Saturday, October 4, 2014

What now for Scotland?

• The United Kingdom will need to reform its relationship with the Scots following the political unrest that led to the referendum

Linet Perera Negrin

Scotland will not become an independent country because that is what the majority wanted. However, the United Kingdom will need to reform its relationship with the Scots following the political unrest that led to the referendum, analysts have claimed.

Better Together - No Thanks
"Better Together" the No campaign slogan. Photo: La Nación

The "No" vote won in Scotland. After 307 years of union and following polls suggesting victory for Scottish sovereignty, in the end 55.3% of the electorate decided to continue as part of the United Kingdom.

With a lead of 10%, those in favor of the union won with 55.3% against 44% in favor of independence. 1,914,000 of those who went to the polls voted "No", while 1,539,000 supported the "Yes" vote.

Although the British government is celebrating the victory, Edinburgh awaits the concessions promised, should the "No" campaign win.

Whilst the Scottish National Party (SNP)’s request for more tax-raising powers was denied by the central government in 2012, this will now have to be taken into account in the process which is already underway, according to a pledge signed by the three main political parties.

The Conservatives, Liberal Democrats and the Labour opposition all promised greater powers, resources and more autonomy for Scotland, which will impact not only in other parts of Britain, but throughout Europe.

In response to the results of the referendum, British Prime Minister David Cameron promised that Scotland will have increased rights as part of the promises made by his government on the eve of the vote.

Cameron said that implementation of the promises set out in terms of taxation, spending and social welfare will advance over the coming months.

He also pledged to push reforms for the rest of the UK and stated that he had instructed William Hague, former Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs, to draw up plans for decentralization. The changes will be reflected in bills that should be ready by January 2015.

The British Prime Minister also referred to England, Wales and Northern Ireland and said the population of these territories should have more say in their internal affairs.

If local authorities are given more powers, the Scots will have more autonomy in regards to tax collection, expenditure budgets and social services.

Similarly, during the campaign leading up to the referendum, Cameron promised to maintain the so-called Barnett Formula of distribution for Scotland, a system of distribution of public spending designed by the former Minister of Economy, Joel Barnett, in the 1970s.

Scots will therefore continue under this formula which, even with a smaller population, ensures they receive sufficient resources to run their public services, granting funds per capita 19% higher than in England.

Another controversial topic was the British National Health Service or NHS.

Supporters of independence assured that only separation would protect the health service from the cuts imposed by London. Meanwhile, the leaders of the Conservative, Liberal Democrat and Labour parties included a categorical promise that the last word on the money spent in the National Health Service in Scotland would be for the Scottish Parliament.

On the other hand, by preserving the union, London maintains its benefits in terms of the oil and natural gas reserves in the North Sea and other natural resources on the Scottish mainland.

Similarly, the British government will continue to recive taxes from the production of whiskey, wool, silk and fishing from the rich Scottish waters. In addition, the British military bases remain in Scotland.

Another detail is that the Royal Bank of Scotland, like other financial institutions that had announced plans to move their headquarters to England in case of a separatist victory, announced that it would not be making any changes to its structure.

In this context, and after learning the results, the price of the pound rose on the Foreign Echange Market.

In the political sphere, Scottish Minister Alexander Salmond, the main champion for independence, announced his resignation after the defeat.

October 03, 2014