Wednesday, 20 August 2014

The Negotiator

The strength of Scotland's position in post referendum negotiations is completely dependant upon the outcome of the vote. A Yes makes us much, much stronger. A no makes us weaker. Here are the reasons why:
Strength of Yes
Scotland as a country is fundamentally self-sufficient. We produce excesses of electricity, have abundant supplies of water, export food and textiles and generally have most of the other essentials of life. We have a balance of trade surplus as a result of our natural resources as well as other industries, and with a significant tourism sector we have no problems with brand recognition or sources of revenue.
The things that the UK offer aren't important. We don't need a vast military as we have no nearby threats, we don't need a permanent seat in the UN security council, and we certainly don't need nuclear weapons. Our largest market is provided by the EU (and which the EFTA could equally offer) and the currency is fully tradeable. There isn't anything that we need to have from Westminster.
The UK however has a debt problem that isn't getting better, and the £ needs more exports to guarantee its value. The UK also has significant trade with Scotland that it will need to protect and the prospect of leaving the EU is very real, making good relations a priority. And, strictly speaking, the liability for current pensioners will not change, as their national insurance contributions were paid to Westminster. Starting with no debt or pension payments will mean Scotland will begin with a very lucrative budget surplus.
Finally, the Westminster negotiators are rubbish. Because the path to power is guaranteed, the people who gain high politicial office don't require any special talent or skill. The Westminster system is a lazy system that lacks the competitive nature of a proportional parliament. We will have the more skillful negotiators, and we will be giving them the best possible hand.
All of this means that Scotland holds the advantage in any negotiations. And there are plenty of things that could be done to make Westminster squirm (like demand the immediate removal of Trident or insist on an audit of the UK's debt - both of which they will not want).

Weakness of no
A no vote leaves Scotland vulnerable. With independence no longer an option (thus making us dependent on Westminster) there is no incentive for any further devolution. Indeed, both halves of Westminster have an incentive to reduce the importance of Holyrood.
A no vote also means a cut to the Scottish budget is not only a possibility but a likelihood. The fact is, Scotland more than pays its way and is a net-contributor, but that won't stop Westminster politicians from demanding that spending is cut here. The current system makes no allowance for where money is earned and the only UK 'region' which will be viewed as an exception is London and the South East.

With no means to defend ourselves and every reason to cut, Westminster will view a post-no Scotland as a means to secure more votes in England, and deny reform for a generation.
You don't have to be a great negotiator to see the difference. A Yes vote means that Westminster is left over an oil and whisky barrel. No leaves us open to no end of cuts and the prospect of a weakened Holyrood. Even if you don't want Scotland to be independent, you can see how independence is the best way to protect our interests.
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