By Michelle Santos
Scotland’s self-governance has a short history. In 1997, the position of First Prime Minister, now held by Nicola Sturgeon, was established. In 2014, then First Prime Minister Alex Salmond called for a vote of independence from the UK, which apart from Scotland includes England, Northern Ireland, and Wales. In that referendum, the country ultimately voted to stay with a 55% majority. This has changed since the UK’s recent Brexit vote, where a slim majority of voters in the UK decided to leave the European Union (EU). In contrast, a decisive 62% of Scottish electors voted in favor of staying. In light of the split between Scottish opinion and the rest of the UK’s, Sturgeon is calling for a second vote of independence.
Their desire to leave the UK, however, seems strange considering Scotland’s economic situation. With a £15 billion debt total and £2,850 debt per capita, Scotland has three times the UK average of £850. In general, the UK helps pay for Scotland’s public services, ensures financial stability, and benefits individuals in Scotland by keeping energy bills low, guaranteeing savings and pensions up to $85,000. Further, more than 60% of Scotland’s trade is with other countries in the UK. If Scotland votes to leave, it loses all of the economic and social benefits of being in the UK.
So why Scoxit? Scotland’s desire for self-government is closely tied to nationalist pride and an eagerness for complete control of its domestic affairs. Currently, only 48% of Scotland supports the British monarchy; in 2011, there were 5,500 applications for royal wedding street parties in England and fewer than 30 in Scotland, further illustrating the stark the cultural disconnect. Other contentious issues in the 2014 referendum included immigration policy, nuclear weapons in Scottish territory, UK foreign policy, and ownership of natural resources such as the North Sea oil field.
Independence from the UK would also allow Scotland to rejoin the EU, a move that would position Scotland to reap other economic benefits. The EU increases trading gains by removing tariffs for all member countries and negotiating trade agreements between the EU and the rest of the world. According to European Movement in Scotland, 336,000 jobs are supported by exports to EU countries, and the EU has helped fund government initiatives in rural and agricultural development in Scotland.
Will Scotland leave? The YouGov poll shows a close result with 53% favoring to stay. First Prime Minister Sturgeon has stated that it is highly probable that Scotland will hold a second independence referendum, which will most likely happen before 2020. As isolationist and protectionist rhetoric shakes the Western world, the old continent could see one more longstanding confederation split apart.
Michelle Santos ’19 is an Economics and Mathematics major. Contact her at email@example.com.