Tuesday 26 August 2014

The Scottish Independence Referendum Has Opened Up a Pandora’s Box of Possibilities

Postal ballots for the Scottish independence referendum were sent out today for the vote on 18 September, signalling the final lap of the campaign by the Yes and No camps and acres of media and public debate.

Very little attention though has been paid to the political, rather than purely economic, effect that a yes vote will have on the rest of the UK and indeed further afield. If you look closely enough, you will find that the ripple effect of the Scottish referendum is already visible for all to see and I expect this to intensify if Scotland votes for independence.

I visited Catalonia for a few weeks over the summer, a nation that was independent almost as long ago as Scotland was, and on the Spanish side of the border almost everyone it seems is flying Catalan flags from their balconies with a campaign in full swing to demand a referendum on Catalan independence. The Scotland/UK situation features heavily in the independence campaign literature. It looks like Madrid is having none of it though at the moment.

Interestingly, on the French side of the border, almost as many Catalan flags can be seen on display, but usually side by side with the French tricolour. I think this difference is down to the recent history of Spain, with the Franco regime still in the consciousness of ‘Spanish’ Catalans, where Barcelona was amongst the last places to hold out on the Republican side against Franco, in the Spanish civil war.

In the rest of the UK, where next might demand a referendum, on at least greater devolution if not full independence? Wales, Northern Ireland, Cornwall and maybe London might be next? The rest of the English regions would surely want to fight their corner too, and this is already happening to an extent, with the big cities (including London) banding together to call for them to allowed to keep more of the tax revenue they generate.

Check out this link to a rather long but interesting piece from a north of England perspective, which says that although London has a GDP that amounts to 22% of UK GDP, the English regions of the north west, north east and Yorkshire and Humber accounts for a combined 19% of UK GDP.

London’s economy is expected to grow 15 per cent over the next five years accounting for over a third of all UK growth. London government only spends 7 per cent of the taxes raised in the capital.

London manages this feat with around half of the population of these northern English regions combined, but has a population bigger than Scotland (8.2 million residing in the London Boroughs), and so could easily accommodate even full independence and for some of the same reasons as Scotland.

Much has been made of Scotland suffering at the hands of an English Tory government, where the Scots have more left wing sympathies than the (southern) English. This is undoubtedly true, but the same is true of London voters and the prospect of a permanent Tory government in rUK, would be just as unpopular here and in northern England (and Wales), that some form of devolution is likely to be sought to counter Tory government policies designed to favour ‘middle England’.

We live in interesting times.  


  1. I think the important thing is to look not just at electoral mathematics, but also at the deeper politics of it all - a yes vote in Scotland would be a blow to imperial British nationalism and blow a hole in the British constitution, used to devistating effect to ensure that whoever is elected, the powerful always stay in power. It would be great for the left in England.

  2. I am trying to be optimistic here, there are lots of possible bad outcomes with this. Increased tensions between the nations and regions and a race to the bottom on slashing corporation tax.

  3. All the driving force behind YES and why folk are coming out to meetings all over the place is because of the chance of a fairer, more democratic and closer to the people politics which is now a very far cry from that old fearful nationalism which used to haunt many of us, and no doubt many in England -- and still may [UKIP etc.] -- so it's about opening up politics and a lesson for England too, not a narrow national contest at all

  4. What the Scots decide to do is their affair, here I'm trying to sketch out response for England to the new ploitical terrain, and for London in particular.

    There is a lot emotional rhetoric surrounding the referendum, despite this being a very serious issue for for people for all sorts of practical reasons. That's why people are engaging in a debate on.

    Ironically, most of the arguments from the Yes camp for leaving the UK, are very similiar to those put out by UKIP for leaving the EU.