Can anyone really say what an independent Scotland would look like?

What would an independent Scotland look like? Too many assumptions are being made, claims PETER MCFARLANE


I don’t know about everyone else, but I feel the discussion about the constitutional future of this country has stalled. The debate has become caught in a net just as it started to get off the ground. When will it be? What will the question be? Is that question objective? Can there be two questions? Stuck on these points, it feels like we haven’t really got anywhere with it for a long time.

A lot has, however, been said about what an independent Scotland would look like. Evan Williams, in the last post on this blog, talked about the many different countries the SNP have claimed an independent Scotland could emulate ranging from Switzerland to Norway, and as I recall Salmond said something about the Saudi Arabia of renewables at some point.

At first I thought, fair enough, they won the election and so they can have their referendum and talk about it as much as they want. Discuss the question, sure, but can they really say with any real conviction what an independent Scotland would be? They have the right to ask the question, and it probably should have been asked a while ago, but surely that does not give them the right to design this independent state?

They, therefore, have no grounds to say an independent Scotland would look like anything at all. They have about as much right as me to make any kind of assertion (and who the hell am I, anyway?). Do we have a Parliament? A Senate? Anarcho-syndicalist communes? A Dictatorship? A state can look whatever way you want it to. We are not really discussing this though, and for me that’s a big problem. Are the Unionist camp going to stick their heads in the sand until independence happens and then, all of a sudden, it’s a scramble to design a state and no one knows what they want? Are the SNP going to role out platitude after platitude while painting a picture of some kind of Eden-like promised land? If so, both sides are playing a dangerous game.

We are in the fortunate position to know what democracy looks like. We aren’t East Timor, after all, and thanks to devolution we have a lot of institutions in place. So, we wouldn’t be starting from scratch. But, maybe that’s not what the Scottish people want. Well, what do they want then? Do we hold a referendum on that? Do we ask the nation what kind of a state they want to establish: Democratic, Republican, Socialist, or otherwise? I assume this is the kind of uncertainty the alleged ’business community’ is wary of.

Anyhow, let’s pretend we have answered all of the above questions, we have our independent state and now we have to get on with it. Here, I shall present my biggest beef with the SNP on this issue. It’s all well and good saying Scotland could be a progressive beacon and all the rest of it, but they are making assumptions about who runs this independent utopia. Do they really think they are going to be in charge?

I don’t, and here is why: My understanding is that the party consists of people who are poles apart ideologically. There are as many to the right as to the left, with the desire for independence bridging the divide. When the ultimate aim of independence is fulfilled, what holds the SNP together? Nothing, as far as I can see. Friends in the SNP openly admit this and it was partially exposed this week with Eck claiming the Queen would be the head of state in an independent Scotland, yet the SNP as a whole has not yet officially endorsed this (quite the opposite, in fact).

They have made a great deal of political capital out of claiming we wouldn’t have to deal with the Tories in an independent Scotland, but I don’t think that’s true. Murdo Fraser was on to something when he talked about disbanding the Scottish Conservative Party and starting afresh. I submit to anyone reading this blog that if it wasn’t called ‘voting Tory’, more people would do it in Scotland. If there was a right-of-centre political party that did not have the history that the Conservative Party has, it would do a lot better electorally than the current lot. In an independent Scotland with no SNP, the right leaning former members would need to find another party to join and vote for…

Across the whole of Scotland, some desire an independent socialist state, others a republic, and there are those – like Eck – who want to retain aspects of the Monarchy. Until independence occurs and whatever political parties remain present manifestos within some kind of pre-agreed political institutional infrastructure and election process, no one can say with any real certainty what an independent Scotland would look like.


Peter McFarlane is a Labour party activist and works in media research and analysis in Edinburgh.

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72 thoughts on “Can anyone really say what an independent Scotland would look like?

  1. As a pro independence voter I agree with peters comments. The SNP can’t and won’t have it their way in indrpendent Scotland

    1. But he seems to assume the Scottish Labour party becomes a tiny minority or stays on the New Labour right? If they do someone else will seize the centre left ground where Scottish votes are.

      Time for Scottish Labour activists to start planning what they could do with Independence.


  2. Ah Pete, who indeed knows what an independent Scotland will look like. It can however, become anything we want it to be (We being ‘the inhabitants’). We will have a choice, we will learn what is good for us and whats bad, who to support and who to decry.

    But we will have a choice.

  3. In an independent Scotland we will decide for ourselves, raise taxes for ourselves, spend it as we see fit, borrow if we need to, save when we can, decide not to go to illegal wars and not have any weapons of mass destructions on our land.
    Basically, we will be like most countries on the planet earth, we will not be ruled from London, we will be ruled by our own
    Scottish government, it is not so scary to take our own future in our own hands. There is nothing wrong with us, we can govern ourselves like most countries do.
    We will vote and choose our government depending which parties are around, I am sure the Tories will become Scottish Tories, the Scottish LibDems may become Liberals.

    I am not so sure that the current Scottish Labour Party will be a significant force in an independent Scotland, I think they have buried their heads in the sand and hope independence will go away and not happen, unfortunately, they have no policy and no vision for our future.
    I think a proper republican Socialist Party will branch out of the SNP after independence.
    In the Middle East, we will be seen as the country that got independence from the English imperialist, and will be safe from any terrorist attacks.
    I believe Scotland will be a very exciting place to be and to live in.

  4. Peter,
    Is it that strange to you, that people of many different views can come together and put our country and people first before our party. And whats to stop us after Independence still staying together to make our country a progressive and fair state, absolutly nothing.

    Is it that hard for you and the rest of the unionist camp to have any positive outlook for Scotland, because I think its very exciting to see Independence in our near future and all the positive hope thats coming with it.

  5. nobody can be sure what an independent scotland would be like anymore than anyone can predict what it would be like if scotland remained in the union.however we have been in the union 300 years is this as good as it gets?what we can say is that an independent scotland would make its own decisions right or wrong.

  6. “My understanding is that the party consists of people who are poles apart ideologically. There are as many to the right as to the left…”

    OMG Pete – I can’t believe you just said that. Get over to Labourlist right now and you’ll see plenty of evidence of ideological schisms and the only thing likely to bridge the divide between New, old, left, right, Brownite, Blairite, Dave, Ed, purplebook, etc., is the unlikely prospect of a general election win for Labour in 2015. If your asking me where the confidence gap lies its around the very real possibility of an independent Scotland (still fluid in form) versus 5 more years of Conservative/Coalition rule. Only one of these options is ideologically toxic to many Scots and there’s no prizes for guessing which one.

  7. All very true.

    A lot also depends on what Scotland’s relationship with the EU would be like – and that’s another issue there are no clear answers on. If the UK breaks up, it is possible that Scotland might have to rejoin the EU (And also possible that both England and Scotland will, and that neither will!), which means meeting the entrance criteria, which means joining the Euro. I doubt very much that that idea would be too attractive to most Scots.

    Does the SNP have any plans at all to go it alone and without the EU? Having already declared independence from the UK, would a newly self-governing Scottish population really want to be a part of the EU, anyway? One presumes they would be consulted, but does anyone know for sure?

    Then there is the future of the Shetland and Orkney isles, who have recently made clear that they might prefer a future with England rather than an independent Scotland. The SNP cannot in good conscience hold them when the whole point of seceding from the UK would be that is the will of the citizens.

    Why Shetland and Orkney would send a particular shudder through the SNP is, of course, that a lot of the oil is in their territorial waters.

    No-one could be sure about the economy of a fully independent Scotland for obvious reasons (There has not BEEN an independent Scotland for centuries), but there seems little doubt that the SNP are relying heavily on the oil revenues and on Scotland controlling most of the oil fields.

    So what IS certain about the future of Scotland, as things stand right now? Well, there’s certain to be a referendum on it! Well, ALMOST certain! 😀

    The rest very much seems to be ‘wait and see’.

    1. OH NO, independence means joining the “Euro”, even worst Shetland and Orkney are going to run away with all the oil and give it to england, ahaa wer’e doomed aye doomed.

      Honestly ‘Elliot’, is that the best scary stories you have got, you should try “you will have to learn gaelic before you can get a government job” and “you will have to pay to see a doctor”, their real classics.
      They dont work anymore. HONEST.

      1. Actually, Davy, I’m not trying to be scary at all. I’m simply pointing out that the SNP seem to be taking a lot on faith that they really cannot be certain of and ideally need to have contingency plans for.

        My honest opinion is that an independent Scotland would go through some teething problems (And England the same) as the UK separates, but it’ll emerge by and large as a successful nation. But as with everyone else at this stage, I’m only guessing. A LOT depends on things that cannot currently be known for sure.

        There are two positions on secession I find equally unrealistic: ‘Scotland will utterly fail’ and ‘Scotland will be a new utopia’. While both are certainly possible, neither is at all likely. Even without the Shetland/Orkney oil revenues, Scotland is a highly developed nation with a well educated workforce and no end of self motivation. To expect such a nation to FAIL would be to learn nothing from history, IMO. But expecting a land of perpetual milk and honey is pretty much the other end of the same scale.

        I’ve never heard the ‘everyone will have to learn Gaelic’ scare story before, though, I must admit! Rather amusing. Thanks for that! 😀

        1. In that case, I assume any parts of England that wish to join an independent Scotland, or indeed Wales and Northern Ireland, will be free to do so? Or does the gander taste less appealing with the sauce for the goose? The simple fact of the matter is that Scotland entered an international treaty with the islands in her possession, and she will leave in the same condition. What the islanders choose to do thereafter is up to them, but it is not England’s concern.

      2. I’d be extremely surprised if the people of Orkney and Shetland (let alone the Western Isles) would have any interest in being ruled from London after a ‘yes’ vote on independence. All this does is further highlight the importance of the oil to the UK (and Scotland, of course) by trying to stop Edinburgh controlling it after a yes vote. ‘You won’t get the oil, so vote no, cause you can’t survive without it even though it’s running out/too volatile etc. and would be no use to you even if you do get your hands on it because you can’t base an economy on oil, but we’d like to make sure that it stays under UK control because although it’s not enough for Scotland, the rump UK would like to keep it all the same.’ ad infinitum/contradiction etc etc. blah blah –

        On the main point – sure, nobody ‘knows’ what an independent Scotland would look like, but wouldn’t Scottish labour be interested in helping to shape it ? Surely they don’t doubt their ability to contribute without the London wing to help them? The SNP won’t own Scotland after independence, and have no desire to. We’d be able to build our own country without waiting for UK labour to rescue us from the tories we never vote for (which, incidentally, would require holding off until the rest of the UK -predominantly the prosperous SE – votes for Labour again). The labour party in Scotland should really welcome the opportunity to create a new Scotland after independence instead of worrying about how challenging it will be. Nobody is in this because it is easy.

        1. J-Crew,

          I think the bigger questions actually regard the EU, rather than the oil. I just cannot reconcile ‘We think Scotland should run its own affairs’ with membership of the EU, which is totally dedicated to ‘ever closer union’ – IE a federal superstate where the component nations have ceased to exist as independent entities.

          The idea that any part of the UK would want to secede from the rest, I can understand. I happen to think we are stronger together, but I know that’s not a universally held view.

          But the idea that any part of the UK would essentially want to swap rule from London for rule from Brussels seems more than a little strange, to me. And a very, very odd definition of ‘independence’. (And, yes, I want to see the UK withdraw from the EU, membership of which has been a disaster for us).

          I suppose I could see it more if the EU were wonderfully successful and a massive benefit to all its citizens, with strong growth, rising living standards throughout and an ever-growing share of the world economy, but, well…

          To me, the oil is a side issue next to that (Though, yes, an important one as it does provide a strong resource buffer for whoever has it. I do not think relying on it is a good plan for anyone, though).

          Should Scottish Labour work out plans for what will happen if Scotland secedes? Absolutely. And I hope they have done so already. The one thing I think Unionists and Nationalists all agree on is that we want the best for Scotland (And, I hope, the rest of the UK!). We just disagree on what that is. But planning to make the best of both possible outcomes from the referendum is surely the best course for everyone.

          1. Planning to make the best of both outcomes is certainly something that I would hope all parties would embrace. What concerns me is that, should the proposal for independence be defeated, Scotland will have little to bargain with in terms of securing full fiscal autonomy etc. if that’s what the majority actually want (I support full independence, as you may have guessed, for many reasons). There would be little to stop Westminster simply putting off any such moves or just ignoring them altogether, instead standing by the results of a defeated referendum, securing Scotland under Westminster for a generation. Hypothetical, maybe, but that does seem to be a strong argument for those who want what’s best for Scotland and the Scottish people to seriously consider. We may have very little to play with should a one question referendum on independence secure us within the union for the foreseeable future.

            Re: the EU – I can understand that you don’t hold with it. Many don’t. However, I’ve never subscribed to the idea that Scotland would be swapping ‘rule from Westminster for rule from Brussels’. Whatever your fears for the future of the EU, it is not (yet, at any rate) a superstate in which its member states have relinquished their nation status. All of the member states currently have more direct control over their affairs than Scotland does currently – Westminster has far more control over Scotland now than Brussels would in the event of independence. EU memebrship would have no control over when and where to send soldiers, for example (this last point is rather laboured these days, but important nonetheless – there are other less dramatic examples, of course).

            Overall, it’s about personal responsibility. Having reservations about the EU is entirely healthy as far as I am concerned, though I would support an independent Scotland in the EU. Of course, if we wanted to, we could decide to leave – we currently don’t have that kind of responsibility.

    2. Just out of curiosity, do you know anyone in Shetland or Orkney who supports Independence from Scotland? (As opposed to independence for Scotland?)

      I just ask because, and I admit I don’t know the entire islands population, but I don’t know anyone who wants to remain in the union and be seperate from Scotland. I only know about a dozen people who live in orkney though. Shetland could be quit different for all I know. Having said that, the only person who does support it is Tavish Scott. Even in the papers and public Forums like this one I haven’t seen huge (or even any) amounts of clamouring support as the Islanders rush to tell Tavish he’s thier man. In fact, the Silence tells it’s own story.

      1. Personally, no. The Telegraph (Amongst other papers) had an article about it. It seemed possible, hence my mentioning it as a possibility.

        (It also seems vastly more likely that the isles could take a strong negotiating position with Scotland, England and perhaps Norway, all of which they have historic ties with, in order to get the best possible deal for their people. Couldn’t blame them if they did…)

  8. Fair article.

    The key point is how the SNP is made up and how it is held together. Salmond holds the SNP together, and there is no one else capable of doing so.

    There is not a single other politician within the SNP ranks who has the political presence to hold them. Nor is there one who can drive the SNP through in the same manner.

    As to how an independent Scotland would look, the SNP need to keep away from comparisons with other countries. What’s the point in independence if you want to dress up as someone else?

    1. Actually, Sturgeon is more popular than Salmond in some quarters and would, I believe, be equally capable of holding the SNP together over the next few years.

  9. Well, at least you are thinking about a post independence future! One of the things I find quite interesting is that, absent the huge rift over the independence issue, the bulk of Scots vote largely for a left of centre position. Y’know, free prescriptions, NHS free at the point of use, free University Education, stuff like that. There is no reason whatsoever that that consensus would alter dramatically with independence. Indeed the prospect of continuity of a left of centre position, and a genuinely green one too, is enhanced by independence.

    I’d suggest to you that we do need to have a mechanism in a post independent Scotland for referenda on constitutional issues. For it is the nature of this nation to view the people as sovereign. I’d like that spelled out a bit further.

  10. With Independence it would be within our gift to make Scotland what we want it to be – might succeed, might not – but it will be OUR decision!

    I know what Scotland ‘looks’ like within the union – and it aint pretty!

    As for your ‘dictatorship’ comment – you guys just cant help yourself can you?

  11. That was a very thought provoking article, Peter. As you stated, no-one can say for sure EXACTLY how an independent Scotland would look, but I have my own horrific vision and it is are shared by many fellow Labour-Party supporters. What we see is a step backwards, a kind of Brigadoon. Many modern innovations, such as nuclear energy and missiles will be replaced by wind farms and claymores. Culinary delights such as yokshire pudding, bangers and mash as well as toad in the hole will make way for shortbread, haggis and deep-fried chocolate bars. Our soldiers will no longer enjoy the chance of dying courageously on a bloody battlefield in a far-off land. They will be bored stiff sitting around the barracks listening to bagpipe ‘music’. And don’t even mention our television. I can vivdly imagine a private detective in Glasgow called Shuggy MacMumpty dressed in trench coat, dark glasses and kilt investigating the theft of a Mars bar from a newsagents. OK, this may be a (slight) exageration, but without Westminster control, there is a very real danger that Scotland will lose touch with the modern world and reality.

    1. You missed out the most important one of Labour MPs getting a title to live a cosseted life in that unelected upper house!

    2. ” our soldiers will no longer have the chance of dying courageously in a bloody battlefield in a far off land” ???

      If you are not being sarcastic – and you actually believe that, then you should be given the first opportunity to do so yourself.

  12. In other words, there is every sign that an independent Scotland would be a healthy pluralistic democracy.

  13. Great article. This is such an important point that most people do not yet understand. It will not be the SNP defining what an independent Scotland looks like, are they not simpy suggesting the possibilities. In a left leaning country there is a very good chance that the first government of an independent Scotland would be whatever form the Labout party has evolved into. Time to start planning.

  14. I’ve just noticed, 8 out of 10 articles on the front page of Labour Hame are attacks on the SNP. The Labour party needs to focus on the current job in hand and doing it properly. We criticise the SNP for being too focused on the referendum and not enough on the job they were elected to do. Is the Labour party any better?

    1. Go to a certain nationalist blog, and in the comments sections that follows every article – regardless of topic – it always resorts to an attack on the BBC.

      This is a Labour blog, so why should they not attack the SNP? Toryhoose splits its attacks between the SNP and Labour. Nationalist blogs attack Labour and the Tories.

      And the cynical amongst us attack everyone!

      1. Well the stated purpose of this blog is for Scottish Labour to discuss the way forward. Constantly attacking the SNP, and the negativity that entails, is not the way forward.

  15. The SNP doesn’t assume that we are going to be in charge. After independence happens there will be a general election and it is perfectly possible that the SNP will lose. We all know that and we don’t care. We support independence because we think it will be in the best interests of the Scottish people, not the best interests of the SNP.

    The irony of a Labour activist accusing us of thinking we will be in charge of an independent Scotland is huge.

    Because Labour’s tactic of constantly asking and re-asking questions which they then declare are unanswered is based on the assumption that the SNP will be in charge of an independent Scotland. That is the only basis on which the SNP could be expected to answer questions on what policies will be adopted by a future and as yet unelected Scottish Government.

    Incidentally the SNP has not claimed that we would never have to deal with the Tories again in an independent Scotland. What the SNP has claimed is that in an independent Scotland the party that won the election would be the party that formed the government. We would not be in the position that we are in now – and were during the Thatcher/Major years – of being governed by a party that lost the election in Scotland.

    1. Think that hits the nail on the head for me.

      I don’t care if the SNP win the general election in an independent Scotland. This isn’t about the SNP. I’m not loyal loyal loyal to a party. I actually think that is quite a sad concept. I think parties change and policies are what matters. To align oneself to one party so much is to eventually support policies you don’t actually agree with.

      Independence is the principle I believe in. The people that live here should get the Government we vote for and by that have policy decisions made in line with at least the wiff of popular support. It’s a democratic thing really. I trust the people to hold a Government of whatever colour to account. The idea that this can be brought down to what is in the interest of parties is really quite sad. Independence isn’t a wee present by or for the SNP like a wee medal. It’s for everybody that lives here of whatever ideas. The idea of doing something for the betterment of a party is an awful idea.

  16. Fair comment, but you miss one key point: in the same way that we don’t know how Scotland’s politics would evolve, we also don’t know how UK politics will evolve in years to come. However, at least with independence, the future we face will be decided by us alone, rather than imposed upon us.

    I am middle-aged, and think it highly likely that I will never see the Conservatives win a Scottish election in my lifetime, but have to suffer from UK-Tory rule until the day I die.

    Independence gives us the power to decide for ourselves.

  17. Peter,

    What is the difference between a.) the SNP comparing an independent Scotland to other independent nations of comparable size, and b.) unionist parties claiming that an independent Scotland will be saddled by debt, unable to use the pound, bereft of Orkney and Shetland, running at an enormous deficit and facing bankruptcy etc.?

    Because of your propensity for slightly confused and garbled reasoning, I shall endeavour to answer my own question. There is almost no difference. Both are natural methods to employ when creating an imaginative construction of Scotland’s potential future. Furthermore, both approaches to the debate are of very limited value in predicting the reality of an independent Scotland but they do produce broad enough brushstrokes to create impressions that will either encourage or discourage the voting public to vote for independence. So the SNP say Scotland would be like Norway (Norway = good) and unionists say that Scotland would be bankrupt (skint = bad). The SNP using comparisons to other countries when describing how incredible an independent Scotland’s prospects are is just a form of imaginative shorthand and hardly worth commenting about. The only reasons that unionists aren’t doing exactly the same thing is because if they pushed too hard on themes like ‘an independent Scotland would be as fiscally devastated as Ireland’ then they would be leaving themselves open to accusations that they are denigrating our country.

    Your second point is much more interesting. Since winning the last Scottish Parliamentary election, the SNP has exposed themselves as the one-issue party that they have often been labelled in the past. They are galvanised by the drive towards the referendum – the issue informs their every move. I think you are quite right though and serious questions could be asked about the internal faultlines running through the Scottish nationalist movement. I’d be interested to see how many SNP supporters would stick by the party if Scotland does seperate from the UK, particularly the more socialist-minded SNP voters. Despite the fact that they have adopted numerous populist, left-of-centre causes, many will always remember the “Tartan Tories” tag that the SNP received in the 70s and there are surely a lot of SNP voters who are uncomfortable with Salmond’s past as an RBS economist, not to mention his cosy friendships with Brian Souter and Rupert Murdoch – or, as you point out, his devotion to the monarchy.

    This is a real issue that needs to be addressed if a real image of an independent Scotland is to become clear. The conjecture coming from both unionists and seperatists is all just smoke and mirrors. Don’t add to it with your own obsfucations.

    1. Unionist parties these days don’t generally claim that an independent Scotland will be saddled by debt, unable to use the pound, bereft of Orkney and Shetland, running at an enormous deficit and facing bankruptcy.

      They have learned better although maybe it is just skin-deep.

      But the imaginative construction of an independent Scotland’s future rests on Scottish people taking all the political decisions not just some of them. And if you say to people in that case everything will go horribly wrong you are essentially saying you are not fit to govern yourselves.

      That may be what you actually believe but unionist politicians no longer use those kinds of arguments because they are no longer effective and are actually counter-productive.

      1. Indy,

        Thanks for the reply, but it was unnecessary. As I wrote – the unionist parties are not pushing too hard on the comparisons between Scotland and bankrupted smaller nations because, and I quote myself: “if they pushed too hard on themes like ‘an independent Scotland would be as fiscally devastated as Ireland’ then they would be leaving themselves open to accusations that they are denigrating our country”.

        Nobody is going to do that because Scotland is a rightly proud nation.

    2. “there are surely a lot of SNP voters who are uncomfortable with Salmond’s past as an RBS economist”

      You fail to mention that he was expelled from the SNP at one point for being a member of a cross-party Socialist Society. Oh, but of course that is not the picture of Alex you are trying to portray.

      1. Thanks for bringing that up Lewis – the fact that the SNP would in the past expell a member on the grounds that he was displaying socialist tendencies certainly re-enforces the “Tartan Tory” tag! Or is that not a picture of the SNP that you’d like to portray?

        1. He was expelled because at that stage the SNP – rather naively – decided to rid itself of factionalism by prohibiting different groupings.

          It’s naive because parties only descend into factionalism when they are losing. Therefore the leadership needs to address why they are losing, not start expelling people to deal with factionalism.

          Lesson learned by the SNP.

        2. The fact that they then led him back in and eventually elected him leader suggests that if ‘Tartan Tory’ ever were true, it is certainly not true now!

      2. Actually having a real job before he went into politics is a big advantage for AS. And as for the socialist society bit – we all know about that bit of history and it is probably a plus as well.

        Anymore molehills ?

  18. Alec,

    It is probably going to be the case that the SNP will remain united in a post transition government. In other words the first parliament. And I would expect, in that scenario, that they would retain a majority. After that I too would expect a re-allignment. But the question I have for you is quite simple but also quite important. Where does the traditional left see itself in an independent Scotland? It is a scenario that ought to be gamed, because there are probably greater divisions in the Labour Party and the broad left than there are in the SNP. Indeed, there may well be a surfeit of left leaning politicians seeking election.

    There would be no turning the clock back, for fairly obvious reasons.

    1. Douglas,

      I imagine that post-independence, the traditional left would still largely be represented by the Scottish Labour party. There would likely be an increase in popularity for further-left parties like the Scottish Socialist Party but these would still be very much minority parties. Labour itself would face a period of internal strife but in five years the dust would’ve settled and left-leaning voters who had backed the SNP on the independence issue would be drifting back.

      A more interesting question I think is – what happens to the SNP support if they lose the independence referendum?

      1. Alec,

        Ré your first point.

        Perhaps your scenario is right. Perhaps some sort of Labour Party would emerge as the majority party, eventually.

        But it would have to be a very different Labour Party than the one we see currently strutting it’s stuff at Hollyrood. Perhaps the source of your confidence lies with the ex – MPs? After all, there would be no UK Parliament, nor Lords come to that, for them to be elected to. That would release some politicians to stand for the new parliament I suppose.

        On your interesting question – and I accept that it is interesting – I’d expect that competence wouldn’t be enough, because Westminster would be unleashed completely to make us into a very poor, North Britain. And they’d make sure the blame lay at Hollyrood for all their policies. Certainly with no rights to call any future referendum and put back, firmly, in a box.

        Barnett? Forget it. Scottish NHS, just the same as theirs, any difference crushed. I’d have thought even a devolved government would be up for grabs in the aftermath of a no vote. It’s what Westminster does.

        That is the problem we have when we are tied to a country that significantly outvotes us all the time.

        So, dunno the answer to your question. I think that this is the most important opportunity we’ll ever get, and if we blow it, then what?

        Perhaps we’ll elect a solid Labour cadre, who will achieve as little for Scotland as they did the last time.

        Seems to me like a rock and a hard place.

  19. Two points, Peter. I think its reasonable to think that the functioning of an Independent Scotland would be fairly similar to other,small European States. I am not a member of the SNP, but its obvious that their campaign is designed to appeal to as wide an audience as possible-hence keeping the Queen. By the time we are Independent, the Queen will be near to being replaced by her son, then her grandson. I would expect that Scotland would be a republic within a relatively short time frame.
    You have to look at how this would work. If we vote for Independence, then that would mean a major rebuff to the Britnat Parties in the referendum. For the Westminster-based Scottish politicians it would be a huge shock. Its difficult to see any great support for any of them for some time after a Scottish State is established. I would think that, over time, a realignment of Scotlands politics would occur, but how that would look is just not possible to predict.

  20. It’s only the SNP that is ever pressed to describe an independent Scotland.

    The other unionist parties simply will not give their vision for an independent Scotland.

    Purely tactical in their part. Very understandable but not convenient when tasked with trying to answer the big question that this article poses.

    Unless the unionist parties start to describe their vision we’ll never be able to truly gauge what Scotland could look like in any meaningful manner. It’s not feasible to judge adequately the consequences of independence by merely appraising the policies of one party.

    Unfortunately, I do not forsee any unionist party putting forward their ideas for an independent Scotland anytime soon and therefore our people are limited in the information available to just one main party and a few lesser minor parties (whom I’ve barely heard a note).

    Scottish politics is so tight at the moment. None of the parties will really let their voices be unshackled for fear of giving ground. The big picture is independence and the union and the path we will take. Both sides of the political divide believe this poker type stuff, not saying what you really think, is a necessary evil to protect the poor wee lambs (the disengaged scottish electorate) from themselves.

    By refusing to think about post-independence policies the unionist parties think they can nail the idea of independence to one party knowing how difficult it is for one party (with all its other policy stlyles) to please a broad swathe of the electorate. It’s a good tactic. But that’s what it is. A tactic. It is deliberately not engaging in the debate for their own ends.

    The unionist parties demand clarity on matters (quite rightly as far as possible) and then claim the clarity given as ‘assertion’ rather than fact (quite accurately). However, again this is just a tactic. It’s not really very rational to bleat “Assertion! Aseertion!” Knowing full well it’s an “Assertion!” because they themselves refuse to committ their counter vision.

    I think the people of Scotland deserve a more honest debate than that.

  21. I have asked this question before with no reply –

    Is it a precondition of being in the Labour Party that you must be against independence?

    Here is a quote from Peter de Vink, a veteran Midlothian Conservative councillor who has been deselected by the party after hosting a lunch for First Minister Alex Salmond at Edinburgh’s New Club, and saying independence is inevitable.

    “They said I have to be a unionist to be a Conservative, which I think is barking mad.”

    Is there anybody out there who thinks the Labour Party is Barking up the wrong tree?

  22. Several questions of my own come to mind reading this.

    Why would anyone tell us what an Independant Scotand will be like? It’s a collaborative process which will not be shaped by any one person or any one group, political or otherwise. And no-one can say for any certainty wht it will be like, only where they hope we’ll end up, and that might take a lot of work.

    What will a fair and equal Union with Scotland in it look like? None of the unionists can tell us. And don’t try telling me we have it already. We don’t.

    Why do people opposed to independence think they will have any right to be involved in shaping an independent Scotland? That’s a bit like trying to control your wife after she’s divorced you. She doesn’t need you dictating who she can and cannot be with. Neither should the Union or Unionists have any say in the Future of Scotland if they are not within that new Scotland. The Scotland you shape will be backwards and yearning for the Union. We want a forward looking Scotland!

    And as for Murdo and his Tories by another name, you are absolutely right, people do vote for the Tories when they use a different name. The one they’re currently using is New Labour.

    Frankly, I don’t know why this article is on Labour Hame. You seem to accept independence is inevitable, which is huge progress for a unionist party. Have you given up the fight already? Perhaps you’re trying to get at the fact that the SNP need to tell us explicitly what an independent Scotland would be like, but maybe Labour should focus on trying to capture the mythical “Positive case for the Union.” Then again, maybe they could all just go to the seaside like King Canute and try to stop the water rising and flooding he south of England.

    1. Interesting:

      “Several questions of my own come to mind reading this”.


      …. several questions of your own come to your own mind …..hhhmmmm. Well! Congratulations!!!

      “Why would anyone tell us what an “independant” Scotand will be like?”

      Why would anyone vote for it if no-one can tell us what an “independant” Scotand will be like?

      “And no-one can say for any certainty what it will be like…..”

      So what’s the point of it? And when people say the Scottish people would be worse off in so many ways?… you say? What?…. “no-one can say for any certainty …”

      Vote for Me because no-one can say for any certainty …” more like “Vote for this piginapoke..”

      “Why do people opposed to independence think they will have any right to be involved in shaping an independent Scotland?”

      a. They won’t because it won’t happen

      b. Because they’re Scottish? Actually, they’re the majority of Scots….

  23. Interesting and thought provoking as this article is!…….can the site stop obsessing about the SNP and post an item on solely Labour related topics please.Surely there must be other things that can be discussed, either about the Party or the wider Scottish society without meantioning the ”I” word?

  24. If Glasgow votes to stay in the UK will London welcome them with open arms? Why would Orkney and Shetland be a different case, after all both have been in Scotland over 600 years.
    It would not be oil? Surely not.
    Somebody ask Tavish why Glasgow should not have the same opportunities to be ruled by the M25ers and watch him splutter.
    And if Corby and Berwick choose to be part of Scotland, if given a vote on the issue, by the same logic could they join?
    whilst berwick is a valid case, Corby is not. It has the same sense as Lerwick being ruled by London.
    I agree there is room in Scotland for a centre right party supporting federalism… and also for a centre left party suporting devo max under Chisholm who follows Keir Hardy more than George Foulkes….
    a good article, with less of the rabid rhetoric that has ruined the discussion.

    1. Looking at it from another perspective, should Scotland vote NO, but say, Barra, Skye, Islay and Glasgow vote YES, can they become independent of the UK? No, of course they can’t, that’s just stupid. It’s also the same arguement being made by the unionists about Shetland/Orkney

  25. Alex Salmond was expelled for being a member of the the 79 Group which was constituted inside the SNP without SNP National Council approval. He was not expelled for being a socialist. You are permittedto be a socialist in the SNP. In fact you are permitted to hold a wide variety of political positions in the SNP. The only thing that unites all the members of the SNP is a committment to Scottish independence. Policy positions adopted by the SNP tend to be in the socially democratic tradition as a majority of the members are towards what used to be described as the left in politics. This communalism is an fairly accurate refelection of Scottish national sentiment and Labour used to inhabit this area.
    The SNP however is replacing Labour in all these areas

  26. “They have the right to ask the question, and it probably should have been asked a while ago, but surely that does not give them the right to design this independent state?”

    The SNP have never claimed any such right. The referendum will not decide the future political direction of Scotland, that’s for elections to do. The referendum merely decides if we want to make that decision for ourselves, or let the voters of South-East England do it for us.

    It will be a mystery to me to my dying day why Scottish Labour prefers the latter.

  27. O/T:
    Wee Willie Bain revealed on Twitter that it is ‘a long-standing PLP convention not to support SNP motions’. EVERY new-labour socialsit should be ashamed by your party supporting the 50p rate be your non-cation. If that the best you can offer Scotland – discuss!

  28. I’m rather concerned by this comment from John Lyons:

    “Why do people opposed to independence think they will have any right to be involved in shaping an independent Scotland? … We want a forward looking Scotland!”

    Hard to know where to start unpacking that wee bombshell! Would those who vote for a reformed Union (my own position, as it happens) be asked to leave, should independence come? Are such voters to be branded in some way, in the manner of Cain?

    And R Pollock asks: why are the SNP always being asked these awkward questions about independence? The answer is a simple one: the SNP are the ones who want independence. Why seems a reasonable q

  29. I can say, in my opinion, that it will probably be much better than things are now, and definalely no worse

    Although some unuonists are promoting the ‘border control’ and the world will stop turning mantra if we get independence

  30. I hate the way that the EU is always brought into these discussions (not in the article but by comments made)

    We accept that Westminster rules the UK despite being a member of the EU why would an independent Scotland not be ruled by Holyrood even with membership of the EU? Clearly an independent Scotland would remain sovereign with similar restrictions to those of England/UK.

    As a Scot if we did become independent, which I don’t neccesarily support being a member of the Labour Party and an activist, I would want my country to be part of the EU.

    Elliot; to say that the UK should leave the EU is bonkers, we gain far more than we lose in shared markets, free borders and improved relations. Since the EU was formed how many times have any of its members been at war with another member? None – and this directly following a time when all that ever happened was war in Europe.

    It is striking that it is easier for a Labour member to say they would rather the UK left the EU than for a Labour member to discuss independence in a sober and factual manner. There are many arguments on each side and both sides should be expressing these instead of making up nonsense about Scottish Islands, the EU and all the other lies that both sides put out.

    Labour activists are getting fed up of pounding the pavements only to find that those with a proper platform to represent us in the party are often using mistruths to sell a side of the argument that many people in Scotland would support if given all the facts anyway.

  31. Twice I’ve been censored (moderated as you say) by Labour Hame and it cannot be a coincidence that both the comments were on the same point.
    So I’ll try again but this time not mention names.
    One thing that will be different in an independent Scotland will be that the unionist parties will no longer be able to use the House of Lords as a place of patronage for their retired MPs. Priviledge and patronage are parts of the unionist tradition that Scotland and Labour supporters abhor and yet nothing has been done about it when Labour has had the chance. Let me assure Scottish Labour they are where they are partly because of the lack of action on House of Lords reform. Independence = Abolition of Scottish Lords

  32. LabourHame is becoming an enjoyable site for debate and I congratulate you on this.

    One point: lots of people, including independence supporters, believe that after independence the SNP would wither and die and the Labour Party would come into its own in the new state. I beg to differ. Labour has painted intself in such vivid unionist colours that it would be hardly likely to expect a mass transfer of allegiance from left-leaning former SNP voters. And secondly, I think that a broad church nationalist party may still be needed to forge real independence for many many years after any declaration since English national interests will become much more apparent than now, concealed as they are by the BBC and other elements of the media.

  33. Ha! We know exactly what Alex Salmond’s independent Scotland will look like. We’ll be in Europe, using the British pound, protected by the British Army, being represented abroad by British diplomats, relying on Britain’s nuclear deterrent & probably their nuclear power too, we’ll certainly be using the same national grid according to Alex. Oh, & our head of state will be the current Queen.

    So what does independence look like? It looks like more power & spending money for Alex & more of the same for everybody else! Why are we wasting our time with this; there’s a ‘war’ going on. Our fellow social democrats are seeing everything they’ve built during the postwar concesus gift-wrapped & sold – often to the LOWEST bidder. It’s time for unity! It’s time for us to stand, indisputably, together.

    What does a Britain based on principled social democracy look like? That’s the question which we need to answer. Then we won’t need to be speculating about independence because folks won’t vote for it, if the British Labour Party can help them to visualise a credible alternative.

  34. Can anyone really say what an independent Scotland would look like?

    No more WMD or nuclear power plants sucking the economic lifeblood from Scotland’s inhabitants and no more nuclear pollution of the environment for which we all depend on.

    No more subsidising an unelected chamber who can affect our lives in an undemocratic way.

    Have a media which is Scottish based telling the truth rather than being politically biased.

    Having a country where people come before corporate interest.

    Make our own mistakes rather than suffering from the results of decisions made outside Scottish control especially when politicians deliberately abstain for party political reasons which is harmful to Scottish inhabitants.


  35. A lot more people in Shetland are in favour of complete independence than in being part of the UK post-Scottish independence, but in this context ‘a lot more’ means a few dozen. Other than Tavish I’ve met no-one here who favours sticking with the UK if the referendum gets a ‘yes’ vote. It is different elsewhere. There are people on the mainland – and not just in the house of lords – who like to think that Shetlanders would want to be part of the former UK rather than Scotland. It is even possible that some of them have been here for a visit, but they don’t live here.

  36. I enjoyed this article.It is thought provoking,but while it challenges the reader to think about what a post independence Scotland might look like,it also encourages us to think what Labours role will be in it.Will Labour,in an independent Scotland,take a different view on matters such as nuclear power and nuclear weapons? At the moment the party isnt even discussing such issues because it wont countenance the contemplation of a post independence Scotland.

    1. I have no love for the Tories, and no reason to support them, having suffered redundancy under Major’s government.

      But everyone is taking Cruddas comments about “not agreeing” out of context. Their opposition is contrived, but a few people are getting mixed up about them wanting to support the Union.

      Of course, any time a politician opens his or her mouth, their opponents will always ignore the context of the comment to suit their own needs.

      I think the SNP would be better focusing on “Dine with Dave”.

  37. Ah Duncan, you are back 🙂 Hope you had a nice day outand the roast lamb was appropriately succulent in a non-Murrayesque fashion.

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