Campaign flyers.

Could Scotland have gone it alone?

Independent life away from home; if the teenager hastily makes the decision to leave, then without any long term plan or support from others, soon enough they will face no option but to make the embarrassing walk home to see their parents say “I told you so” before being welcomed back in. The difference with the country, however, is that while they can face this humiliating failure, they are left to sleep out on the doorstep alone.

When it comes to creating a new state, something that is clear early on is that if strong foundations have not been set from the start, then when the country looks to flourish and prosper among the established economies of the world, they will simply start to crumble under the tremendous pressure which will inevitably be put upon them, whether in political or economic form.

In 2014, those of us in Scotland were given the remarkable opportunity to decide whether we wanted to take a punt and go it alone, or stay as we are with the backing of the United Kingdom – and at least a few more devolved powers. In the end, we voted to take the latter option, however, had we taken the risk, would we really have been ready?

Had the campaign for independence been successful, the new sovereign state of Scotland would have opened for business on May 5th 2016 with Scottish Parliamentary elections. When it came to Yes Scotland’s proposals for “a brighter future” their White Paper outlined exactly what we could potentially have been looking forward to, away from the UK.

The problem, not just with this example, but with most other plans for how a new country is going to prosper is that the variables they rely on can so easily change. This became even more apparent in Scotland’s case because Yes were looking firstly to win a political battle, forcing them to try and make their argument more appealing. If some “benefits” had to be exaggerated, then so be it.

Yes victory within 'touching distance'
Yes Scotland banner

And this is what they did, particularly with oil prices which have since dropped to more than half of their original estimate of $110 per barrel. According to The Guardian, for every $1 that the price of a barrel of crude oil drops, an independent Scottish government would have £100 million less to play with. Going by the trade price of $53 on February 10th 2015 it equates to £10.7 billion of losses…

So would Scotland have had strong enough foundations to survive on its own?

Put simply, the answer will always remain ambiguous as we will never see the result, however, I personally struggled to see how the Scottish economy would have held together – and that was even before the plummeting oil prices hit.

As I said, Yes Scotland were looking primarily for votes in the run-up to the referendum which is why some of their predictions for Scotland’s future seemed to have been exaggerated. Of course, they can never predict the future of the world’s economies, however, if we were to ever be successful, we needed to have a realistic view of what could lie ahead.

It may seem unusual to bring up the independence debate six months after the vote, but we must remember that we were close to being out on the doorstep and it is still a possibility in the near future.  

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Ruairidh Campbell
Based in the Scottish Borders/Glasgow, Ruairidh has written extensively on everything from rugby to politics with work published in publications including the Scottish Rugby Union's website, Scottish Field Magazine and Edinburgh Rugby's match-day programmes.
Ruairidh Campbell

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