Tuition

Yes: Maintain the status quo: continue to charge RUK students the same as they are now (£9,000 per year) and charge EU students from outside the UK the same as home fees (free tuition, as for Scottish students). Some have criticised this proposed setup, but through extensive legal consultation the Yes campaign has determined that this is entirely feasible and does not violate any EU laws or regulations.

Better Together:  It is likely to be impossible to continue charging RUK students if Scotland is independent because RUK students would need to be treated the same as students from other EU countries. Therefore, since EU students are not charged home fees, UK students would also need to be given free tuition. Otherwise Scotland would be going against the equal treatment of students across the EU.

The Saint’s Analysis: If Scotland became independent, it is unlikely that it would be able to continue charging RUK students tuition fees. Scotland would face serious discrimination challenges under European law, possibly taking years to resolve, during which time it would have to allow UK students free tuition in order to treat them like other EU citizens. Under the most likely scenario, if free tuition were to be extended to RUK and EU students, Scottish universities could be inundated with extra applications from RUK students. University funding could take a significant hit: RUK tuition fees are a significant source of revenue for universities across Scotland and a drastic change from £9,000 could lead to financial shortfalls.

Research

Yes:  Independence will not affect research funding: an independent Scotland could share research arrangements and facilities with the rest of the UK. While Scotland would likely increase its funding for Scottish universities to account for any minor changes in UK funding, UK funding in many cases is likely to continue after independence. This would be facilitated through a reciprocal arrangement.

Better Together:  There is little precedent for shared research councils between countries. Any agreements would be thoroughly examined and re-negotiated if Scotland became independent. Most likely, the UK Research Councils would cease all funding for Scottish universities. Furthermore, there is no guarantee Scotland would be readmitted to the EU, in which case Scottish universities would likely not be able to maintain EU grants and subsidies.

The Saint’s Analysis: New taxes and costs could make it more difficult for UK-based businesses and charities to fund research in an independent Scotland. Additionally, access to EU funding would hinge on Scotland retaining or regaining EU membership. As far as UK Research Councils is concerned, it seems likeliest that funding would be limited to UK universities and not include agreements with an independent Scotland. From The Saint’s interviews with St Andrews staff, this is a real area of concern. If UK funding diminishes or ceases, it is unlikely that Scotland would be able to make up the loss. Research priorities are not the same across countries, so the Scottish government would probably re-examine funding and distribute it as it saw fit.

Currency

Yes: An independent Scotland would enter into an agreement with the government of the UK and continue to use the pound. Yes Scotland’s economics panel, including two Nobel laureates, have examined the matter and concluded that this would be a logical and seamless arrangement to ensure the long-term success of both countries. Sharing a currency would result in the easiest possible transition to independence.

Better Together: It is unlikely that a eurozone-style arrangement would be agreed upon by an independent Scotland, and George Osborne stated in February that the UK would not sign a currency union with an independent Scotland. In his February speech, Mr Osborne clearly stated: “If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the pound.” The UK will not back down; this would not be in the UK’s interest.

The Saint’s Analysis: Without the UK’s consent, Scotland could not have a currency union using the pound. Scotland could use the pound on its own, but this could lead to major money flow issues. Given the eurozone’s current state it is unlikely the EU would allow Scotland to adopt the euro (assuming Scotland gained EU entry) without a long process of due diligence. This means the likeliest outcomes are unilateral use of the pound or setting up a new Scottish currency in 18 months. It would be difficult for Scotland to build trust in its economy with a new currency; proving solvency takes a long time and would require Scotland to be financially active while maintaining existing services in Scotland.

Welfare

Yes: Benefits and state pensions will be paid in the exact same way (except by the Scottish government instead of the UK government) and people on benefits will be entitled to the exact same amount they are currently receiving. Therefore, in an independent Scotland, you could be sure that you will have all the advantages of independence without any concerns about your current level of benefits and pensions.

Better Together: The welfare promises made by the supporters of an independent Scotland are not credible; pooling and sharing resources across the UK makes benefit spending more affordable for Scotland. With the current system, beneficiaries are guaranteed their current level of benefits in a currency they know and trust for financial security in the future. The Yes campaign has promised more benefits without solid fiscal plans to support them.

The Saint’s Analysis: If Scottish government income remains constant then it should be able to maintain current levels of welfare, albeit with some extra debt. Some pro-independence leaders have suggested Scotland could increase pensions and benefits while reducing the tax burden Scottish citizens currently face. An increase in welfare and a reduction in taxes is a very poor fiscal strategy and would result in high long-term deficits. If Scotland seeks a Scandinavian benefit system it will need to increase tax income. In future budgets, an independent Scotland may aim to rely on oil and gas, but it would be nearly impossible for Scotland to match the oil revenues of Norway. But Scotland could likely maintain current welfare levels.

Oil and gas

Yes: Independence could provide “an unrivalled opportunity to boost our energy wealth, support employment and grow our economy,” says Alex Salmond. According to Yes Scotland: “Scotland will continue to produce oil and gas into the second half of this century. As the UK government’s own Oil and Gas Industrial Strategy confirms: ‘The reality is that the UK will continue to supply oil and gas well beyond 2055.’”

Better Together: David Cameron has claimed that his cabinet would focus on how the UK government can “maximise the benefit of North Sea oil and gas to the UK economy for decades into the future, giving a vital boost to local communities and families across Scotland.” The UK government has also stat- ed on multiple occasions that North Sea oil revenues going to the UK are more than offset by UK spending in Scotland.

The Saints analysis: The vast majority of studies show Scottish oil and gas output has already peaked and will continue to diminish. By most accounts it is too late for Scotland to enjoy a Norwegian-sized sovereign wealth fund from North Sea oil revenues; any comparisons with Norway are therefore inaccurate. It would not be prudent for either the UK or an independent Scotland to rely on oil and gas for a steady source of revenue. At best, an independent Scotland may receive a short-term boost from these revenues. A strong economy requires diversification away from dwindling fossil fuel production and this is Scotland’s best bet either within or outwith the UK.

Health

Yes: A ‘Yes’ vote will not affect cross-border arrangements with health services outside of Scotland. The Scottish NHS already operates independently of the NHS in the rest of the UK. The Republic of Ireland is evidence that red tape won’t get in the way of transplants and existing hospital networks. NHS benefits including universal free prescriptions will remain in place following independence.

Better Together: Scottish independence may make it difficult for those who need to seek specialist medical care across the border. Otherwise, since NHS Scotland is operated independently, it would likely be able to function as is. The real question regards the Scottish government’s funding mechanisms if it attempts to greatly expand NHS services while continuing to offer universal free prescriptions.

The Saints analysis: The Scottish NHS has been independent since its creation over 60 years ago, though it does share a contractual agreement with the NHS in England. EU directives protect cross-border treatment and many international hospitals have agreements in place for patient transfers and equipment sharing. Replacing the current internal relationship with an international one is therefore unlikely to cause too much trouble for the system. The only area of contention here is the privatisation of certain parts of the NHS, as the SNP have stood against this. A cessation of all NHS Scotland privatisation is likely to be the only notable change under an independent Scotland.

Defence

Yes: Scotland will inherit any existing army, air and naval bases and set up new defence and intelligence institutions. The SNP’s first priority is the removal of nuclear weapons within the first five years of Scotland gaining independence. The Scottish Government still supports continued membership of NATO on the proviso that it should not require the retention of nuclear weapons. However, other political parties differ on the issue of NATO.

Better Together: The UK is safer together with the world’s fourth largest defence budget. Scotland’s budget would comprise seven per cent of this. Scotland would lose the global influence it has through the UK defence system as well as many shipbuilding jobs. The system is a benefit that all Scottish people enjoy by being able to live in a free society. It is unlikely Scotland would be able to set up an advanced defence network shortly after independence.

The Saints analysis: Scots have a proud and outstanding military legacy that independence is unlikely to tarnish. Scotland certainly would have a smaller defence budget and be less influential internationally than the UK, but existing military bases in Scotland could easily be used by a Scottish military. The main concern lies with NATO and nuclear weapons. The UK is a major contributor to NATO, but Scotland may decide to take a pacifist tone and scale back involvement. Trident presents a major issue – where will the nuclear-equipped submarines go? Even after independence, this would be a long process that the Scottish government may get impatient with.

Politics

Yes:

Devolution: “devo max”, would see all powers devolved to the Scottish government with the exception of defence and foreign affairs. Alex Salmond has called it “very attractive” but the SNP supports full independence.

EU: the SNP proposes to agree to continued membership of the EU between the dates of referendum and independence. The SNP has not said it is worried about being rejected from the EU.

Better Together:

Devolution: a ‘No’ vote does not mean no change. Devolution means the success of the Scottish parliament plus the UK’s security and stability. The UK recently gave more powers to Wales and could do so for Scotland too.

EU: The UK is one of Europe’s ‘big three’; Scotland would have to start relations afresh as a new state. Scotland’s path into the EU is unclear: it may want to avoid the euro or opt-out of the Schengen Agreement.

The Saints analysis:

Devolution: polls show that devolution is the most popular option among voters, and recent legislation has shown that Scotland is on that path. Only Westminster can allow the devolution of powers, however.

EU: Many of Scotland’s top legal advisers have said that Scotland would not find it hard to be approved for EU membership. Scotland has already been present in the EU under UK delegations, and as a state it would meet all the criteria for membership. But separatist movements in Spain and Belgium may lead to awkward relations and delays in reaching a consensus. Spain’s Jose Manuel Barroso has indicated he would make it difficult for Scotland to join.

History

Yes: Though the SNP has shied away from historically-motivated nationalist rhetoric, Yes supporters often stress the history of English suppression of Scottish culture. There is a history of Scottish devolution and independence movements, with home rule first considered in 1853. Scotland voted for further devolution in 1979 and this led to a devolved parliament in 1999.

Better Together: The Union has had a distinctively Scottish side for centuries. Scotland has had strong ties with England during the Reformation, the Union of Crowns, the British Enlightenment (which many Scottish intellectuals were at the centre of) and the period of Empire. Unionists stress that unionism can help Scotland and England move beyond the conflict and resentment of the past to a brighter future.

The Saints analysis: Much of the rhetoric of the Scottish nationalists concerning England is historically understandable. Despite the SNP avoiding talk of Jacobites and William Wallace, it is undeniable that Scotland’s history has a psychological effect on voters. Scotland and England have a long history of conflict, but also a long – and more recent – history of union. The joining of Scotland and England to form the United Kingdom is in many ways the most successful union, politically and economically, of all time. Regardless, neither side is likely to convince the other of their viewpoint on this issue.

4 COMMENTS

  1. I see The Saint’s analysis matches Better Together’s quite closely. On research funding alone, Research Councils UK have said “The grants are awarded on the basis of open competition and decided through peer review by appropriate expert researchers on a project-specific basis. They are thus not allocated on the basis of location, either geographic or political.

    The distribution that arises does so naturally as a function of quality. By and large, ROs located in Scotland achieve success at a rate and to an extent that is above what one might notionally think of as an even distribution across the UK. This recognises the distinctive excellence of Scottish research.”

    • Ross, Saint Features completely agrees with your facts. Scotland does receive a substantial amount of funds via the UK Research Councils. The fact of the matter is in our independent assessment, we believe that that funding would likely be put in jeopardy in an independent Scotland since it is unlikely the Scottish Government would completely fill all loss of funding from the UK Research Councils. Furthermore, we highly doubt the UK would continue giving grants to Scottish universities if Scotland became independent.

  2. Jose Manuel Barroso is a) Portuguese b) President of the European Commission and not a politician of any EU member state and c) will be retired by the time Scottish independence is finalised.

    Plus, what expertise has led you to your conclusion re. university research funding? The Principal of the University of Aberdeen – for one – was reported as having a very different view, and I think his expertise and knowledge might be slightly greater than yours.

  3. The fact is that Scottish research funding is a devolved process at the moment. Scottish universities are also funded via private bodies, charities, industry, NHS etc, none of which could conceivably be negatively affected by independence in any way. EU funding would likely increase, Scotland being an independent state rather than a region of one.

    Can we see the materials used in your independent analysis? I’d like to know how a country like Scotland, with the universities, resources (people and capital) and expertise that we have at the moment, can be, uniquely in Europe, put in “jeopardy” when it comes to funding research.

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