Implications of Independence: Scottish Defence

Referendum consultation - press conference
Referendum consultation, press conference. Photo: Scottish Government/flickr.

When the Scottish National Party (SNP) won the majority of seats in the 2007 parliamentary elections, the movement for Scottish independence had finally gained momentum. With the referendum now set for 18 September 2014, the idea of an independent Scotland, once a distant dream of SNP-supporters, has now become a realistic possibility. Although opinion polls currently predict an outcome favoring “devolution-plus” – extensive regionalisation and decentralisation – rather than fully-fledged independence, the possible implications of a “Yes” vote are worth considering given the wide-ranging consequences of such a result, particularly in the area of defence.

A pro-independence decision would likely lead to uncertainty caused by a range of policy conundrums not only for Scotland but for the rest of the UK. In an effort to alleviate such fears, the Scottish government has announced that it will publish a White Paper on the possible future structure of an independent Scotland. But while the Scottish government has adopted an optimistic view, 10 Downing Street has already released a report emphasizing the possible negative repercussions, were Scotland to terminate the more than 300-year old Union.

100% Green Electricity: the Battle over Investment

Countries look forward to attract investment. Photo: Tim Snell/Flickr

Scotland and Albania want to produce 100% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Their commitment, both prime ministers argue, is not only a huge step towards a more sustainable society but will also comprise the creation of thousands of “green collar” jobs. This is good news for the environment and also for their respective populations. But with little more than 8 years to go, isn’t this target too ambitious for the nations’ actual capacities?

The governments’ announcements come at a crucial moment. Investors have started to shift their business to China, and last month a report by the group CBI warned that the United Kingdom was not attractive for investment in renewables. But the recent disaster at the Fukushima nuclear plants and the long-standing urge for clean energies have shifted public opinion in Europe to make way for a new reality. A second green revolution is building as European countries renew their commitment to clean energies as the way forward.

Scottish Independence: a Question of Timing

Soon a new country? Photo: Sheep purple/flickr

Recent elections in Scotland were historically significant. For the first time in history, the Scottish National Party (SNP) has won the majority in the Scottish parliament. In the previous term, the SNP only managed to constitute a minority government. But more than the remarkable majority achieved this year, it is one of the party’s main goals that is now in the spotlight: obtaining Scottish independence from the United Kingdom.

One might think that the way for independence is clear now, after the vote of confidence given by the Scots to the SNP. But this assumption is misleading. The election of the SNP should not be mistaken for a popular demand for independence. Recent studies show a clear objection to independence and attitudes haven’t changed much since. Two years ago an opinion poll commissioned by BBC Scotland confirmed that even though the population would like the government to hold a referendum, only 38% would actually vote for independence.

But what made the majority vote for the National Party, if it wasn’t the independence issue? Some analysts point out to the importance of the strategic abilities of Alex Salmond, leader of the SNP, to collect votes. The damaged image of the Conservative and Liberal parties certainly also gave him a hand. Both parties have endorsed controversial deficit reduction plans at the UK Parliament, and the Scots have demonstrated their strong disapproval through these elections.