UK

These figures highlight that small, independent countries offer a much greater state pension (including full entitlement) than the much larger UK. Therefore, it’s more likely that an independent Scotland would follow a similar path as its European neighbours. Indeed, the SNP has said that an independent Scotland would work to increase the Scottish state pension to match the EU average, effectively doubling it.

 Net pension replacement rate

The net pension replacement rate is another interesting way of analysing and comparing the state pension schemes across various countries.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) defines net pension replacement rate as “the individual net pension entitlement divided by net pre-retirement earnings, taking into account personal income taxes and social security contributions paid by workers and pensioners.”

The net pension replacement rate measures how effectively a pension system provides a retirement income to replace earnings as the main source of income before retirement.

Country Net pension replacement rate (% of pre-retirement earnings)
UK  

28.4

 

Ireland  

35.9

 

Norway  

51.6

 

Denmark  

70.9

 

This table demonstrates that the UK’s net pension replacement rate is significantly worse than several of the small independent countries across Europe. In fact, the only country that offers a state pension that constitutes a lower percentage of pre-retirement earnings is South Africa.

Public social spending

 Public social spending is another important factor that should be considered when analysing the effectiveness of a country’s social support system. Public social spending includes health, old age, incapacity-related benefits, family, unemployment and housing, among other things.

 

Country Public social spending (% of GDP)
UK  

20.6

 

Ireland  

13.4

 

Norway  

25.3

 

Denmark  

28.3

 

These figures highlight that, with the exception of Ireland in this case, Scotland’s Northern European neighbours with a similar population size outperform the UK in terms of public social spending. Indeed, both Norway and Denmark spend a significantly great share of the country’s GDP on public social services than the UK.

 Income distribution

Lastly, this article will consider the distribution of income – another important aspect of ensuring an equal and well-supported society.

The OECD provides an Income Distribution database that monitors the performances of countries in the field of income inequality and poverty. This is measured using the Gini coefficient, which is based on the comparison of cumulative proportions of the population against cumulative proportions of income they receive (ranging from 0, in the case of perfect equality, and 1, in the case of perfect inequality). Therefore, with reference to the OECD’s database, we have compared the case study countries of this article.

 

Country

 

Income distribution
UK  

0.366

 

Ireland  

0.295

 

Norway  

0.262

 

Denmark  

0.264

 

This data, again, shows several small independent countries across Europe outperforming the UK. Indeed, Ireland, Norway and Denmark all provide greater income equality than the UK.

By analysing these various social support factors, it has become clear that small, independent countries largely outperform the UK and offer greater security to their citizens

Conclusions

 This article has drawn upon data from various countries across Europe, including the UK, Ireland, Norway and Denmark. By analysing these various social support factors, it has become clear that small, independent countries largely outperform the UK and offer greater security to their citizens. This includes pensions, income distribution and public social spending. Overall, it can be suggested that an independent Scotland would behave similarly to these small European countries and the Scottish Government has already set out various goals for an independent Scotland to prioritise social wellbeing factors and match European targets.

Would an independent Scotland have to use the Euro?

It's a regular question and relates to EU rules that are largely misunderstood, whether an independent Scotland would have to necessarily use the Euro as its currency. We say that the question is more about whether an independent Scotland would decide to adopt the Euro or not? We researched the facts and we found the following:

The Truth

The short answer is, ‘no Scotland would not have to necessarily use the Euro.’ In fact, if an independent Scotland decides to join the EU as a full member, then according to the process for joining as a new member, Scotland would have to commit to using the euro at some undefined point in the future.

The Facts

  • The Scottish Government’s current policy is to be an EU member.
  • It is technically impossible to join the euro if you do not have your own currency. Joining the euro involves joining the European Exchange Rate Mechanism and without a sovereign currency, you can’t do that.
  • In principle, all Member States that do not have an opt-out clause (i.e. the United Kingdom and Denmark) have committed to adopting the euro once they fulfil the necessary conditions. However, it is up to individual countries to calibrate their path towards the euro and no timetable is prescribed.
  • The Member States that joined the EU in 2004, 2007 and 2013, after the euro was launched, did not meet the conditions for entry to the euro area at the time of their accession. Therefore, their Treaties of Accession allow them time to make the necessary adjustments.
  • It is highly likely that an independent Scotland would continue to use the sterling as its currency, at least during a transitional period.
  • To use the euro you have to meet the necessary conditions set by the EU and Scotland doesn’t, not least because it neither has nor plans to launch its own sovereign currency immediately after becoming independent.
  • Scotland would be empowered by the EU to decide the timetable to meet the conditions and as quoted, no timetable is prescribed; Scotland could be on an indefinite path to adoption. There are several nations to whom this process already applies and the EU told them they did not qualify to use the euro; such as Bulgaria, Croatia, Czechia, Hungary, Poland, and Romania.

Conclusions

An independent Scotland does not need to use the euro as its currency under all circumstances.

  1. Due to the use of sterling in the transition period, it is possible for Scotland to join the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), which includes Norway, Iceland, Switzerland and Liechtenstein, to have to access the single market and customs union. EFTA members are not required to join the euro, but they can if they wish to become full members of the EU.
  2. If independent Scotland joins the EU as a full member state the EU will agree that it is not possible for Scotland to adopt the euro and will give the Scottish Government full control over the timescales to meet the criteria. The Scottish Government can therefore indefinitely avoid joining the euro. However, a future Scottish Government might decide to join the euro voluntarily.