Polling this week
Surprisingly, with less than two months to go until referendum day, no new opinion polls were published this week.
The most recent polls have continued to show a clear, though not unbeatable, lead for the No campaign. Alex Salmond and his colleagues will be hoping that the Commonwealth Games may provide a timely emotional boost for a Yes vote.
Salmond pledges to keep politics out of Commonwealth Games
The Commonwealth Games in Glasgow started this week, with the First Minister Alex Salmond pledging that he will impose a “self-denying ordnance” on himself and not talk about the referendum for the duration of the Games.
Opponents had expressed concerns that the SNP leader would attempt to use the Games, where British athletes compete for their individual home nations rather than for ‘Team GB’, to fuel support for independence.
Secretary of State for Scotland Alistair Carmichael had said earlier in the week that it would be “exceptionally foolish” for Salmond to try to “make political capital from the endeavour of sportsmen and women”.
Scottish Affairs Committee reports on currency union
A report published by the House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee has said there is “no doubt” that if Scotland leaves the United Kingdom there will be no currency union with the remaining UK. The Committee has taken evidence from the Chancellor, Chief Secretary to the Treasury and Shadow Chancellor and said that all have made statements ruling out a currency union “so unequivocal as to leave themselves without any room for manoeuvre”.
The Committee believes that this is the “correct stance” and that a currency union would be against the best interests of both an independent Scotland and the continuing UK. They say that Scotland would have to hand over control of its monetary policy and much of its economic policy, while the rest of the UK would have to accept the risk of default by Scottish banks. The Committee called on the Scottish Government to give voters a clear ‘Plan B’ on currency.
Juncker reportedly sympathetic on Scottish EU bid
The ongoing story of an independent Scotland’s prospects for EU membership continued this week, with fresh reports emerging that the new Commission President, Jean-Claude Juncker, would be sympathetic to Scotland’s case as the former leader of a smaller country.
A senior EU official was quoted as saying that Juncker “would not want Scotland to be kept out” as he would “understand the obstacles that can be put in the way of less powerful member states”.
The source is also reported saying that Scotland would be treated as a “special and separate case” to states wishing to join from regions such as the Balkans who may not yet satisfy all the requirements for membership. Scotland, in contrast, is already signed up to “core EU requirements” on issues such as gender equality and workers’ rights.
New reports paint mixed picture for Scottish economy post-Yes vote
Reports published this week by a range of organisations painted a mixed picture of Scotland’s economic future in the event of a Yes vote.
A report commissioned by the Federation of Small Businesses and carried out by the University of Edinburgh Business School identifies the future of Scotland’s EU membership and the currency Scotland would use as the most important issues for Scottish small businesses. It suggests that it may be beneficial for some small Scottish firms to establish businesses registered in the remaining UK, depending on how much they trade there. On procurement, the report suggests that some firms may benefit from increased Scottish procurement, whereas others would lose out from decreased UK procurement opportunities.
A second report, by the Scotland Institute think tank, has suggested that an independent Scotland would struggle to boost productivity, due to having too many workers in low-paid and low-productivity jobs. They say that Scotland would not meet the SNP’s aim of boosting productivity to generate an extra £2.5bn in revenue, unless a new industrial strategy was developed. The Institute’s Research Director, Dr Roger Cook, said: “If Scotland is to meet the SNP’s target, and the goal is valid regardless of the outcome in September 2014, then there is a need to shift the focus from education to industrial strategy and the nature of work.”
Finally, a paper by Fathom Consulting suggests that, while Scotland has the potential to flourish as an independent nation, it would not do so under the plans outlined by the Scottish Government and could instead end up in an economic crisis similar to that of Greece. It suggests that Scotland would need to let go of its banks, introduce its own currency and introduce tight spending controls to thrive. It states: “An independent Scotland with its own currency, a small share of the UK’s banking assets and a geographic share of its oil revenues which implemented a mix of tight fiscal and loose monetary policy from the outset could survive and indeed thrive.”
Cameron considers basing himself in Scotland before referendum
The Guardian reports that the Prime Minister is considering basing himself in Scotland during the final two weeks of the referendum campaign, particularly if the No campaign is enjoying a strong lead in the opinion polls. It suggests that Cameron is keen to be associated with a victorious campaign to save the union.
However the PM’s Liberal Democrat colleagues have suggested that such a move could be damaging to the campaign, given the relative unpopularity of Cameron and the Conservatives north of the border.
If Scotland votes No in September’s referendum – as the polls suggest that it will – this will not be the end of the story. Scotland’s relationship with the rest of the UK will still be on the brink of change.
The SNP’s hopes that the Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will promote nationalism are likely to backfire
The Herald columnist on the comments of the former Prime Minister’s comments in support of the Better Together campaign this week
The Shadow Foreign Secretary met the President with Ed Miliband this week and was reportedly told: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’
The No campaign seems to have made it a tactic to repeat the same claims of the doom-laden consequences of independence
England may be condemned to remain in an unbalanced constitution, writes the Professor of Government at King’s College London
Photo: Stevie Spears Photography