Economics of Independence ScotRef

Better Together’s broken promises open the door to independence

Screen Shot 2016-06-24 at 13.03.41Scottish voters and especially the the 177,000 estimated EU citizens that live in Scotland were threatened with expulsion from the EU if we voted Yes in 2014. This was a major factor in securing the NO vote and now we know (as Business for Scotland always said) Scotland’s EU membership was more at risk from voting No in 2014.

Updated – Now that Scotland has voted in every council area to Remain in the EU and that the sheer weight of English Leave votes will mean Scotland is dragged out of the EU against it’s will it is worth considering all of the other broken promises of the Better Together campaign.

One of the problems the 2014 Yes campaign had was that it was relentlessly positive and missed the opportunity to highlight the dangers of continued Union. I am not saying Yes should have run a “Fear the Union Project” but a realistic analysis of how Westminster’s distant, disinterested and dysfunctional attitude to Scotland holds our nation back would have helped. Fortunately that is easier to do now as the No Campaign provided us with a long list of false claims and broken promises:

1. Renewables subsidies – Ed Davey, the then UK energy secretary, said: “Scotland could lose billions in renewable energy subsidies with a Yes vote and would put our green energy revolution at risk”. Davey claimed that 33 per cent of UK subsidies for wind, wave and tidal projects (£530m a year) came to Scotland and so independence would ‘slam the brakes on wind farm projects’. Now drastic cuts to the public funding of onshore wind-farms have been announced which Renewables Scotland claim could reduce Scotland’s economy by £3 billion.

2. Carbon capture – Davey also claimed the vital climate change project at Peterhead would be endangered as he signed a deal with Shell and Scottish and Southern Energy. However, after the referendum, Westminster pulled its promised £1bn of support and the project failed.

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Scotland’s EU membership not looking so secure with a No vote to independence now

3. EU membership not secure! – David Cameron claimed that the only way to protect Scotland’s EU membership was to reject independence. No campaign spokespeople parroted the phrase “EU membership only guaranteed with a No vote”. Now we have polls in England showing that the EU referendum is too close to call while 60 per cent of Scots plan to vote Stay. Right-wing, separatist, British nationalist and often racist, anti-European sentiment will now decide Scotland’s membership of the EU as Scottish votes will not be enough to influence the result unless England’s vote is within one per cent.

4. Labour’s majority promise – Labour who led the No Campaign claimed that not only would independence “consign the rest of the UK to permanent Tory rule” but that a Labour Government would sort out Scotland’s problems. Labour lost by a mile and the Tories won a majority just as I had predicted on this site in 2013. Once the EU referendum is over, Ukip will disappear and their votes will mostly go back to the Tories and England, it seems, will continue to quite happily consign themselves and Scotland to permanent Tory rule.

5. Scotland should lead, not leave the UK – An almost perfect piece of political spin from both Gordon Brown and Johann Lamont but no one seemed to tell David Cameron. The day after the referendum Cameron announced English Votes for English Laws (Evel), effectively meaning no MP from a Scottish constituency can ever be prime minster of the UK and ipso facto can’t lead the UK. Scotland has just attempted to lead the UK to remain in the EU but once again our democratic vote has been ignored.

6. Pensions not safer in UK – Gordon Brown warned that independence came with a pensions time-bomb. The UK Government backed that claim and now we see pension age increases for women meaning some will lose out up to £30,000. UK Government policy since the referendum means that middle to high earners will be better off through their pensions but that low earners will bear the cost of pension reforms. A Scot earning around £15,000 with a working life of 30 years, could see their pension drop £1,800 per annum.

7. It was Scotland’s pound – We were told that Scotland could not continue to use the pound after independence. Denying claims that it was a political manoeuvre, the No Camp claimed that a currency union was unworkable. However last week on STV’s Scotland Tonight Sir Mervyn King who ran the Bank of England for a decade said “it would have been totally feasible, there was no need for an independent currency.”

8. Slower meaningless devolution – David Cameron claimed that “A No vote would lead to faster, fairer, safer and better change and that draft legislation for new powers for Scotland would be in place by January, 2015”. John Swinney tells us that almost every concession for more powers in the watered down Smith Commission document had at least one Unionist party trying to block it. We now also know that the Westminster negotiators tried to use the Scotland Bill fiscal agreement talks to cut Scotland’s budget by £7bn over ten years.

9. Uncertainty was a myth – David Cameron claimed inward investors had told him they wouldn’t invest in Scotland until after the referendum due to uncertainty but 2014/15 turned out to be a record year for Scottish inward investment, the number of projects increased by 17% to 91 between April 2014 and March 2015. The EU referendum result now means that Scotland faces greater uncertainty.

10. Job losses – Some strangely specific claims were made by the No camp on protecting jobs. They claimed that the Scottish HMRC tax offices would close and many jobs would be lost as they also collect taxes for England. Since the referendum it has been announced that 2,500 HMRC jobs in Scotland are to go. Again Better Together teamed up with steel workers’ union Community to claim that a No vote would protect steel jobs, but now 270 steel jobs have gone in Scotland and are only now being won back by the efforts of the Scottish Government.

Miliband and the Foreign Office warned of manned border controls between Scotland and England

11. What, no border controls? – Former Scottish Secretary Alistair Carmichael launched a UK government report entitled Borders and Citizenship claiming that Scotland would have to have a manned border with England after independence.  This was backed up by Ed Miliband claiming new members of the EU must accept free travel. Ireland has a pre existing free travel agreement with the UK which as well as being an EU member also has an opt out of Shengen. If the UK leaves the EU Ireland would no longer have an automatic opt-out, but last week Boris Johnson claimed that a Brexit would mean no change to the current open borders agreement with Ireland.  We can only assume this would also apply to an independent Scotland.

I could also point also out that the MoD announced 13 Type 26 frigates with Defence Secretary Michael Fallon making it clear that the investment was conditional on Scots rejecting independence. In the end the order looks like being just 8 ships as the money is needed to pay for new nuclear weapons. Or that the No camp claimed Scottish tourism was being damaged by the referendum and specifically that UK interest in travel to Scotland was down by 29%. Strange then that the figures for 2014/15 show Scotland had a record tourism year with a 9% increase in holiday trips and 41% increase in business trips.

We were also told that you can’t have a sovereign oil fund as it wouldn’t be viable whilst running a deficit but then Westminster announced that the North East of England could have a Fracking Fund to make sure the local communities benefit from their oil wealth. Corporation Tax cuts were labelled unhealthy and a “race to the bottom” and we were told it couldn’t be devolved to Scotland, but was then devolved to Northern Ireland and in this weeks budget the Chancellor George Osborne has announced Corporation Tax cuts. We were also told that the big financial institutions would leave Scotland with a Yes Vote – it turned out they would just reregister but keep all the jobs here and that would have destroyed the bank bail out myth, but now Scottish Widows has relocated anyway and ironically HSBC are threatening to leave and move their European HQ to Paris if there is a Brexit.

I have also previously detailed how the “broad shoulders of the Union” have let down Aberdeen. Thats around 20 and the list goes on and on and on there are actually far too many to mention them all here. So why, when so much is obviously wrong with the case for the Union, is support for independence not soaring? There are three reasons; firstly as Nicola Sturgeon has astutely realised with her summer push for independence, the case for independence needs to be made loudly and then people will be made to consider such evidence as listed above – it needs to be taken to the voters – they won’t search for it themselves. Secondly we need to create and promote a clear economic argument, a detailed roadmap to prosperity through the powers of an independent Scotland (the raison d’être of Business for Scotland) this would send independence support soaring. That roadmap can be built without the need to reply on oil but the oil price coming back to profitable levels by 2020, as 97 per cent of senior oil executives expect it to, would also open the floodgates. Finally everything was on hold till after the result of the EU referendum and now we know that the risks of staying tethered to a self destructing UK are far greater than taking back control over Scotland future by remaining in the EU as an independent nation.

Did someone say Game On?

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About the author

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the Founder and Chief Executive of Business for Scotland. Before becoming CEO of Business for Scotland Gordon ran a business strategy and social media, sales & marketing consultancy.

With a degree in business, marketing and economics, Gordon has worked as an economic development planning professional, and in marketing roles specialising in pricing modelling and promotional evaluation for global companies (including P&G).

Gordon benefits (not suffers) from dyslexia, and is a proponent of the emerging New Economics School. Gordon contributes articles to Business for Scotland, The National and Believe in Scotland.


  • I am now about 90% of the way from moving from being a No voter to a Yes voter. However when I read an article like this it is a pretty convincing push back to my original position.

    You were right on point 3. but every other point is highly questionable or just wrong. The currency was a major reason for voting No and I think retaining Sterling would have been utterly disastrous given how events unfolded. Also I read a ridiculous comment on this site saying that the UK government didn’t bail out Scottish banks which when I showed to a director of a Scottish bank he thought was one of the funniest things he’d ever read.

    I think that Scotland could be a successful independent country with sensible policies. If I heard a recantation of most of the points above along with more sensible suggestions in line with standard economic theory then you would convince me to vote Yes and indeed to donate to the campaign.

    • You state, without any evidence that every other point is highly questionable or just wrong. Would you care to provide some evidence for that claim?

      As far as this ex-patriot can see the above is weak only in the degree to which it fails to slam Westminster and unionist cheerleaders for their explicit lies, and their readiness to throw Scotland’s business and voters under the bus at every opportunity.

    • Andrew can you point out where on this site there is an article that states the UK didn’t bail out the banks? I do state that they didn’t do it alone and that bailouts are international in nature and that the size of the bailout any country is responsible for is related to the contagion within their borders. I quoted Harvard professors and provided links to indisputable proof so if you mean this article #BizforScotland destroys the No Campaign’s bank bail-out lies please point out the factual error if its another please let me know because if you can’t you have deliberately misrepresented the case we made.

    • The Fed Bailed Out Barclays Bank In 2008/9. In the Lehmans meltdown or near-meltdown, the US Federal Reserve, bailed out Barclays Bank. This was a well-kept secret at the time.

      “Barclays took the biggest chunk of bailout money, borrowing $863bn from the Fed.” New Statesman 2010

      “Perhaps most surprising is the huge sum that went to bail out foreign private banks and corporations.” Barclays was one of the foreign bank “bail” outs.

      Call it what you will, Barclays was bailed out – to the tune of £552 BILLION pounds by the US Federal Reserve and the Qatari Banks.

    • Andrew Veitch, I’m honestly baffled by your comment that only No.3 in the list is the one you agree with. Every one of these points can be verified by not a lot of research.
      Scotland was leading the way in Carbon Capture, but after around three years of reseach – which is costly- David Cameron’s Government pulled the plug, denying Scotland the £1million investment promised to the winner. All those years of expense for nothing.
      David Cameron also stopped funding for wind energy a year earlier than had been promised. Again, money lost to the company / companies involved.
      Gordon Brown lied about access to cross-border organ transplants, just as Jackie Baillie targeted parents, telling them that after independence they would have difficulty having their children treated at Great Ormond Street Hospital in London. The hospital itself denied this.
      Gordon Brown targeted the elderly, telling them their would be problems regarding their pensions if Scotland became independent, but meantime there was something which was not given publicity – in Westminster, Steve Webb, then Minister for Pensions was explaining to the Scottish Committee that pensions wouldn’t be affected by independence. He stated that the two governments would simply work out arrangements for how the pensions would be paid. Again, this can be seen on video on the Parliament website.
      At the beginning of the campaign, the new Governor of the Bank of England, Mark Carney, actually listed some of the BENEFITS a common currency could bring to both sides of the Border Obviously David Cameron had a word with him, because he changed his story soon afterwards. Which one to believe? – Another one that can be verified on Youtube. So you see, Andrew, it is simply a case of searching around to find these and many more sources that can’t be denied. It is the reason why thousands of YES supporters were as angry as they were disappointed, when the result of the referendum was known. It is difficult enough to accept that you have lost, but it is really angersome when you know you have lost to lies, lies, damned lies.
      Labour MSP Anas Sarwar has just admitted lying to Scotland in 2014 – also on video.
      I do hope you check out these points for yourself. I recommend you find a copy of “The Wee Black Book” which lists all the broken promises made by the same people who were telling those lies.

    • Well said Andrew – Scotland could argue a good case to its people for independence, but not if they peddle similar untruths, mis-quotes and fairly-tale nonsense as the unionists. When neither side is saying anything believable, people will stick with the status quo.

  • The reason England will do deals after independence is that we have the energy, electricity, oil and gas which goes through high pressure pipes burried near my house to England to fuel their homes and businesses. We have a large trade surplus as we are an exporter. England would struggle without these and our taxes.

    Does anyone know if products sent from Scotland and shipped out from England count as a Scottish export to England or a Scottish export to say America even if it goes via an English port?

    • It does not matter where it is shipped from in terms of tax take that is calculated either on a company by company return or estimated by uk region by uk region in terms of VAT etc in the UK regional accounts of which GERS is one. There is however no fully reliable cross sector balance of trade or payments for Scotland but we know that our exports are far higher per head than England’s for example (led by food and drink) – I am looking into how we can calculate an accurate balance of trade. For example in some official reports oil shipped ashore from the UK area known as ant UK Continental Shelf is treated as an import to Scotland you couldn’t make it up.

      • Gordon it does need looking into and there are so many areas which would take much time and effort to find out the truth or whether there are mistakes in government estimates. One is, of how much benefit is it to England that almost all government departments and head offices of art, media, oceanography, army etc are based in London or England? How much does the wider economy in London benefit from this effect from houseing hotels, restaurants, car showrooms etc

      • Will you write a piece on how we import oil?

        If a company is based in London such as the Whisky companies are their profits, derived from products produced in Scotland, put towards London and England books?

        • Have been researching a way to calculate a reliable balance of payments for Scotland but the data help by UK Government and Scottish Government is piecemeal at best. The tax paid on whisky is at the point of production and VAT at the point of sale wherever that is. More on this in coming months.

  • As far as I am concerned, there is only one question: if we are costing the union so much, why are the Tories in particular so reluctant to let us go? “Altruism” and “Tory” are not concepts that sit well together.

  • Great article, thanks.

    For anyone not familiar with Wings Over Scotland, and other news blogs, particularly those which investigate, probe and debunk the unionist lies and propaganda, it’s worth a read. There are links to many good blogs and pro Indy sites on WoS.

    The ‘Wee Black Book’ has just been put out by the Rev Stu on WoS. An analysis on what has happened since the indy ref, with a few reminders of how the state run media and the unionist establishment ran the whole thing.

  • Dear oh dear when will these so called intelligent people not realise that liars will be found out in the end.

    They prob did us a favour, with the economic climate we might have struggled initially.

    Now we find all the lies that were laid out to scots not quite sure what decision to make have come back to bite them in the bum.

    Next time these will not wash and we can get away from red and blue tories to create a fairer just country

  • However, in the 15 month period since Unionists triumphed in the referendum, many of the promises have already been broken.

  • And the list grows by the day. When you see it altogether laid out in front of you you can see that every scare story put out there by the NO side looks like it has in fact been used as the rule book for Scotland since the NO vote.

  • Do Scottish supporters of independence really believe that that public opinion in England would allow a SNP governed Independent Scotland to leave the present Union and then pick parts of that Union that it likes. For example an open border, shared currency the right for Scots to enter and live and work freely in that Union. Do they not read that English nationalism is on the rise.
    There are many things that the rUK could do, if it so wished to make life hard for a newly independent Scotland, it is no good glossing over this fact. What arrangements were made with Ireland in 1922 may not be agreed between the rUK and an independent Scotland. Relations between the countries could become acrimonious. What and who will suffer is anyones guess including the nearly 800000 Scots who live in England.

    • On Independence Day, every Scot will still have UK citizenship as well as Scottish citizenship, as will all English people living in Scotland at the time. Are you seriously trying to tell us that UK citizens won’t be allowed to live in the UK?

      Sterling is a freely traded currency and no one can be stopped from using it anywhere in the world. If Scottish people, business and government want to use it there’s absolutely nothing Westminster could do to prevent that.

      Border posts? Aye if they want to inconvenience their own citizens and hamstring their own businesses.

      Get real.

    • Also, who’s to say that independent Scotland will have an SNP government? We Scots will have a thing called democracy and WE will decide who governs our independent country.

    • This reads like a nasty threat. Fortunately many now independent countries called England’s bluff! Surely I’m not supposed to believe there is nationalism in England? How very colonial!

    • Hodgson. Your arrogant and threatening language has given you away.
      What a dark and horrid world you must inhabit. Grow up!

    • D Hodgson, Scotland holds the upper hand this time unlike in 1707 when the English navy could stop our trade with the cononies and they threatened to impose an “alien” act.

      We export to England the things England really needs, oil, gas, electricity, food, water and educated people. When we become self-governing it will be England who will be the first purchasers of the Scottish pound to pay for the Scottish goods we send south!

  • Great article Gordon. Can I add an important factor.

    You say “So why, when so much is obviously wrong with the case for the Union, is support for independence not soaring? There are two reasons…”

    A major reason is missing. The media. The vast majority of mainstream TV and newsprint will not support neutrality, despite pretending to do so.

    We need to actively promote the social media sites that give factual information and clear analysis. There are a small number.

    Their well-researched information is utterly compelling – we just need it to be promoted more.

    The more undecided voters and potential ‘move my vote from No to Yes’ voters who are exposed to this factual analysis, repeatedly, the more likely it is that they will be persuaded.

  • That is an absolute stonker, sir. Needs to be spread far and wide, but I don’t know how to do that on this Webby thing.
    I have however, one very serious criticism – “far too many to mention them all here”. Please please give it a shot.
    This stuff is dynamite.

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