Independence for Scotland – today’s the day!

So today is the day for Scotland’s independence vote. I truly believe the rest of the UK will be better off if Scotland decide to go, and I also suspect that after a miserable few years, Scotland could do fine too, as a low tax, colder version of Ireland really. (The high tax, lots of nice social benefits approach unfortunately doesn’t work, just ask Monsieur Hollande). So it could be a win:win in the long run.

And at the moment, it all feels a bit like the couple I knew who stayed together because they shared a house and mortgage and simply couldn’t afford to split up. If the fear of your economic situation is the only reason for staying together (which has been the approach of the “No” camp really), then that is not exactly a great base for a strong future relationship!

I’m also sure it would be good news for my home region, the north-east of England. Businesses wanting to supply Scotland, but deciding being based there is high risk given Alex Salmond’s apparent attitude to tax, might relocate to Tyneside or Wearside, for instance. However, I suspect Scotland will become low tax in the medium term so the positive effect may be short lived. But a boost for Sunderland hopefully for a few years at least!

There are all sorts of other fascinating issues too. Management of the great fishing river, the Tweed, which flows though both countries, might be an issue, for instance. And there would be interesting issues for public procurement and related activities. We wrote about some here, such as the status of EU procurement regulations in a newly independent Scotland. But there are other linked issues. Would Scotland have to go on a public spending spree, to buy defence equipment for instance – or would there be some interesting commercial discussion about “transfer pricing? That might keep Bill Crothers and friends in the Cabinet Office busy for a couple of years post election, negotiating how much Scotland is going to pay for stuff “owned” by the UK.

But one aspect of the debate that hasn’t been impressive is the attitude of the big businesses, retailers in particular, who have come out with scare stories of how they will have to put prices up for Scottish customers. There seems to be an underlying assumption that they have total pricing power, as the economists would say.

Now there are some cases where the higher costs of servicing the Highlands, say, might lead to some pressure, but if M & S just decided to put up all their prices in Scotland, might not Next and Sainsbury’s see that as a competitive opportunity to take some market share? That competitive angle seems to have been ignored by the businesses that have been holding forth on this issue.

Finally, I’m not impressed by the three panicking party leaders who have offered Scotland all sorts of concessions without a mandate to do so from English, Northern Irish and Welsh citizens – it affects us too, you know. There will be repercussions I’m sure, such as more English nationalism, even if Scotland narrowly reject independence.

That might be the worst of all possible worlds, leaving everyone feeling unsatisfied or hostile - but that's my forecast

– 47.5% “Yes” vote  and 52.5% "no".

 

First Voice

  1. David Atkinson:

    It’s been a massively exciting campaign. But then again, I’m a politics anorak.

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