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Society, Politics & Law

The developing debate

Updated Wednesday, 1st May 2013

Article seven of eight: Nothing ever stands still.

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Nothing ever stands still and this is certainly true of Scotland and the question of more devolved powers or independence. In the debate over Scottish independence, local and global events have often surpassed pronouncements and arguments made by the opposing sides. An example here is the debate over whether or not Scotland would remain part of the European Union (EU) if Scotland voted for independence. The Scottish National Party (SNP) (as committed Europeans and strongly in favour of ‘independence in Europe’) argued that it would as Scotland would have to be treated as a continuing state. The issue with the UK is that it was established as a union between two equal existing states. Therefore, on dissolving the Union, both new states should have equal status, and if England, Wales and Northern Ireland remained members of the EU (as one 'part' of the UK) then so should Scotland (as the other 'part').

The Scottish Government claimed it had taken legal advice on this issue, and were caught short when it transpired that they had not. This put wind in the sails of the pro-union campaign as they raised the issue of how an independent Scotland would cope with being outside and having to apply to join the EU, especially under conditions of membership where Scotland might have to sign up to the Euro and lose any funding 'rebates' and 'opt outs' given to the UK. Within a matter of weeks, Conservatives were holding David Cameron to ransom over obtaining a referendum on the UK 'exiting' the EU, in which case Scotland ends up outside anyway, but the decision would depend on how people in England voted. In terms of choosing an issue to debate this was a spectacular own goal! This demonstrates how wider global issues, or European issues, can play in a very different way in Scotland in contrast to other parts of the UK.

This shows how the debate has moved on. As of early 2013, the SNP have started to publish blueprints for how Scottish independence would be established. So the arguments are no longer simply about 'why' Scotland should be independent but about 'how' it would achieve independence in a legal, commercial and technical sense in the case of a Yes vote. The Better Together campaign requires no immediate blueprint as the current status quo would hold in the short term. However, the unionists would have to act on any promises of devo-max, Devo Plus or Devo Minus made during the campaign at some point.

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