Pages tagged with "Westminster Mismanagement"

Stopping Westminster's Brexit Powergrab

The Scottish parliament is under attack from Westminster.

 In 2014 Scotland was promised it would become an equal partner in the Union if it rejected independence.

Instead we were dragged out of Europe against our will and are now seeing essential powers being stripped from our parliament.

Brexit was a clear message from Westminster to Scotland. It proved that Scotland could not trust Westminster politicians’ promises to respect Scotland’s wishes and that we could always be outvoted as long as we remain in the UK.

Brexit has been an unmitigated disaster and Scotland’s exporters have been hit harder than the rest of the UK. Our exports to Europe have been slashed, by more than 80% in some sectors. Scotland's economic output slumped by 5% in the third quarter of 2021, more than double the British drop of 2.1%. 

Northern Ireland fared better because under its Brexit deal it retained access to the EU single market. Westminster refused to listen to the Scottish government case for similar access, just as it refused to listen to our requests for a softer Brexit and a place at the negotiating table.

The UK Conservative government is now stripping back the powers given to the Scottish parliament under devolution. It has passed the Internal Market Act to seize control of money once distributed throughout Scotland by the EU. It now spends that money on projects which should be controlled by the Scottish government but wont even consult with Holyrood on where the cash should go.

That same power grabbing Act allows Westminster set standards on crucial issues such as hormone-injected food and single-use plastics, undermining the Scottish parliament. Scotland will never have the powers it needs to protect its people from Westminster’s greed, incompetence and arrogance until it regains its independence.

Believe in Scotland is the community for people who live in Scotland and who believe that Scotland’s future should be decided by the people of Scotland. We are also Scotland’s most active, most effective, and most successful independence campaigning group.

We support independence not for the sake of a political principle but for the people, as a means to an end: to build of a better Scotland.

We believe that independence offers Scotland the opportunity to be a better nation. A nation that more closely matches the values, hopes and aspirations of the people of Scotland.

As a sovereign independent people, we can truly protect Scotland’s NHS and our nations wellbeing. Independence offers us the chance to create a society and an economy that are more resilient, fairer, equal, ambitious, internationally connected, environmentally sustainable and successful.

That’s why we believe in Scotland, in an independent Scotland

If you believe in Scotland, then pledge your support for our grassroots-led campaign for Scottish independence and we will send you key messages, exclusive content and campaign information. We've teamed up with The National newspaper to make a special offer to pledgers, so you will recive a code for a FREE 2 month subscription to The National.

And every supporter will also receive a FREE PDF copy of the mini version of our book Scotland the Brief by email. Scotland the Brief has now sold more than 41,000 hard copies and has been described as a game-changer in terms of how people view Scotland's economy and independence.

Indy Day of Action plans come together as families face UK benefit cut misery

The Yes movement is preparing for the biggest campaigning effort to boost support for independence in more than a year just as Westminster is about to impose the most severe cut to families' welfare benefit since the second world war.

The Believe in Scotland Day of Action will take place as soon as the Covid pandemic is at a stage where it is safe to do so.

Yes supporters are being asked to organise the events they think will help to persuade people that independence offers the best hope for Scotland’s future. There will be street stalls, coffee mornings, open days at local Yes hubs, a mass leaflet drop and a lot more.

It’s being organised with the support of the National Yes Network. The National is media partner and will be printing a special edition containing a pull-out featuring material published as part of Believe in Scotland’s recent Open Minds series in the newspaper.

The Believe in Scotland Day of Action is coming together just as the full devastating impact of Westminster’s decision to end a £20 a week uplift in universal credit is laid bare.

The event is coming together just as the full devastating impact of Westminster’s decision to end a £20 a week uplift in universal credit is laid bare. That will mean a cut of £1040 a year for hard pressed families.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation into the effects of such a major reduction on people with children has identified Glasgow Central as the hardest hit area, with 63% of families there losing £1040 a year.

Glasgow South West and Glasgow North East are the next worst hit areas, with 55% and 54% respectively of people with children under 18 receiving less universal credit from October 6.

In many areas of Scotland almost half the families with children will have less money coming in. These include Dundee West, where 49% of families will lose out; Kirkaldy & Cowdenbeath (44%); Aberdeen North (42%) and North Ayrshire & Arran (43%).

Altogether more than a quarter of families with children will be hit in 52 of Scotland’s 59 Westminster constituencies. An average 19% of all working-age families in Scotland (with or without children) will experience this cut to their income, which amounts to around 452,000 families.

The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford said yesterday that the party has a “responsibility” to Scottish voters to deliver a second independence referendum in the current Holyrood parliament – and insisted it would do so.

Let the Yes movement come together and let’s make sure we have that route to ensuring Scotland becoming an independent country

Mr Blackford was speaking in Glasgow during a day of protest at the universal credit cut. He said: “We can’t trust Westminster to make sure our economy can recover.’

And he added: “My message to everyone, particularly in the independence movement, is that independence referendum will happen ... Let the Yes movement come together and let’s make sure we have that route to ensuring Scotland becoming an independent country.”

Believe in Scotland’s Day of Action offers the Yes movement a chance to do just that. A date for the event will be announced in the coming days.

Brexit is the biggest threat to Scotland's further education

Yesterday, the Scottish Government released new figures highlighting that the number of Scottish domiciled students that have been offered a place at a university in Scotland is at a record high. Indeed, this year, the figure has risen 10% to 31,070. Furthermore, UCAS data has suggested that the number of acceptances from the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland to universities across the UK has increased by 7% to 4,700. This is another record high statistic.

However, the matter of concern that arises from this data is the number of applicants from EU countries. Indeed, this year’s statistics highlight a 56% decrease, on SQA results day, in the number of acceptances to universities in Scotland from people based in EU countries. These figures, once again, suggest that Brexit is the biggest threat to Scotland and our education system, not independence. Therefore, throughout this article, we will consider the potential of Scotland’s education system and recognise the importance of education and skilled individuals in helping an independent Scotland to prosper. We will then look further into the damage that Brexit is causing to the education sector.

Scotland’s successful and growing further education sector

Firstly, let’s look at some of the successes of Scotland’s education sector. As the figures above demonstrate, Scottish Universities are becoming increasingly popular among individuals who reside in Scotland. This is unsurprising with Scotland holding 4 of the world’s top 200 universities, as well as many excellent colleges. 

The success of Scotland’s education sector extends beyond university and college, however. For example, in 2019, the number of apprentices benefitting from work-based learning rose for the 8th consecutive year with more than 28,000 people in Scotland starting apprenticeships between 2018 and 2019. While this was slightly lower in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, employers demonstrated their commitment to Modern Apprenticeships during the second half of the year when, despite the economy going back into lockdown, demand increased four-fold. This resulted in the end of year Modern Apprenticeship figure for 2020/21 being 18,655.

As a result of these fantastic opportunities, Scotland has the most educated population in Europe. Indeed, the most recent figures, demonstrate that 47% of the population, aged 25 to 64, have obtained either a university, college or vocational qualification. This is 4% above the UK average and 15% above the EU average.

How would education support an independent Scotland?

So, one may ask why these successes are so important to Scotland and why, here at Believe in Scotland, we suggest that the education sector would help an independent Scotland to thrive? Well, first of all, a prosperous nation requires a skilled population. Indeed, educated people, in turn, produce high quality research, excellent teaching, and carry out the skilled professions that are critical to the development of a nation and a thriving economy. 

This is evident in Scotland, with the higher education sector contributing massively to the Scottish economy. Previous research recognises that the higher education sector has an annual economic impact of over £11bn GVA. This means that with every £1 of public investment, the further education sector multiplies it into £11 of economic impact.

This sector also employs nearly 44,000 people and significantly, 69% of those jobs are located in the most deprived decile of local authorities in Scotland. This shows how important this sector is not only to those in training but also for individuals in employment, particularly those living in more deprived areas of the country. 

In terms of higher education research and development, Scotland is internationally recognised and respected for its quality and its innovative and collaborative nature. As a result, Scotland HEIs receive over 15% of the total UK Research Council competitive investments. This reflects the high quality of the research carried out by these institutions. This suggests that Scotland’s education sector already has a strong research base and would continue to develop as an independent country.

Overall, it is clear that Scotland’s further education system, and the country’s skilled population, would be critical in supporting Scotland’s move to independence. It is evident that with Scotland holding the most educated and skilled population in Europe and already acquiring a strong and internationally-admired research base, the education sector in an independent Scotland would continue to thrive.

The real danger to our education sector – Brexit

However, the real danger that faces Scotland’s higher education sector is Brexit. Firstly, as recognised at the beginning of this article, there has been a 56% decrease in the number of applicants from EU countries. In 2021, only 1200 EU students accepted a place at a Scottish University. This compares to 2730 in 2020. The National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland has said that this is because of the excessive fees that EU students have to pay as a result of Brexit.

Although EU students did not pay tuition fees in Scotland prior to Brexit, these students supported Scotland and the economy in many other ways. Indeed, financially, both EU and non-EU international students spend money on accommodation, travel and other living and recreational expenses. This amounts to tens of thousands of pounds for each individual student, contributing hundreds of millions of pounds to the Scottish economy. For example, a report by Oxford Economics in 2017 on the economic impact of UK universities estimated that every EU student would generate approximately £44,000 in gross output. These figures do not include tuition fees or some other forms of on-campus spending, including university accommodation.

Other benefits of welcoming EU students to Scotland include improving the range and quality of education provision. A multicultural, multinational learning environment is hugely beneficial for all students and helps to raise cultural awareness and a global perspective among domestic students. Furthermore, EU students often stay in Scotland longer-term and are therefore, a valuable asset to Scotland’s workforce.

Lastly, before Brexit, Scotland was a valued partner in many EU research collaborations and often secured significant funding from EU research programmes as a result. For example, between 2015 and 2016, Scottish Universities received £97m from various EU sources, equating to 10.1% of their total research income. With Scotland being unwillingly dragged out of the EU with the rest of the UK, the loss of such funding will be a huge blow to the education sector.


Overall, it is clear that Scotland’s education sector is thriving and would support the economy in a move towards independence. However, what is also evident is that Brexit poses the greatest threat to Scotland’s education sector and is already causing huge damage, with a dramatic decline in EU students and a loss in funding for research and development.

UK Government abandons the vulnerable and fails to set up pandemic recovery

For over a year now, countries across the world have faced the greatest health crisis in living memory. As a result, governments worldwide have introduced a number of extraordinary measures, including business closures, social distancing, and travel bans. However, alongside these public health interventions, has come increased social support. Therefore, this article sets out to analyse the type of support that is in already in place to help individuals during this type of health crisis, as well as the new policy changes. We will consider exactly how effective these measures are in the UK and across various countries worldwide.

Sick pay

Firstly, let’s look at statutory sick pay. This has become a controversial matter in recent times, with many people across the world having to take time off work to recover or isolate during the coronavirus pandemic. A recent report from The Compensation Experts, that looks at European countries specifically, has demonstrated that there is very little consistency across countries in Europe in terms of sick pay. Indeed, it is evident that certain countries provide a better scheme than others. So, how does the UK perform in this area? Well, according to this new research, the situation in the UK is rather gloomy. In fact, the UK offers the third worst sick pay scheme in Europe.

In the UK, employees that are off from work due to ill-health are eligible for just £96.35 per week, for up to 28 weeks. Furthermore, the UK Government’s involvement with supplying this sick pay ceases after just the fourth day of the employee being absent from work. After this period, the employer is required to step in and continue the payments.

On the other end of the spectrum, Iceland is ranked highest for offering the most effective and comprehensive sick pay scheme in Europe. In fact, many of the small, independent countries in Europe offer a very effective sick pay scheme, as demonstrated in the table below.

Country European Rank Minimum Sick Pay Maximum Sick Pay Maximum Period
Iceland 1st 100% 100% 2 days for each week worked


2nd 100% 100% 52 weeks
Denmark 4th 100% 100% 30 days + 22 weeks


7th 70% 100% 44 weeks


40th £96.35 per week £96.35 per week 28 weeks

Unemployment Benefit

In the last quarter of 2020, the unemployment rate (of those aged 16 and over) was 5.2%. While measures such as the furlough scheme have helped to protect jobs during this health crisis, many have still been made redundant and companies have closed. Moreover, the number of people out of work is expected to grow further. Therefore, it is important to consider the type of support that is offered to unemployed people in the UK and how this compares to other countries across the world.

To offer a comparison of unemployment benefits across different countries worldwide, we will refer to the OECD database of benefits in unemployment. In particular, we will look at the share of the individual’s previous income after 2 months and then after 6 months. Of the 40 OECD countries included in this database, the UK offers the worst unemployment benefit after 2 months and the 4th worst after 6 months.

So, let’s take a look at how some of the small independent countries compare.

Country Benefits in unemployment, share of previous income (after 2 months) Benefits in unemployment, share of previous income (after 6 months)
Denmark 82% 82%
Croatia 78% 39%
Iceland 75% 63%
Norway 68% 68%
Finland 58% 58%
Ireland 39% 39%
UK 22% 22%

This data is very interesting, as it shows that small independent countries are able to support their unemployed to a much greater extent and for a longer period. The UK offering the worst unemployment benefits in the short-term (after 2 months) is very significant and perhaps, shows why many people in this country have faced such hardship during this health crisis.

Coronavirus spending packages

While the UK stimulus package, that allowed for the furlough scheme and various grant programmes to be put in place, has protected jobs across the country, it is worthwhile comparing the UK economic package that was put in place at the start of the pandemic to others across the world. Research from Professor Ceyhun Elgin has tracked the responses of 166 countries worldwide. So, how does the UK compare.

Country Economic Stimulus Package, as of May 2020 (% of GDP)
UK 5%
France 9.3%
Germany 10.7%
Italy 5.7%
Japan 21.1%

As this table shows, the UK’s initial stimulus package was actually provided a much smaller percentage of its GDP than many other countries. So, how did this situation look a year down the line?

Country Economic Stimulus Package, as of May 2021 (% of GDP)
UK 17.8%
France 23.8%
Germany 39.3%
Italy 37.7%
Japan 56.1%

Again, the UK has still spent a much smaller percentage of its GDP on challenging, supporting and recovering from this health crisis than many other nations across Europe and the rest of the world.

Furthermore, while the furlough scheme has benefitted businesses across the UK so far, the UK Government has refused to extend the scheme beyond September 2021. Citizens Advice Scotland have said that this will force one in seven Scots into an income crisis. In contrast, Germany’s short-time working scheme will continue to provide the more generous support that has been available since the start of the coronavirus crisis until the end of 2021. France’s equivalent scheme will continue even longer, with eligible employers being able to claim support until 2023.


Throughout this health crisis, the UK Government has continuously suggested that this country offers the most generous support and “world beating” schemes. However, when you consider the international data, a very different picture emerges. Indeed, with regards to both the direct COVID financial support, as well as the schemes that were already in place, such as unemployment benefit and sick pay, the UK is clearly underperforming. Furthermore, much of this data has shown that small independent countries are more equipped and willing to support the vulnerable citizens of their populations both in normal times and during such health crises.

Scotland challenges inequality, while UK falls behind

Deprivation is a useful measure to identify areas of the country that are experiencing significant disadvantage. The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation (SIMD) uses statistics on income, employment, health, education, access to services, crime and housing to calculate the level of deprivation across all regions of Scotland. Last year, levels of deprivation fell in Glasgow City, Renfrewshire and City of Edinburgh compared to SIMD 2016. Glasgow City demonstrated the greatest fall, from 48% of data zones in the 20% most deprived areas in Scotland, to 44%.

However, the UK Government has not privatised solving deprivation and so, a UK-wide index of multiple deprivation does not exist. Therefore, it is difficult to compare levels of disadvantage in areas of Scotland and other regions of the UK. As a result, this article will offer a comparison of GDP per head of population, one of the common indicators of deprivation and disadvantage, within the UK and across the EU.

10 Regions of UK with lowest GDP per head (2018)

Region GDP per head
Tees Valley and Durham (England) 21,882
Northumberland and Tyne and Wear (England) 24,960
Merseyside (England) 24,464
South Yorkshire (England) 22,104
Lincolnshire (England) 23,322
Outer London - East and North East (England) 22,626
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly (England) 22,096
Devon (England) 23,858
West Wales and The Valleys (Wales) 21,274
Southern Scotland (Scotland) 19,937

As this table demonstrates, of the 10 regions with the lowest GDP per head in the UK, only one area is within Scotland. Meanwhile, 8 of the regions are within England and one is in Wales. This suggests that economic inequality is a greater problem in the rest of the UK than it is in Scotland.

Furthermore, it is interesting to compare these figures to the EU-27 countries average GDP per head of population. Indeed, it has been implied that regions within the UK have struggled to keep pace with the rest of Europe since the financial crash in 2008.

In 2018, GDP at market prices in the EU-27 was valued at 13.5 trillion euros, equivalent to an average of 30,200 euros per person (approximately £26,195.63).

UK NUTS 2 (Nomenclature of Territorial Units for Statistics) Regions with GDP per head lower than EU-27 Average

Region GDP per head (£) % of EU-27 Average
Tees Valley and Durham 21,882 83%
Northumberland and Tyne and Wear 24,960 95%
Merseyside 24,464 93%
South Yorkshire 22,104 84%
Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire 25,367 97%
Lincolnshire 23,322 89%
Shropshire and Staffordshire 25,574 98%
Outer London - East and North East 22,626 86%
Dorset and Somerset 25,442 97%
Cornwall and Isles of Scilly 22,096 84%
Devon 23,858 91%
West Wales and The Valleys 21,274 81%
Southern Scotland 19,937 76%
Northern Ireland 25,981 99%

This table highlights that many regions across the UK continue to lag behind many European countries in terms of GDP per capita. Indeed, 14 NUTS 2 regions in the UK have a GDP per head lower than the EU-27 average. Of these regions only 1 is in Scotland, 1 is in Wales, 1 is in Northern Ireland and 11 are in England.

The major exception

While we have demonstrated that deprivation and inequality are rife across England, there continues to be one major exception – London. In fact, this is a huge part of the problem. In 2018, data from the Office for National Statistics showed that London recorded a 1.1% annual rise in output per person to £54,700. Meanwhile, in the North East, growth was only 0.4%, rising to just £23,600 per head. This shows a further widening of the per capita gap between the richest and poorest regions of the country.

We have recognised for years that the key issue at play here is that the UK is far too centralised around London and the South East. Seven years ago, at Business for Scotland, we said that “power, money, opportunity and influence has been drained from the rest of the country for generations towards a metropolis that has developed its own financial and capitalist culture which sits a world apart from the distant regions and nations that make up the wider UK” and unfortunately, this still applies today but to an even greater degree. Ultimately, this constant investment in London and the financial sector has resulted in huge disparity across England, and harmed the other nations of the UK, including Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Further mismanagement

The past year has undoubtedly been a challenging one for many countries across the world, with the COVID-19 pandemic having drastic consequences for economies and healthcare systems worldwide. However, adding a hard Brexit deal to the equation has only worsened matters, particularly with regards to deprivation. Indeed, studies have found that there is a high risk that the economic impacts of COVID-19 and Brexit will further increase regional disparities. In particular, already deprived areas such as the North East, Wales and Outer London are likely to be hardest hit by Brexit. Meanwhile, tourism dependent coastal communities and hospitality dependent cities such as Manchester and Liverpool are already facing drastic consequences as a result of COVID-19.

These struggles are only emphasised by the lack of support displayed by the UK Government. Indeed, new research has shown that if the Chancellor’s plans to cut Universal Credit go ahead, millions of individuals will be left without the income needed to afford the minimum living standard and the Scottish Child Payment will be undermined. Indeed, after years of austerity, followed by the chaos of Brexit and a global pandemic, such policy decisions will only cause further deprivation and inequality in the UK, particularly in England where great disparity already exists. This highlights that as a result of UK Government mismanagement and the already severe levels of inequality, certain impoverished areas in England are likely to suffer further in the coming months and years.

Southern Scotland

This region is the only area of Scotland that is within the 10 regions of the UK with the lowest GDP per head and holds a GDP per capita lower than the EU-27 average. However, it is important to note that this situation is gradually improving and the GPD per head of population in this region has significantly improved since 2011. In 2011, Southern Scotland’s GDP per head was £16,142. Meanwhile, the EU-27 average was approximately £22,346. This means that Southern Scotland’s GDP per head was approximately 72% of the EU-27 average in 2011. However, in 2018, this figure had risen to 76%, demonstrating the gradual increase of GDP per head and the closing gap between Southern Scotland and the EU-27 average.

Scottish Government Approach

So, let’s see why Scotland is leading the way in reducing such deprivation. One of the key ways to tackle deprivation is through education. Indeed, the Scottish Government recently announced the investment of £215million to benefit pupils in Scotland’s most deprived communities.

An area in which the Scottish Government has also invested in to reduce deprivation and inequality is affordable housing. Indeed, in the 2021-22 budget, £711.6 million was dedicated to affordable housing and a new £55 million programme was put in place to support town centres.

Another critical example that extends to the wider community is the Empowering Communities Fund. This programme was established in 2015 and has already had huge benefits for deprived communities in Scotland. To date, the programme has helped hundreds of projects that create change in disadvantaged communities through training, employment, healthy eating and volunteering opportunities.

It is clear that reducing inequalities and deprivation is a key ambition of the Scottish Government and one that is continuously being met, with levels of deprivation reducing across the country.


It is evident that inequalities and uneven levels of deprivation across the UK continue to be a significant problem. However, it is also clear that Scotland is continually challenging these inequalities and the Scottish Government is working to ensure that levels of GDP per head in Scotland match the average of EU countries.

What's behind Westminster court bid to block Holyrood child rights law?

Westminster’s bid to persuade the Supreme Court to stop the Scottish parliament improving children’s rights is entering its second day.

It is a naked attempt to thwart legislation passed unanimously by MSPs in Holyrood. At its heart is a determination to limit the powers of the Scottish parliament and protect what the Conservative government views as the superiority of Westminster.

If it succeeds the losers will be the children of Scotland and their protection from laws which threaten their human rights.

The issue dates back to March, when the Scottish parliament passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill. That writes the UN convention into law and would require public authorities to respect children and young people’s rights.

At the time MSPs considered it uncontroversial. They passed it unanimously, with no dissent even from Tory MSPs. But within days the Tory Scottish Secretary of State Alister Jack threatened to take legal action to against Holyrood’s move.

And in April Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross backed up Mr Jack’s attack on legislation his own party’s MSPs had voted for. Mr Ross said the legal challenge was over ‘very small, technical legal issues’.

The KidsRights Foundation ranks the UK as 169 out of 182 countries on its respect for the rights of children

He insisted Westminster had no issue with the aims of protecting children’s rights, yet the KidsRights Foundation ranks the UK as 169 out of 182 countries on its respect for the rights of children.

That same organisation praised Scotland as the first devolved nation in the world to legislate to bring the UN Conventions of the Rights of the Child into law.

Westminster signed up to the treaty in 1990 but it has not directly written it into domestic law. The Holyrood legislation would allow children, young people and their representatives go to the courts to enforce their rights, and let courts strike down legislation that is incompatible with the UNCRC.

James Mure, the QC representing the Lord Advocate of Scotland, said: ‘The UNCRC Bill is concerned with furthering children’s rights in Scotland. The true purpose of placing the duty on public authorities is to protect children’s rights and to further the fulfilment of those rights in Scotland.”

The UK government’s legal argument suggests the Holyrood legislation is not competent because it impinges on Westminster’s ability to legislate for Scotland. Its fears are revealed in its written submissions to the Supreme Court which refer to Westminster as ‘the sovereign UK parliament’.

Nicola Sturgeon has described Alister Jack’s legal challenge as politically catastrophic and morally repugnant

UK ministers are clearly rattled by the prospect of tougher children’s rights laws in Scotland taking precedence over weaker laws agreed by Westminster.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has described Mr Jack’s legal challenge as ‘politically catastrophic and morally repugnant’.

And the Scottish government has described the move as an ‘orchestrated and sustain assault’ on Holyrood powers.

The European Charter of Local Self-Government (Incorporation) (Scotland) Bill, which MSPs also passed unanimously, has also been referred to the Supreme Court for similar reasons.

Two days have been set aside for the arguments to be presented to a panel of five judges. The UK government presented its case yesterday and it is the Scottish government’s turn today.

The Welsh Government is also involved in the case and will make oral submissions today. Judgment is expected to be made at a later date.

How Brexit robbed Scotland of crucial funding

Since the Brexit transition period came to an end, we have outlined some of the various adverse implications and negative effects on trade, business and research, for example. However, another benefit of EU membership that came to an end for the UK in December 2020 was the country’s access to the EU Structural Funds.

Structural Funds are pots of funding that intend to support economic development and diminish the inequalities between various areas of Europe. The UK benefitted hugely from this funding. Indeed, across the 2014-20 funding period, the European Structural and Investment (ESI) funds provided €17.2 billion to the UK. Meanwhile, during the same period, the UK received a further €22.5 billion through the European Agricultural Guarantee Fund.

The ESI in particular is used to reduce inequalities between the various regions of Europe, funding less developed areas to a greater extent and helping such regions to catch up. The majority of this funding comes from the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF) and the European Social Fund (ESF), which allocated €5.8 billion and €4.9 billion respectively between 2014 and 2020.

ERDF and ESF funding by nation and region of the UK (2014-2020)

Euro to GBP pound exchange rate as of 21st April 2021


Region/Nation Total Funding (£ millions) Per person, per year (£)
UK 9,474 20.8
Scotland 813 21.6
Wales 2,083 96.1
Northern Ireland 443 34.2
East Midlands 517 15.8
East of England 334 7.9
London 658 10.9
North East 638 34.7
North West 978 19.4
South East 247 4.0
South West 1291 33.7
West Midlands


785 19.5
Yorkshire and the Humber 686 18.1

The loss of these funds is quite clearly going to have a detrimental effect on many already disadvantaged areas, as well as the more privileged regions. An attempt to cover these losses has been made in the form of the Stronger Towns Fund, launched in 2019. However, this fund has been described as a “Brexit bribe” and one that fails to even come close to covering this shortfall.

It is clear that Scotland will face huge losses as a result of Brexit

So, we want to offer a comparison to see exactly how much Brexit is costing these regions of the UK, in relation to this funding. Firstly, however, it must be noted that money from the Stronger Towns Fund has not been directly allocated to Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland. Instead, it has been proposed that £600m will be made available for these regions to bid upon over a seven-year period. Considering Scotland alone received €941 million (approximately £811 million) across a six-year period from the ERDF and ESF funding, it is clear that Scotland will face huge losses as a result of Brexit.

Stronger Towns Fund (2019-2026)

Region Total funding (£ millions) Per person, per year (£)
East Midlands 110 2.8
East of England 25 0.5
North East 105 4.9
North West 281 4.8
South East 37 0.5
South West 33 0.7
West Midlands


212 4.5
Yorkshire and the Humber 197 4.7

In comparing these tables, it can be seen that across all regions of England the funding per head of population per year is significantly less than when the UK was an EU member state and received EU funding. This demonstrates another key shortfall that has resulted from the UK leaving the EU.

UK Shared Prosperity Fun

 It must also be noted that the UK government has announced that it will replace the EU Structural Funds with the UK Shared Prosperity Fund, launching in 2022. The government has suggested that the fund will reach around £1.5 billion a year, roughly matching the combined total of the ERDF and ESF funds. However there is a question mark over whether this sum will be reached initially. Indeed, the pilot scheme that has been set up to trial this fund is investing just £220 million in its first year. This is a dramatic difference compared to the sum the UK would have received had it still been an EU member.


It is clear that leaving the EU has had severe consequences for Scotland and the UK as a whole. The Stronger Towns Fund was an inadequate attempt to compensate for the huge losses in funding that have resulted from the UK leaving the EU and therefore no longer qualifying for the ERDF and ESF funds.

In particular, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland were not specifically allocated money from the Stronger Towns Fund, leaving £600 million to be bid upon over a seven-year period - a drastically different scenario from being an EU member. It is clear that an independent Scotland, as a member of the EU, would prosper and benefit from such EU funding.

How Scotland beat the UK to produce a better, cheaper test and trace app

We have previously examined the many COVID-19 related disasters and the Westminster mismanagement that has been thrown into sharp focus by the pandemic. From mass PPE shortages to a multi-billion-pound app that failed, it is clear that an independent Scotland could have managed this crisis more effectively than has been possible as part of the UK.

Throughout the pandemic the Scottish government has acted independently, often diverting from a four-nations approach, and this has brought many benefits. One of these has been Scotland's own test and trace app, which has been a significant success overall, and has proved much cheaper than the UK alternative. This article will investigate exactly how much cheaper and will compare the English, Irish and Scottish test and trace systems.


The UK government initially decided to develop its own NHS test and trace app, but after its app was  tested in the Isle of Wight last June, it was discovered that it only recognised approximately 4% of Apple phones and 75% of Google Android devices.

This failed app and the consequent U-turn to replace it with an alternative designed by Apple and Google has been extremely costly for the UK government. In September it was recognised that the first stage of development of the test and trace app cost roughly £11m and the second phase and running costs for the first year are expected to cost a further £25m.

Until the end of October 2020, total spending on test and trace in England was £4bn. This works out at approximately £71.06 per head of population. However, this figure excludes the 407 contracts that were signed for test and trace supplies, services and infrastructure by the end of October 2020. These contracts, with 217 public and private organisations, were worth a further £7bn.

The existing costs and the proposed budget for England’s NHS Test and Trace system is significantly higher than Scotland’s and those of other countries worldwide

Furthermore, if we look beyond October 2020, when the test and trace system was still fairly new, it is clear that the UK government intended to and is likely to have spent a significant amount more. Indeed, the initial budget for test and trace 2020-21 in England was £22bn. Since then, a further £15bn has been allocated to the budget, totalling £37bn over two years. These budgets are the equivalent of £390.85 and £657.35 per head of population.

The existing costs and the proposed budget for England’s NHS Test and Trace system is significantly higher than Scotland’s and those of other countries worldwide. The Department of Health and Social Care justified this enormous investment on the basis that the test and trace system would be hugely effective and help to avoid a second national lockdown. Since then we have faced not only a second lockdown but also a third.


Ireland, a small independent country with a similar population size to Scotland, was ahead of the UK in releasing its test and trace scheme, with its app launching at the beginning of July last year. The app itself has proved cheap and successful, costing approximately £773,000 to develop.

Total spending on COVID-19 test and tracing Ireland in 2020 was €280.48 million (£239m). This works out at approximately £48.70 per head of population. This is significantly less than the costs incurred by the UK government and covers the entire year of 2020, rather than just until the end of October. Furthermore, the Irish government launched the scheme earlier than the UK and it has been more effective overall, avoiding any need to replace it with an alternative and the resultant additional costs.


The Scottish government launched the Protect Scotland test and trace app in September 2020. Scotland was initially working alongside the NHSX England app team but in July decided to instead develop its own version of the app using the same software as Ireland. It has been suggested that the overall cost of the technical development of the Scottish app was less than £300,000.

The total cost of test and trace in Scotland remained approximately 4.3 times lower than England's

The Scottish Government announced last November that the total spending on the test and trace scheme was £89.3m. This works out at approximately £16.35 per head of population. This figure is dramatically lower than the costs in England, and even in Ireland. Although these figures were published about a month later than England’s, the total cost of test and trace in Scotland remained approximately 4.3 times lower than England's.


Our examination has shown that test and trace was a key failing of the Westminster government during this pandemic and demonstrated the clear ability of small, independent countries to work better during such a crisis. The Irish government launched a very successful and cheap test and trace app that was welcomed by the Irish public. Meanwhile, Scotland took an alternative route from the rest of the UK and that has proved far cheaper and more effective. The UK government wasted millions on its first attempt to develop an app and has set an extremely high budget for the following year, despite failing to offer the promised “world beating” system. Overall, it is clear that an independent Scotland would have dealt more effectively, not only with the development of a test and trace system but with the pandemic as a whole.

Independent Scotland COVID-19 response would have been better than UK's

Prime Minister Boris Johnson has claimed that Scotland would not have been able to fight the virus as effectively without the support of England and the rest of the UK.  With the increasing politicisation of the pandemic, we feel it is only right to point out the facts. As the UK recently passed a grim milestone, with over 100,000 people having died from COVID-19, it is important to consider the grave mistakes that have been made by the UK Government and question whether an independent Scotland, with fully devolved powers, would have taken a different and more successful route in tackling the pandemic.

To understand how an independent Scotland would have been likely to respond during this crisis, let’s examine some of the independent countries across Europe, with similar population sizes to Scotland, including Ireland, Finland, Norway and Denmark. The measures enforced and the consequent results in tackling COVID-19 across these countries will be compared to those of the UK. Looking at these case studies in comparison to the political one liners, allows us to recognise why an independent Scotland would have coped better with the pandemic than it has been able to as part of the UK.

     1. Higher case numbers

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the UK has faced disproportionately high case numbers. Throughout the winter months, cases of COVID-19 have run out of control once again. As of the 3rd February 2021 (rolling 7-day average), there were 22,2476.4 daily new confirmed COVID-19 cases. The Nordic countries, Norway (268.3), Denmark (463.1) and Finland (347.6), have kept their number of daily cases under greater control.

Norway and Finland, in particular, implemented strict measures quickly after the summer months and despite a slight rise in cases over the winter, have avoided case numbers escalating out of control.

     2. Rising hospital admissions

In relation to the rising number of cases, the UK has faced a serious rise in hospital admissions, putting severe and continuous strain on the NHS. On the 22nd January, the UK had 38,167 COVID-19 patients in hospital. In comparison, Ireland had 1,969, Norway had 131, Finland had 136 and Denmark had 745.

These figures demonstrate that the UK has a higher number of COVID-19 patients in hospital per head of population than the smaller independent nations that we have benchmarked against. Again, this is due to their ability to implement strict measures quickly and effectively.

     3. Greater number of deaths

With rising cases and hospital admissions, it is unsurprising that the UK has also faced a severe number of COVID-19 deaths. In fact, the UK’s mortality outcome is among the worst in the world. When considering the COVID-19 deaths per 100,000 of the population, the UK has the third biggest cumulative death total, with only Slovenia and Belgium having higher mortality rates.

Meanwhile the latest data shows a drastically different picture among some of Europe’s small independent countries. On the 4th February 2021, Norway had registered 574 deaths (cumulative total per 1 million population, 105.88) , Finland 685 (123.63), Denmark 2,170 (374.64), Ireland 3,512 (711.25) and the UK 109,335 (1,610.57).

     4. Delays in locking down the UK

Government advisers have recognised that the UK’s delay in locking down in March 2020 was a crucial mistake. The UK Government did not announce national lockdown until 23rd March 2020. In comparison, Norway announced a national lockdown almost two weeks before, on 12th March 2020. Denmark followed suit, implementing lockdown on 13th March and Finland on 16th March. Closer to home, Ireland started to take action, such as closing schools and colleges, as early as 12th March 2020.

The UK were slow in locking down, especially when compared to smaller independent countries across Europe, and this has had critical and grave effects. The different approach adopted by many small independent nations suggests that an independent Scotland would have been likely to implement measures sooner, particularly without the pressures of following a four nations approach as part of the UK.

     5. Failure to close borders

Unlike the UK, Finland, Norway and Denmark all closed their borders by 19th March 2020. This allowed these countries to be less strict in other respects, such as the number of times people could leave their house in a day to exercise. The UK Government holds control over borders and has only recently closed all travel corridors and made a negative test mandatory before entering the country. However, great pressure remains on Boris Johnson to close the borders completely.

The significance of this failure of the UK Government to close the borders in March 2020 and only recently implementing more lenient measures, has even been recognised from within the Cabinet itself. The Home Secretary, Priti Patel, stated that it was a mistake not closing the borders last year in March.

     6. Vaccine capitalism

As of the 2nd February 2021, the UK had vaccinated 10.52 million individuals. Boris Johnson claimed that there would not have been any COVID-19 vaccines in Scotland if it had not been for the Union. This insensitive and irrational comment can be understood as an attempt by the PM and the Conservative party to politicise the pandemic and the vaccination programme.

Evidence shows that an independent Scotland would be more than capable of vaccinating its population, as other small independent nations have done so. Although the Nordic countries and Ireland have not yet vaccinated as many individuals as the UK, they are certainly capable, as by mid-January, Denmark had administered their vaccines so efficiently that they had run out. This shortage in vaccinations is largely a result of the UK capitalising the vaccine. It has been reported that the UK has paid between £24 and £28 per dose on the Moderna vaccine, meanwhile the EU is paying approximately £13. Moreover, the AstraZeneca vaccine has cost the UK £3 per dose and the EU £1.61. The UK paying significantly more for the vaccinations than the EU has resulted in the UK being prioritised for distribution by the struggling drug companies, thus breaking their contracts with several EU nations. This is being recognised as a success for the UK Government, despite that it will almost certainly result in worsening trade relations with the EU and greater austerity within the UK due to the accumulated COVID response overspend.

Meanwhile, EU nations and the other Nordic countries have largely administered the Pfizer/BioNTech (95% effective after two doses) and Moderna (80.2% effective after one dose and 95.6% effective after two) vaccines, which offer greater effectiveness than the AstraZeneca vaccination (76% effective after one dose and 82% after two).

     7. PPE shortages

Another crucial error made by the UK Government refers to the major PPE shortages experienced by the UK.  Despite the UK government emphasising that sufficient stockpiles of PPE existed and were available, this was most certainly not the case. In fact, Professor Ewan Macdonald, one of the UK’s leading occupation health specialists, recognised the way in which the government had tailored its advice and guidance on the use of PPE to the availability they had. Ultimately, the UK Government failed to recognise the urgency and volume of PPE that would be required and instead, had to play catch up with other nations in trying to secure its share of scarce resources.

On the other hand, Finland demonstrated a very different approach to the pandemic from the beginning. As the UK scrambled to find resources, Finland held a grand stockpile of PPE and surgical masks. The stockpile had been built up over many years and includes medical supplies, oil, grains, tools and raw materials. This level of preparedness is something that the UK Government has lacked hugely throughout the pandemic.

     8. Testing failures

Norway and Finland were some of the first countries to begin testing for COVID-19, with tests being carried out towards the end of February 2020. In April 2020, when the virus was peaking in the UK and across Europe, the UK trailed behind some of the smaller, independent countries with regards to testing. On 25th April 2020, the UK was carrying out 0.39 tests per 1000 people. Denmark was carrying out more than 4 times the number of tests per 1000 people than the UK was at this point (carrying out 1.72 tests per 1000 people). Norway, Finland and Ireland also proved to have more effective testing systems.

Despite, the UK’s testing system gradually improving since the beginning of the pandemic, Denmark continues to carry out approximately double the number of tests per 1000 people than the UK. This, again, shows the capabilities of smaller independent nations.

     9. Eat out to help out

The UK Government introduced the ‘Eat out to help out’ scheme in the UK during August 2020. The scheme involved the government funding discounts on food and non-alcoholic drinks on Monday-Wednesday throughout August. The idea aimed to boost the economy and help businesses get back on their feet. However, the irrationality of this programme was evidenced in the consequent increase in COVID-19 cases. Research has suggested that the scheme contributed directly to the rise in cases over the summer. This demonstrates an example in which the UK Government prioritised the economy over the health of the population.

     10. Poor economic recovery

As of December 2020, the Scottish Government had been allocated £8.2 billion and was not aware of any further funding from the UK Government in respect of COVID-19. However, not all of the £8.2 billion had been transferred as cash to the Scottish Government bank account yet. £3.063 billion has been formally allocated at the UK Main Estimate, the remaining is expected to be allocated at Supplementary Estimate later this financial year.

Despite, the UK Government asserting that Scotland is financially better off during this crisis as part of the Union, earlier last year, we discovered that had Scotland been both independent and a member of the EU, it would have received roughly £5.4bn worth of funding to help tackle the COVID-19 crisis.

Throughout this global health crisis, it has become clear that small independent countries have been able to offer very supportive economic recovery packages. For example, Norway and Denmark, two of our closest neighbours which have similar population sizes to Scotland, have been able to source large sums of funding to deal with the coronavirus pandemic and restarting their economies.


This article has recognised only a handful of the numerous significant mistakes that the UK Government has made throughout this pandemic. As Boris Johnson’s Government leads the UK past a grim milestone of over 100,000 COVID-19 deaths, and with rising cases and hospital admissions, the winter peak appears to be far from over.

Throughout this article, we have outlined some of the UK’s COVID-19 measures and policies and their consequent results and have offered a comparison to those of the smaller independent countries across Europe. These case studies have allowed us to understand how an independent Scotland would have been likely to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is clear their approach would have been undoubtedly more successful.

With delays in locking down, PPE shortages, open borders, billions spent on track and trace apps that do not work and poor testing systems, it is clear that the UK Government has made grave mistakes from the beginning of this crisis, and these failures would have been avoidable with competent governance and greater preparation, as displayed within a number of the independent Nordic countries.

Therefore, without the numerous U-turns and policy disasters, the ability of an independent Scotland to handle the pandemic more effectively appears very probable. The evidence has demonstrated that Scotland, with a similar population size to the case study countries, would have been likely to have coped in a similar manner and tackled the pandemic more successfully as an independent nation.