Tuesday, 26 August 2014

5 Good Reasons To Vote No - Part 2

Continued from Part 1.

3. The North Sea oil won't last forever.

One of the Yes campaign's major points throughout the campaigning has been that Scotland as an independent country would have a valuable asset in the form of North Sea oil and gas reserves. The issue came up again last night, when Alex Salmond said that "every other country in Europe would give their back teeth to have North Sea Oil". Except the Kingdom of Norway, of course, who already have 54% of the sea's oil reserves and 45% of its gas reserves. Norway is part of the "arc of prosperity" cited by Alex Salmond as models that an independent Scotland could model itself on, before other members of that arc of prosperity- including Iceland and the Republic of Ireland- suffered a spectacular economic collapse when the recession hit. Certainly, Norway has gained great wealth from its share of the oil and gas reserves in the North Sea, but Norwegian and British government sources agree that over half the reserves have already been used. Furthermore, as Alistair Darling pointed out last night, oil is a very volatile source of revenue and an independent Scotland relying on it to buoy the economy would be taking a gamble. Recently, Sir Ian Wood, a major figure in the UK's oil and gas industry, came out against independence warning that "there are only 15 years of reserves left before its decline starts wreaking major damage on the Scottish economy." Sir Ian believes that the Scottish Government has been overestimating the remaining oil and gas reserves in the North Sea. On the other hand, other industry experts yesterday said that the Scottish Government's estimate of 24bn remaining barrels of oil was "plausible." Whatever the case, oil and gas are non-renewable resources, meaning that they are replenished so slowly that they are effectively finite. And reserves are notoriously difficult to predict, meaning that relying on the revenue from North Sea oil to buoy the independent Scotland's economy is building a house on unstable ground.

4. EU membership is uncertain.

Another of Yes Scotland's talking points has been the European Union, which Scots are generally more supportive of than their countrymen in the rest of the United Kingdom. Alex Salmond has repeatedly claimed that independence is the best option for Scots who wish to remain within the EU, as rising euroscepticism south of the border sees the UK Independence Party gaining increasing electoral success and the Conservatives promising a referendum on EU membership if re-elected. However, as I've previously mentioned, Salmond's assertions that upon independence, Scotland would automatically inherit the UK's membership of the Union have been contradicted by members of the European elite. In February, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that it would be "extremely difficult, if not impossible" for Scotland to join the European Union. Yesterday his sentiments were echoed by Ruairi Quinn, former president of EU's finance council, who predicted that Spain and Belgium would be likely to block Scotland's application. Both countries have significant secessionist movements within their own borders and would not wish to encourage them by allowing a newly independent Scotland into Europe. Mr Quinn also stated that Scotland would need to adopt the euro as a condition of joining the EU, providing its application was accepted, contradicting Alex Salmond's claims that Scotland would be allowed to continue using the pound as the United Kingdom is at present.

Meanwhile, the Scottish Fishermen's Federation have warned that an independent Scotland would have less clout within the EU and less say when it came to issues such as fishing quotas, meaning that Scotland would likely lose out to larger countries- including the rest of the United Kingdom, which will continue to have considerable influence in Europe post-independence. The SFF also described the SNP’s claims that Scotland could negotiate EU membership between a "yes" vote next month and seceding in March 2016 as "very optimistic." Much like the rest of their campaign, then.

5. The United Kingdom is stronger together.

As a unified country, Great Britain and later the United Kingdom achieved more than Scotland and England ever did alone. For better or for worse, the British Empire was the largest empire in world history, and the union flag flew over a quarter of the world's landmass at its height. The Industrial Revolution began here, as did modern parliamentary democracy, influenced as much by the Scottish Enlightenment as by English ideals. Glasgow was called the "Second City of the Empire." Today, Scotland still benefits from being part of one of the world's great powers, a nuclear power with a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, and the world's sixth-largest economy by nominal GDP and eighth-largest by purchasing power parity. But most of all, the bonds between the people of the British Isles go beyond mere politics and economics; we have deeply influenced each other's culture, and millions of people live in the UK today who have both English and Scottish ancestry, living embodiment of the 300-year-old union between these two ancient nations, along with Wales and Northern Ireland. I will leave the last word to the architect of the Union of Crowns, James VI and I, who laid the groundwork for the eventual unification of Great Britain:

James VI and I in 1606 by
John De Critz the Elder 
"But the union of these two princely houses is nothing comparable to the union of two ancient and famous kingdoms, which is the other inward peace annexed to my person ... Has not God first united these two kingdoms, both in language, religion, and similitude of manners? Yes, has he not made us all in one island, compassed with one sea, and of itself by nature so indivisible, as almost those that were borderers themselves on the late borders, cannot distinguish nor know or discern their own limits? These two Countries being separated neither by sea, nor great river, mountain, nor other strength of nature ..."
- James VI and I, King of England, Scotland, France and Ireland

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