Economics of Independence

Independence: If we can, why wouldn’t we?

Written by Michael Gray

David Cameron realising there is no case for the union.

A significant shift has occurred in Scottish politics within the past decade. Generations of claims that Scotland is too poor, too wee or too stupid to govern its own affairs have been swiftly abandoned in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary.

Scotland is one of the richest countries in the world. Other medium sized nations are among the most successful communities in the world – topping international league tables. Devolution has been a success and independence is part of a natural progression towards greater self-governance.

While the outcome of the independence debate is still to be determined, it is worth highlighting the intellectual ground that has been abandoned by the No campaign. Not one prominent unionist remains opposed to the possibility of Scottish independence. They believe that Scotland could be a successful independent country.

The most important benefits of independence remain undisputed. Scotland will always get the government it votes for. Only a ‘Yes’ vote will secure power over social security and taxation. An independent Scotland will have its own voice in the world and international organisations.

It is this contrast that will win the support of the electorate in Scotland, and especially the business community in Scotland, over the next year.

If there’s one thing that dispels some of the misinformation of the No campaign, it is reading back their own words about how successful an independent Scotland can be.

Here are a few.

Of course Scotland can be independent!

Alistair Darling, Head of the No campaign – “The question is not whether Scotland can survive as a separate state. Of course it could.”

Ruth Davidson, Leader of the Scottish Tories – “I believe Scotland is big enough, rich enough and good enough to be an independent country.”

Anas Sarwar, Deputy Leader of Scottish Labour – “Scotland would probably be a successful country if it was an independent country.”

Iain Gray, former Scottish Labour Leader – “I do not think Scotland is too small, too poor or too stupid to stand on its own.”

David McLetchie, late Scottish Conservative Leader – “An independent Scotland would be viable.”

Michael Moore, Secretary of State for Scotland – “You’ll never hear me suggest that Scotland could not go its own way.”

Professor Brian Ashcroft, CEO of Fraser of Allander Institute (  – “Against that option (more powers) full blown independence might be much better. With full blown independence you can do many more things. If you’re being forced to balance your books, then the logic is be independent. Don’t do it within the Union. So you heard it here first, me arguing for independence!”

Denis Healy, former UK Chancellor, “I think they [Westminster politicians] are concerned about Scotland taking the oil, I think they are worried stiff about it…I would think Scotland could survive perfectly well, economically, if it was independent…I think we did underplay the value of the oil to the country [for political reasons]”.

And finally an important contribution from the top.

“Supporters of independence will always be able to cite examples of small, independent and thriving economies across Europe such as Finland, Switzerland and Norway. It would be wrong to suggest that Scotland could not be another such successful, independent country.”

David Cameron, Prime Minister of the UK.


In certain instances the UK has worked well in the past for Scotland. Yet today there is a political divergence that makes continued centralised decision making from Westminster undesirable. It’s the political union that isn’t working. After independence trade and cultural ties will continue from a basis of equality. Scotland will then have full control over its future.

Westminster also accepts that  Scotland politically, socially, environmentally, geographically and culturally different to the rest of the UK, as dominated by the huge population block of London and the South East.

It all boils down to two key questions.

Is there any economic impediment to electing our own government and making decisions for Scotland in Scotland? This is a fairly clear and simple case given, that the No campaign fully agree that Scotland can be a successful independent nation.

So if Scotland can be a successful independent country and there is no reason why not, then why wouldn’t we vote to become one?

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About the author

Michael Gray

Michael is Head of Research with Business for Scotland.

A graduate from the University of Glasgow, he has carried out a series of interviews with academics, politicians and the public in Denmark, Iceland and Ireland. Michael's on twitter @GrayInGlasgow.


  • […] So manifestly untrue, in fact, that all the available economic data entirely contradicts the age old, absurd and tired Westminster proposition that Scotland could not succeed as an independent self governing country. The too small, too poor and too stupid argument has become so discredited recently that none of the major players in the No Campaign now dare to suggest it.1 […]

  • I posted the quotes on a facebook page as have many others and have been asked by some friends to cite references for the quotes. Please can you tell me where these quotes were published, or people will think,reasonably, that the quotes are made up.

    • I will make sure the sources of the quotes are added in the next few weeks – but i think that as you haven’t seen a front page headline saying pro indy business group caught making things that is proof in itself. I take your punt and our policy is always to provide links and evidence will add soon. GMK

      • “I take your punt”, I thought you’d advocate a Scottish pound if I’m honest. 🙂

        • We have not officially stated our currency position yet the volatility and weakening status of the pound changes everything since the last referendum – time will tell.

  • For me, a business analogy with independence really works. Small companies are always more agile and able to make the best, focused decisions for their own benefit, especially in times when agility and change are needed.
    Large companies find change difficult and have a larger inertia to overcome before things can be achieved. Critical mass for change is difficult to achieve as the small voices are not heard.
    Countries are no different. As an independent country, Scotland could make the changes/decisions it needs to, when responding to global events and influences. These decisions would suit Scotland and its people. I’m not anti-union for the sake of it, I just see Scotland clearly is a separate society and culture from other parts of the UK, with different values and priorities. The UK is the big company, making moves and decisions that suit the larger organisation, with Scotland (the subsidiary) having to take the hits when those decisions are not in its best interests. This just seems to be more often than not though.

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