More than 4 million Scots have registered to vote in a historic referendum on September 18 to decide the future of the 307 year old United Kingdom. Agree or Disagree discusses what happens if the Scottish people say yes, and the implications of the No vote with Audra Diers-Lawson, a lecturer at Manchester Business School and Toby Fenwick, a research associate at Centre Forum think tank.
Tune in to find out more on the possible scenarios for Scotland and the implications of the vote.
How do you personally feel about the vote and where you stand on the issue?
Audra Diers-Lawson: If I were living in Scotland, I would vote “yes”. There are a lot of ways that this referendum has been characterized, but what the Scottish referendum is and ought to be about – is self-determination and a broader question of national identity. I have no doubt that in the event of a “yes” vote, once the questions of uncertainty are addressed, those nations would prosper.
However, no matter which way the vote goes, I'm also optimistic that the discussion itself has awakened a larger set of questions about self-determination and representation.
Toby Fenwick: I oppose the Scottish independence, not because Scotland isn’t capable of being independent. But if you look at the economic proposals of the “yes” campaign in the SNP Government and you look at the manner in which people are responding to the campaign, it is clear to me that Scotland and the UK remain better together.
Odra, your position is that Scotland could prosper on its own. What makes you so confident that this would happen?
Audra Diers-Lawson: Certainly, in the sort-term there is going to be a little bit of uncertainty. But even the city financial services say that that uncertainty may even help both the English and the rest of the UK, and the Scottish economy, by making them condense their economies and focus a little bit better. The SNP actually makes the same arguments about the prospects for Scotland’s credit rating. One of the reasons that I think Scotland will prosper is simply that they can make decisions for themselves.
But they do have that right now, maybe not on the foreign policy, but on the issues like education, healthcare.
Audra Diers-Lawson: And that’s why Scotland is doing better than most of the rest of the UK in terms of its provision, for example, of mental health services and also education. Unfortunately, the Scots contribute disproportionately large numbers of income tax compared to the rest of the UK, and they don’t get a lot of benefit out of that.
Toby Fenwick: There are more questions than answers. We have a great deal of uncertainty which is entirely the result of the SNP’s proposals. They are talking about reneging on the share of the UK’s debt. They don’t have a credible currency plan. They initially wanted to have a currency union with the rest of the UK. The fact that here we are recording this two days before the referendum, and the First Minister Alex Salmond and his team cannot tell us what the structure of the Scottish currency and economic policy would be after a referendum and, indeed, deflect any question on these issues without answering them.
Audra Diers-Lawson: A lot of this is very similar to scare-mongering. Mark Carney, the Governor of the Bank of England in January of 2014 delivered an address talk about the politics and the possibilities of shared currency. And he outlines that the shared currency already has the structural factors to make it work. The similarity in economies, and one-size-fits-all argument simply wouldn’t matter. And would invite everyone to google his presentation, because he lays out a lot of the arguments for the mobility of labor capital and goods, and thus institutional structures. For each of those points, what he argues is that the foundations are already laid for a currency union. In terms of reneging on the debt, all of this has to be laid out in terms of a negotiation.
How Scotland will build its relationship with the other countries of the EU? Will it have to renegotiate its membership?
Toby Fenwick: I think it is very clear that Scotland would vote “yes” and there is no example of any state being created and it automatically is a member of any international organization. There is no question in my mind that Scotland could be a full member of the EU. But it is simply folly to assume that it will either go automatically into the EU, or that it will do it on the same very preferential terms that the UK currently enjoys.
The implications of the referendum for the rest of Europe and the world, what is your assessment?
Toby Fenwick: It is palpable that history is being created. I guess, the big lesson for Spain, for Belgium and for the rest of the world is that it is done democratically, the referendum is being conducted fairly and the people’s will is being respected. When the Scottish Parliament decided they were going to have a referendum, they had no legal power to make this happen. In fact, it was explicitly excluded from the legislation that set up the Scottish Parliament.
But the British Government, unlike the Spanish Government, didn’t then turn around and said – well, you are not allowed to do this, we are going to ignore it and we are not going to allow it to happen. There was an exchange of views and something called the Edinburg agreement created to ensure that the people of Scotland are to have their say. And that’s what we are going through now. It’s been the most remarkable jamboree of democracy.
What is your forecast?
Toby Fenwick: I want to be very clear, I don’t see the vote “no”, against the independence plans on Thursday as an endorsement of the union in its current form. I think that the union is really on probation and that the people will vote for it based on the promises that have been made about federalism. And if those aren’t delivered, then I can completely see people voting strongly in favour of independence.