Economics of Independence Scotland's Economy

The No Campaign fails the “blank sheet of paper” test

BbOOXcmCAAETiDNImagine you had a blank sheet of paper to design an ideal constitutional solution for running Scotland. Would you design the system we have right now?  Would you draw up a system that looks anything like the status quo?

Well, watching the BBC independence debate from Kelso last week I was stunned by the No Campaign’s Jenny Marra who said:

“If I was given a blank sheet of paper to draw up arrangements for our country, I think I might draw them up the way they are now”.

Here is the 25 second clip

To be honest I am not 100% sure what was meant by that. She went on to claim that this meant a devolved Scottish Parliament in the context of the Westminster system. However, that doesn’t clarify anything either.

Is that as good as it gets for Scotland and business?

Does she mean that Scottish Parliament’s current powers are an ideal situation?  Does she mean that Scotland voting for a UK Labour government and getting a Conservative-led one is ideal?  Or whilst generating more tax per head than the UK every year for 32 years and 9.9% of the UK tax take with only 8.4% of the population, Scotland should receive only 9.3% of the UK public sector budget to spend, including a higher cost for services like defence and foreign affairs?


Decision making

Does she mean that the unelected House of Lords with no representation from the majority government of Scotland should have the power to remove powers from the Scottish parliament without so much as a by your leave?

They did exactly that when they voted as quietly as possible to remove Renewables Obligation Certification powers from the Scottish Parliament late last year.


International policy

Maybe she means it is an ideal scenario to have the UK’s only nuclear weapons arsenal (that the people of Scotland do not want) based just 30 miles from our most populous city. Or Scottish soldiers being ordered into an illegal war that the people of Scotland and our Parliament opposed?

North Sea revenue investment

Is it ideal that our oil revenues are handed over to the UK Government and spent outside Scotland, or that the UK is one of the only two oil rich nations not to have set up a sovereign oil fund? (the other was Iraq) Or that the UK Ministry of Defence won’t allow oil companies to extract oil from the west coast of Scotland because it gets in the way of nuclear submarine operations?

Darling's competence under attackRegulation and growth

Can it be ideal that a lack of regulation of financial markets by Alastair Darling MP of the No Campaign has resulted in an austerity budget that will be imposed from Westminster for a generation, cutting growth and threatening vital public services?

Housing and property

Is it so wonderful being connected to an overheated property market that causes housing benefit payments to soar in London? The result is a bedroom tax that is not needed in Scotland, but must be imposed there as we have no say over the welfare system.

Scotland is a wealthy nation but Westminster ensures that we are not a wealthy society.

Scotland is a wealthy nation but Westminster ensures that we are not a wealthy society.

 Infrastructure and investment

Is it ideal when the distant and dysfunctional Westminster Parliament invests billions of Scottish money in projects such as a high speed train (HS2) which politicians claim will end the North-South divide, despite the fact that it only goes as far as Manchester and Leeds and will actually damage Scotland’s economy?  Is it ideal that Scottish airports claim Air Passenger Duty (APD) is stopping them from attracting direct flights and boosting Scotland’s economy, but nevertheless the Westminster Chancellor in his Autumn Statement raised APD in response to demand for direct flights to London airports?



More recently, is it ideal that after 300 years of contributing to building the  reputation of the Sterling currency, apparently we have been using ‘English money’ all along and have no further right to it if we decide to be democratically self-governing?

There is an almost endless number of examples.

Scotland can do better than ‘OK’

The No Campaign’s slogan is ‘UKOK’. Well, ‘OK’ seems to be the extent of its ambition for Scotland too. This referendum is becoming a choice between those who have a plan to build a better Scotland and those who have no ideas, vision or plan. It’s a choice between two futures.

I could argue that the UK isn’t OK: that there are too many food-banks opening up, too much inequality, too much child poverty and so forth.

But let’s not focus entirely on the negative. I think we can agree that the status quo is not as ideal as Jenny Marra suggests. After all, even her Lib-Dem allies argue that the status quo has failed.

Comment: how would you change Scotland for the better?

Imagine you had a blank sheet of paper to design an ideal Scotland. What is the one key thing you would change about our country?  Leave a comment and share the most important element of your positive vision for Scotland.

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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.


  • A fantastic selection of visionary proposals for what we’d like the future of Scotland to be like! These must all go into the post referendum dialogues for further development. It needs a pan-Scotland series of meetings using the Art of Participatory Leadership and Art of Hosting.

  • A written constitution, which states (among other things) that it is the duty of all Scottish governments to a) strive for the complete elimination of child poverty; b) provide good quality public services, base on need and ability – not ability to pay.

  • Maggie is absolutely right. For generations we have not believed in ourselves. Now is the time to put that right and assert ourselves. We CAN and MUST do it! Vote
    with an emphatic ‘YES’ Let our children and their children see what we are made of – strong Scots who changed our history for the better.

  • Before we even start thinking about the type of government we need, I’d like to wake up tomorrow in a country where all our citizens have the confidence to believe we are capable of great things, and more than able to make our own way in today’s global economy.

    • Fully agree Maggie. It is shocking, sad and disappointing to hear of the many who do not seem to see the opportunity. I do, however, believe and hope that the YES campaign’s final run up to the big day will continue to be positive, inspirational and aspirational and that this will pull more DKs and non-believers with it.

  • I would like a government that doesn’t hush up benefits to its citizens e.g. The McCrone report placed under the official secrets act to hide Scotland’s oil wealth. A government who doesn’t use dodgy dossiers to take us to illegal wars. A government who doesn’t impose things like the poll tax and bedroom tax. A government who makes profits from their second homes and use our money for personal expenses. I want a government that is more interested in its citizens and not itself.

  • An inclusive population within the frame work of managing the country with the politicians. Their contributions are harness to propel Scotland as a dynamic/innovative/modern country.

  • An oath ahould be sworn by incoming governments that their first and ongoing priority will be to ensure that the quality and longevity of life of every citizen will be held above the interests of private groups or corporate interests.

  • I want change not more of the same, idealistic but I want; honest politicians who are in the job because they are interested in working for the people of scotland not for money, an education system like Finland with a child centred approach, access to care for people throughout their lives when they need it and a fair & honest society which treats all it’s citizens with dignity and respect.

  • I’d like a system where policies were put forward and voted on rather than political parties. People would then have a real chance to say what was important to them. The government could then implement as many of the most popular policies as they could within the budgets. I often find that I like some things about many different political parties but never everything about just one. It makes it very hard to choose who to vote for.

  • […] Imagine you had a blank sheet of paper to design an ideal constitutional solution for running Scotland. Would you design the system we have right now? Would you draw up a system that looks anything like the status quo? Well, watching the BBC independence debate from Kelso last week I was stunned  […]

  • I agree with Gary and his comment about the Common Weal vision for Scotland. I would add that Scotland would do well to find ways to harness the occupational pension fund assets of its population and put them to use DIRECTLY investing in our economy instead of blowing it all in speculation on the stock markets.

  • I agree we should all get the government we vote for. Problem is – we don’t all vote for the same government. Pity really. Even in Fife we had reactionary communism in the coal- producing West (Willie Gallagher, Willie Hamilton etc)and Unionist (now called Tory)in the agricultural East. Would be much simpler otherwise.

  • Maybe she meant it’s ideal to have a plurality voting system which all but guarantees that Westminster parties become indistinguishable over time?

  • I want to have a country that takes RESPONSIBILITY for its citizens, its legislation/governance and its place as an independent nation in this world. A written constitution, composed by the citizens,academics, business people and maybe even politicians, which will prevent ANY misuse or abuse of our parliament by any individual or party and which contains the right to recall discredited members of our parliament. Eradication of tax avoidance loopholes and an obligation to ensure our welfare system is fit for purpose so that no-one goes without food and shelter, Essential Utilities such as gas and electricity to be re-nationalised and never again to be sold off.

  • I’d start with teaching our kids that they are worth far more than we’ve ever believed we were worth and that they can achieve anything that they set their minds to. Then and only then, when the nation begins to believe in itself, its people and its ingenuity, resilience and adaptability will our nation rise to the great heights that it is capable of.

    Scotland is, and always will be a nation of brave, pioneering and inventive people. Give our people the ability to believe in themselves again and watch the creativity flow.

  • How would I change Scotland for the better………..jeez, that’s a biggy
    I’d like to see much more involvment from the people of Scotland in how the country is run, I don’t want us to become a smaller version of everything that is wrong and likely to remain wrong with rUK.
    I’d love us to start with primary age school kids, teach them to vote on things in their schools, next weeks school dinners run on a referendum style, make being involved in your own governance something natural.
    I’d like to see a Finnish style approach to education, work on the person not the academic, brightest kid in the class helps the least brightest kid out, becomes his/her friend.
    I’d like to see a fairer society where people are valued for who they are not what kind of car they own.
    My list of changes is huge and varied all that i do know is that it isn’t going to happen overnight, we’re going to have to work bloody hard for it and when I’m an old old man (53 just now) I hope to be able to smile at passing strangers in the street and think… ” I helped to create this”

    • Totally agree with what you are saying and the thinking behind it..start with young people give them the confidence in making decisions, at the end of the day the young people are our future..

    • Wholly agree with you Steve, and I agree there’s a lot more. But for me the overarching desire is for every citizen of Scotland to be involved in designing and deciding that future.

  • I’d have a government in the country that it governs, elected by the people of that country and governing with the interests of that country in mind. Seems pretty simple to me.

  • The Common Weal movement from the Jimmy Reid foundation gets closest to the direction that I want Scotland to go in.

  • Complete over site on elected officials (MSP’s). All members of the Scottish Parliment must disclose ‘all’ business and financial interests upon taking office, failure to do so to result in imprisonment.
    If an MSP has a financial connection to an industry or business, they must be excluded from lobbying or debating on behalf of said interest.

    • Being an MSP is a full time job. I think anyone taking that on should have no other jobs. It’s the only way to avoid vested interests.

  • Brilliant article. I have been wanting to write exactly this for months but not been able to articulate it. I recently read a quote which was not connected to the referendum – “the new society that is just, democratic and civilized …”. In other other words all that the UK is not. But it is the society I want to live in. It is the society I want for Scotland and voting Yes is the only way to achieve it.

  • Why is it only Scottish Labour (or Better Together) who have to fill in the blank? Why is it automatically assumed that anyone who opposes independence must be a member of the BTog parties and thus interested only in the status quo? There are many individuals, like myself, who reject separation but also reject the current corrupt way of conducting politics. A better Britain is possible but only if people fight for it – there’s an argument to stick on the blank piece of paper.

    • I think you will need to elevate on this, as the “swiss system”: is one off separation and (mostly racially motivated) nationalism. Almost every household carries a gun (effect of their compulsory military service) and they attract aliens only as long as they can exploit them, after that, you will be expelled with no way to recover any of your tax or social contribution. Overall I think it’s fair to say, a very unjust, very small minded approach, sorry. We are all better off in the EU context

  • I would invest our oil revenue in the education of the next generation who will create the future. A future that has a diverse, sustainable and shock resistant economy.

    A nations is the stories it tells itself. With a Yes vote Scotland can write its future.

  • The one key thing I would change about Scotland? I’d give democracy a try. Scottish votes for Scottish politicians, elected to run Scottish affairs. Can’t be that bad an idea, seems to work in other countries.

  • You highlight well what Scotland faces in the event of a ‘No’ vote.

    You also mention the people of the ‘No’ persuasion have no ideas, vision or plan – I think they do – it’s just that they are ideas, visions and plans that focus upon their self-interest (and thus their South East of England voter heartland at the knowing expense of Scotland).

    • An inclusive population within the frame work of managing the country with the politicians. Their contributions are harness to propel Scotland as a dynamic/innovative/modern country.

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