Should Scotland be an independent country?

On 18th September, Scottish residents will vote on the question “Should Scotland be an independent country?“.

There has obviously been a vociferous debate in Scotland on the pros and cons of both options. As well as national identity arguments, the Yes campaign has pointed to such advantages as being able to set an independent defence policy, more competitive business taxation policies, fairer social welfare policies, retaining universality of policies such as personal care and student fees and many others (see details of the case for Independence here). The No campaign, in particular, has highlighted the benefits of being part of a larger union of countries and the risks involved in transition including potential for a lengthy readmission process to the EU and NATO, prolonged currency uncertainty, loss of shared institutions and so on (See the Better Together website).

Prof John Curtice has been keeping track of all opinion polls on the issue on this website

At present, the favoured outcome from pollsters and bookies is a No vote. I have co-authored a couple of reports on the potential for risk aversion to be playing one key role in the decision (here here and here).

I am opening this thread for people who want to comment on the referendum perhaps in particular the relevance of the last 100 years or so of Irish experience for Scotland.

50 replies on “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

Prof Curtice’s website is interesting. Latest Poll (15 August) 46% No, 42% Yes. That is closer than of late. On the exchanges the price of a NO vote has risen to 1.17 (implying 85% chance).

The fascinating thing is that there seems to be no discernable ethnic or religious dimension, so comparisons with Ireland don’t really fit. Any discernable divides are between young (Yes) and old (No). My guess is that if the uncertainty factor was removed the majority would easily support Yes. It is only fear of the unknown (rather than fear of known ethnic, class or religious forces) that sustains the No vote and I suppose naturally that fear is more pronounced amongst older and more financially established persons, with more to lose on, for example, on a currency fiasco.

The currency issue really surfaced in the TV debate but there may be signs of a backlash against bullying from Westminster on this front. The SNP has rightly claimed that they will stick with sterling and whilst technically that does require the co-operation of Westminster, in practice I think that will be forthcoming.

The UK suffers from London centricity which doesn’t do much for Scotland. The north of England could also consider independence. If Scotland does go for it the wider political ramifications for countries such as Spain and Turkey will be interesting. Fascinating bank size to GDP ratios as well if the vote goes the SNP’s way.
The debate in the FT has been interesting. The pro Union arguments are not particularly strong.

An independent Scotland led by someone who fancies himself as a Tartan DEV or Peron would be fun to watch as it imploded. It would eliminate a major competitor for FDI and ensure that the Labour Party would be out of power in the UK for a generation. Interesting ramifications up north as well.


By that logic every State in the world should fracture into a infinite number of small pieces. Ireland is Dublin-centric so let’s have two new countries – Dublin and the Rest. The capital of ‘The Rest’ should be Athlone. Oh Noes! ‘The Rest’ is now Athlone-centric. Let’s create two new States. Athlone and ‘The Rest of the Rest’.

Truth is the UK isn’t ‘suffering’ from anything. GDP figures since the launch of the euro (from David Smith in the ST): Italy up 3%, France 17%’ Germany 18%’ UK 30%

Bank creditors, bank bailouts, senior creditors’ funds being, erm, “not risk capital”, having your own central bank to print as required – remember all that in the context of the Scotland / Ireland context.

FYI, for those who weren’t blow-ins on the subject when it was all the rage, and can still be bothered now BBC News 24 aren’t looking for interviewees:

Q&A point 34 might interest some.


Free Ireland is doing much better than Scotland in a whole range of areas.

I am working with friends (from Scotland) to put a detailed economic and social comparison of free Ireland and Scotland on a website by 1st September. It is quite an undertaking (246 tables, each with a vivid and colourful chart/graph/histogram as appropriate). As we currently only work on it in our spare time in the evenings, there is no guarantee that we will have it ready on time, but we’ll try. Happy to post a link to it here if successful. I am also using my annual vacation from day-job to work unpaid for one of the pro-Yes organisations in Scotland from end-August until the referendum.

Here are a few snippets from it (I’m recalling some of these from memory rather than reading my research notes, so apologies for any very minor errors):


R. Ireland: +4.3 per cent, Scotland: + 2.1 per cent


R. Ireland: + 65.6 per cent, Scotland: + 2.8 per cent

Scotland’s population was 1m greater than that of All-Ireland in 1961. In 2013 it is 1.3m less.


R. Ireland: +102.4 per cent, Scotland: +0.9 per cent

No wonder Scotland keeps losing to Ireland at rugby. They have far fewer people now in the relevant age-group.

NET MIGRATION 1961-2013:

R. Ireland: net inflow of 300,00 plus, Scotland: net outflow of 150,000 plus


R. Ireland: +875.6 per cent, Scotland: + 11.4 per cent

In the past half-century, free Ireland has industrialised, while Scotland has de-industrialised


R. Ireland: 78.34, Scotland: 76.51


R. Ireland: 82.86, Scotland: 80.69

Life expectancy in Scotland in 2011 was 2 years less than in R. Ireland, Up to 1951 it was higher.

The gap for what the EU describes as ‘healthy life expectancy’ was 4 years higher in R. Ireland in 2011.


note: this takes account of different age-structures

R. Ireland: 541.3, Scotland: 638.5

If Scotland could reduce its mortality rates to R. Ireland levels, it would have 9,000 fewer deaths annually


reading – boys: R. Ireland 509, Scotland: 493
reading – girls: R. Ireland 538, Scotland: 520
maths – boys: R. Ireland 509, Scotland: 506
maths – girls: R. Ireland 494, Scotland: 491
science – boys: R. Ireland 524, Scotland: 517
science – girls: R. Ireland 520, Scotland: 510

So, R. Ireland ahead in all six categories. England, N. Ireland and Wales were even further behind.

In summary, free Ireland is ahead of Scotland in:

economic growth 1961-2014

population growth 1961-2013

net migration 1961-2013

health (much higher life expectancy and much lower mortality rates)

education (PISA tests)

The gap in education is moderate but significant (as Scotland is the best of the UK component countries), but in health the gap is huge

As well as these:

R. Ireland has much better housing (see Eurostat housing section for stats)

R. Ireland has vastly better demographics – ratio of population aged 0-19 to that aged 65 plus is almost twice as high in R. Ireland as Scotland (see Eurostat housing section for stats)

R. Ireland’s per capita prison population is just over half that of Scotland

R. Ireland’s rate of low birth-weight is much lower than that of Scotland

R. Ireland’s rate of teenage pregnancy is much lower than that of Scotland.

Scotland is not yet independent, so isn’t ranked separately on most international surveys. But, R. Ireland was ahead of UK (and therefore almost certainly ahead of Scotland) in the following surveys, all published in the past 12 months:

UN Human Development Index

UN Human Development Index – Inequality Adjusted

Forbes ‘Best countries to do business in’ rankings

WEF Gender Gap Index

UN Gender Inequality Index

IBM Global Investment Trends rankings

KOF Globalisation Index

UNICEF Child Well-Being Index

Oxford University ‘Good Country’ Index

and many others.

The evidence is overwhelming. Scotland should be independent. SAOR ALBA.

@ JF

I refer the World Bank to Rupert Murdock for my national stats. Rupert has it particularly in for the euro, he is not a friend of Ireland’s.

Google UK GDP. Here’s a few snippets from the World Bank source.

UK GDP in USD 1999: 1.504Tr 2012: 2.435Tr, +62%

Selected others

Germany 2.131; 3.4; + 60%
France 1.456; 2.613; +79%
Italy 1.208; 2.013; +67%
Ireland .097; .210; +116%

@ JtO

One for your collection: Ireland has won the Epsom Derby 8 times this millennium, Scotland has won zilch.

@ MH

You got in ahead of me. Still your figures do not quite match mine. Italy is a real outlier. Google “Italy GDP”. You get a friendly chart for looking back courtesy World Bank. I know there are differences between this metric and yours, per capita, 2012 v 2014, inflation but all the same I can’t see how the WB shows +67% and you show -3%. Any clues?

@ JtO

I know you will be wanting to present a completely balanced picture. Shall I suggest you also include the debt ratio, the unemployment rate, the effective tax on marginal income and of course the price of a pint of beer. is a good source for accessible data on the main macro variables of interest. Real growth, as opposed to nominal GDP (although that is relevant in terms of debt and deficit ratios) is usually what is compared but real growth per capita is better as Germany has seen its population fall since 1998 while the UK and Ireland have seen substantial increases. On that basis, taking 1998 as the base (i.e. the year before the euro)real growth per capita to 2013 is as follows;

Ireland 23.9%
Germany 22.4%
UK 19%
Italy 0.0 (Italy has contracted if one takes 1999 as the base)

@jto, Brian Woods 11,

Not forgetting a comparison of the number of people on trolleys in HSE hospitals as compared to NHS, charges for GP care, Consultants etc, pupil teacher ratios

@ Dan McL

Wow! That’s some data base! Interesting that Ireland still has top GDP per capita of that group. One for JtO.


Ireland’s outcomes in both health (especially) and education are better than Scotland’s. That’s what matters. If the pupil-teacher ratio was lower in Scotland (and I don’t know if it is or not) and its outcomes were still worse (which they are), that would simply mean that resources weren’t being used efficiently in Scotland. Ditto even more so with health. Scotland’s mortality rates are the worst in western Europe and 18 per cent higher than in R. Ireland. Its life expectancy is the lowest in western Europe and 2 years lower than in R. Ireland. N. Ireland is next worst in western Europe. That’s what counts when discussing whether or nor these two entities should be ruled by England. Once Scotland is free, it can debate whether or not to have a fully-socialised health service, or a part-private part-socialised one. That’s a matter for them. Only when they are independent do they have a choice.

“Scotland’s mortality rates are the worst in western Europe and 18 per cent higher than in R. Ireland. Its life expectancy is the lowest in western Europe and 2 years lower than in R. Ireland. N. Ireland is next worst in western Europe. That’s what counts when discussing whether or nor these two entities should be ruled by England. ”

Trend is surely more important. Ireland has a massive obesity problem that’s going to ‘feed’ mortality over the next 50 years.
I was in France last week and was shocked at how small the sweets/chocolate/biscuit/other processed sh#te stand in the average small shop is compared to Ireland.


why will the population of Scotland go up after independence? Will the Scots free of the English yoke start to breed like rabbits.

Scotland’s worse health outcomes may be due to the deep fried mars bar.

“I was in France last week”…worshipping at the alter of Piketty no doubt. Our obesity problem is no worse than anywhere else in the developed world. According to the IHF about 10% of Irish kids (5-11) are obese and a similare percentage overwight. AFAIK, obesity in French kids is 20%. McDonalds sales in France are growing at about 8% cagr. Of course, you may not have spotted any of them from your villa in Provence as they are probably all in the sink estates,

The single most striking thing about the Scottish independence debate, from an Irish perspective, is the complete divergence of opinion on currency between the two countries. In Scotland, staying on sterling parity in one form or another is taken for granted while Euro membership is universally considered a non-runner nowadays. In Ireland, staying in the Euro is regarded as worth almost anything, and returning to a sterling peg is seen as an outlandish or vaguely treasonous idea. Given that both places are in roughly the same position as satellites of the English economy, at least one of these points of view has to be pretty seriously wrong. (I think they both are.)

@ anonym

The paradox is easily resolved. If Ireland knew then what it knows now, there is no way it would join the euro. But once in there’s no credible way out.

My guess is that if this referendum was taking place in 1998 the separatists would be pushing big time to leave sterling and join the euro. But the euro has since become a very tarnished brand.

@ Tull

France is not looking great TBH. Loads of empty shops down south. There were some great cartoons in the Canard. One of Hollande asking Merkel if the EU would do something about Iraq and she replies “not if it brings the Euro down in value”

I reckon that the Greater UK has a bigger obesity problem coming down the tracks (TGG – Train de Grande Grossesse) due to the power the food companies have over things but we’ll have to see. Manger Bouger is where it is at.

I dunno if McDs is as bad for health spending as all the crisps, Coke and biscuits. How anyone buys 12 packs of Coke is beyond me.

I was watching coverage of that Ferguson business in the States and what really stood out was the size of the people.

@ anonym

There is also another interesting contrast between Scottish and Irish attitudes which also partly explains the euro paradox. As far as I can see, the Scottish separatist psyche is not really virulently anti English. In Ireland’s case we have always been as much against the English as pro our independence. Adopting the sterling instead of the euro would have stuck in the anti British craw of FF for sure.


Its only a few years since the SNP leadership were lobbying for Scotland to take its rightful place in the ‘Celtic arc of prosperity’ of new dynamic economies like Iceland and Ireland, not based on oil riches – like Norway – but on its world class banking sector. Oddly enough, the idea that keeping sterling might be important wasn’t even on their radar.

If you didn’t read it at the time, here is the speech that some people allege disappeared for a while:


what was in German Gov TV was that this Ferguson thing is about

6 bullets into a kneeling guy with his hands over his head

according to the wound patterns.

Main lesson from Ireland for Scotland:

Avoid Partition.

@The English

High time you had that referendum on independence from the UK!

@ Francis

The FT reported that local police forces in the US have been buying ex Afghanistan and Iraq equipment from the US Army – totally over the top for local policing.


I think, at first the equipment in itself is not the problem.

German police is also heavily armed, with a machine gun in the trunk of most polics cars.

But I read somewhere on, that in 2012 the whole German police fired a total of 8 rounds on suspects. Ze discipline, you know : – )

Just look at the Baden picture in

This is not America, at least not that I did know. National guard marching up, the UN chief commenting

With Irelands climate, demographics, education system, language and location, it is remarkable that we have not been at least as successful as our Scandinavian neighbours in economic terms.

But as somebody remarked re the night of the bank guarantee, you do not find yourself in that surprise situation without either gross incompetence or gross corruption (or both) at a government and administration level. Our debt levels and unemployment are at near record levels as a result and in spite of this country’s many natural advantages.

When I heard Minister Noonan talk of the desirability of property price increases, I realized that while FG might have replaced FF, for him and his ilk, the real economy is there to support this self-entitled class (John Corcoran is much better at making this point than me!)

For Scotland, the question of independence is whether they are mature enough to govern themselves for the long term in the interests of their upcoming generations and not the equity asset values of grey-haired landlords. If they are, then over time Scotland will no doubt thrive as an independent nation.


For Scotland, the question of independence is whether they are mature enough to govern themselves for the long term in the interests of their upcoming generations and not the equity asset values of grey-haired landlords.

Are the Scots mature enough to govern themselves? Are we?

You would do well to read about internalized racism

@ Shay Begorrah

1. Have a closer look at your nickname before accusing anyone else of racism!
2. Begorrah shure anyone looks racist when you abbreviate their sentences…
3. Why not comment on the Post topic if you have a different POV.

“the question of independence is whether they are mature enough to govern themselves for the long term in the interests of their upcoming generations ”

Surely this applies everywhere . The future is going to be very different to the oil years. Most countries are run by short term interests.


‘… whether they are mature enough …

Seven_of_9 is giggling around the floor at such absurdity! In her view, and in mine, Homo Sapiens (sic) Sapiens (sic) remains an awful long long way from maturity.

p.s. I would humbly advise you to refrain from such absurdity if in a Celtic or Rangers pub in Scotland.

Back to the topic:

I have no doubt whatsoever that Scotland could carve out a prosperous nice as an independent state. The key question in the referendum then becomes;

Are Scots willing to put in the effort in the near future to bring about this reality or do Scots feel lethargically comfortable enough with their arses to the English?


If you look at the figures, you will find that the main reason for Scotland’s lack of population growth in the past century is emigration. The same (although not nearly as bad) that Ireland suffered while within the Union from 1841 to 1922. Between 1841 and 1922 Ireland’s population (ROI only) fell by 4 million, with a fall recorded, not just during and immediately post-famine, but in every decade up to 1922. Since 1922 Ireland’s population (ROI only) has risen by 1.7 million. Was the turnaround simply a coincidence? Or might it be related to the fact that R. Ireland liberated itself from the Union? In comparison, Scotland’s population has hardly risen at all since 1922. Within the Union, there was net emigration of almost 10 million from R. Ireland (up to 1922 only), N. Ireland (up to 2013) and Scotland (up to 2013).

With regard to mortality and life expectancy, R. Ireland was in the same boat as Scotland from pre-1922 up to the mid 90s, i.e. mortality rates about 20 per cent above the western European average and life expectancy about 2 years lower. Since 1996 R. Ireland has made a dramatic leap forward and is now at or slightly below the western European average for both. Scotland hasn’t improved its relative position at all in this time. A free Scotland can emulate R. Ireland’s achievement.

Why am I not surprised at Fine Gael supporters sneering at the prospect of a free Scotland? I doubt it will be long before Enda Kenny and John Bruton follow in the footsteps of Obama and Tony Abbott and issue an appeal to the Scots to stay loyal.


The fact that the Irish Times and the Ivana Batty set are in uproar at the fact that a baby is alive (and with a fighting chance of survival), whom they think should be dead, and are blaming the Irish Government for not killing it (although in their defence some ministers in the Irish Government are saying they would like to have killed it, but were prevented by the Constitution from killing it), although interesting, isn’t really a relevant topic for this site.

Actually I would be tempted to vote for independence if I had a vote. But the social model would have to change. Scottish public spending per capita is above the UK average and would have to come down to UK levels. I suspect corporate & personal tax rates would also have to be cut. The Scottish entrepreneurial spirit which has been dormant will have to be rediscovered.

That may require a different political leader from Alex Salmond. Scotland need a Lemass figure but it appears to have a Dev. And as a historian, I am sure you will know that the bulk of the progress in Ireland was post the barren years of Edward Gubbins,


I agree with you totally about the social model, public spending, taxes etc in Scotland. However, that is a matter for Scots post-independence. It is not for me (from Ireland) to tell them what sort of government they should have post-independence, even though I agree with you about the direction they should move in. You could argue that all these things are simply a manifestation of its current state of dependence on England. Same for N. Ireland. Once they are free, and make their own decisions (with consequences) about their future government, I suspect they will move in that direction. That is, they will make the same journey R. Ireland made.

De Valera had to deal with a situation no other leader in the western world has had to deal with in centuries. Namely, the population had fallen by 60 per cent in the preceding 91 years (1841-1932) and the country’s only industrial region (north-east Ireland) had been illegally hived off and occupied. Then, for the first 6 or 7 years of his period in office, the world was in its greatest ever Depression. And, no sooner was that over, but World War 2 started. Not to mention the UK Declaration of Economic War on Ireland in the 1930s (as a reprisal for De Valera liberating the ports). You could hardly expect a booming economy in those circumstances, especially one starting from zero in 1922. Ridiculous to blame De Valera for the lack of American multi-nationals investing in Ireland in 1942, the lack of French tourists in Ireland in 1943, or the low volume of Irish exports to Germany in 1944. Nevertheless, the period 1932-48 showed the first stabilisation of population in a century, and his industrialisation policies in the 1930s and 1940s laid the groundwork for future prosperity, although I agree they were of their time (1930s Great Depression and 1940s World War) and would have to be radically changed once peace and growing international trade resumed in the 1950s. No comparison between the world in the 1930s and 1940s and now. Therefore it is wrong to suggest that Alex Salmond’s policies will be similar to De Valera’s. In fact, if De Valera were alive now, his policies would not be the same as those he espoused in the much-different 1930s and 1940s.


Ports were given back at the end of the economic war. The British imposition of tariffs was in response to the ending of the Land annuities. This was in effect a Sovereign Default. We burnt the bond holders of the time. Actions have consequnces.

Who knows what policies anybody would follow in different times. All we know is that DEV was a protectionist and Lemass and others believed in free trade. Once we got rid of the dead hand of DEV we made progress.

Interesting implication for the North out of all this. If Scotland went the road you seem to suggest and opted for less of a welfare dependency model with a resultant increase in economic growth and prosperity. the North would need new politicians. The DUP would have to go for advocating more London and SF would have to go for advocating more welfare (from London).

@ Tull

The NI model of high spending in return for professions of undying loyalty to the crown would seem to be vulnerable to a change in the political wind in London.

@ JtO

I know you are mostly winding us up, but still you do set out the separatist challenge.

The trend in modern Europe has been almost exclusively “Better Together”. No less than 28 nations have endorsed this concept, albeit one is getting itchy feet.

What is of course missing in the EU is a true fiscal union. Yes there have been substantial cross subsidies of peripheral nations of which Ireland has been a substantial beneficiary – and yet we are short of a fiscal union, though the solidarity shown through Ireland’s monumental crisis through extremely generous debt support was itself impressive.

Small peripheral nations have most to gain form fiscal union as it shelters them from asymmetrical shocks, to which they are specially vulnerable.

Scotland would be taking a big risk ditching that enviable attribute. It could only be economically justified if they see themselves as constantly on the giving end of FU, this is not the case. Alternatively they may imagine some asymmetric positive shock (oil?) around the corner. In fact without the oil dimension this separatist campaign would be even more doomed than it actually is. (7 on Betfair as we speak)

@ JtO

I’ll take your demographic stats at face value, though some of your revisionist narrative of Ireland in the 20th century gives me some cause for doubt.

I was trained to be very careful about assigning causal interpretations to statistical correlations. Most people die in bed – doesn’t mean bed is a dangerous place. Men have higher mortality than women, doesn’t mean there is a biological cause, also doesn’t mean that government health policy is anti men. More men were skirts in Scotland than in Ireland, doesn’t mean the Union makes men effeminate.

It may be that some of your stats are more innocently connected. For example, there has been net migration from Leitrim to Dublin for decades, that is the modern economic idiom. My guess is that the demographic stats of Leitrim are worse than in the capital due simply to selective migration. Nothing wicked in that.

@Brian Woods II

‘Yes there have been substantial cross subsidies of peripheral nations of which Ireland has been a substantial beneficiary – and yet we are short of a fiscal union, though the solidarity shown through Ireland’s monumental crisis through extremely generous debt support was itself impressive.’

Banker speak?

@ All


The art of going forward and back at the same same time in the matter of European integration. A case of attempting to have one’s cake and eat it too. An impossible task brought to a fine art by the Irish political establishment in the same area.

A vote in favour of Scottish independence seems unlikely but the fact that it is likely to be a close run thing would suggest that nothing will really have been resolved in the matter of Scotland’s relationship with the UK. This will colour the referendum on UK membership of the EU which Cameron has foolishly undertaken to hold. The outcome is likely to be the same in the matter of the UK’s relationship with the EU.

trying to post something and hitting some error 406 ???

Part I/III ?

One thing that comes up repeatedly in the Scottish independence discussion see e.g. JtO above, is the bad health situation,

and blames back, that this is “just a consequence of unhealthy lifestyles, ”

The lack of universal health care service is blamed as one of the reasons, why the life expectancy in the US (78 years) is substantially lower than in most other “mature” OECD countries (80.x years)

Ireland (non-universal, but 80.x years) is the interesting counter example for this simple explanation.

Are there any comments from Irish folks on this? Do I miss something?

Part II of III ?

To this Ferguson thing, first 2 interesting links:


Remarkable, since the folks at MR are not exactly Habermas disciples.

I also want to draw attention to the “play in the park” (9 yr old to not be allowed to play freely, by court harassment) link there.

As far as I remember, with 6 year old I ll got to school, brought to it only the first (few) days, then tasked to bring my 5 yr old sister to kindergarden on the way, after school sent with money and a wicker basket to buy fresh milk from tap and groceries and expected to pay and bring back the correct change. Based on school level /location, sister age, responsibilities, this must have been at the very least at the age of 8 or lower.

And after homework done, I was free to go play in the neighborhood.

How is this now in Ireland?

Sorry for the multiple postings,

Trying to figure out, what causes the posting errors, posting multiple * cahracters …


not the typical socialist crowd either.

I always found that US p*yday stuff irking. I can not recall seeing anything like this in Germany.

P*wnshops, yes, a few, in Munich, near the central railway station, Schillerstrasse, 20 years ago still lots of electronic shops there, where you could buy the cheapest hard disk, and that special transistor …. )
Gone by now, and replaced by “n***** b*rs”

How is this in Ireland? p*yday loans? p*wn sh*ps?

@ Francis

Scotland has a large swathe of post heavy industry territory where life expectancy is significantly lower than the average. High levels of alcoholism and heart problems. Probably not unlike the Russian/aborigine experience . The 26 counties never really had heavy industry.

WHO stats for 2007 showed lowest UK Life expectancy in Glasgow (Calton) – 54 years

The highest UK life expectancy was also in Glasgow (North Lenzie) – 82 years

My guess is that Scotland has a higher proportion of at risk people who bring the averages down.

Possibly also many of the at risk Irish alcoholics etc emigrated to the UK 40-50 years ago so Ireland is a less representative population…

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