The people of Scotland will vote on Thursday, September 18, on whether or not to secede from Great Britain. When we blogged about it before in 2012, the chances for a “yes” majority seemed remote, but one poll last weekend showed the secessionists winning. Though other polls suggest that the United Kingdom will remain united, the English–including political leaders of all parties–are in something of a panic as they realize that Scotland could very well leave.
Usually, nationalists are on the right, but the pro-Independence movement in Scotland seems dominated by the left. And yet, as a Washington Post analysis suggests, a major consequence would be removing 41 Labour Party members from the English parliament, possibly endangering the UK’s membership in the European Union. And no one knows what the economic repercussions would be for either country.
While the vote may alter the balance of power in British politics, increase the likelihood that the U.K. will leave the European Union and weaken the nation’s economy and currency, the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland will have no say in the outcome. Only residents of Scotland are eligible to cast ballots.
Britain’s left-leaning Labour Party would be the biggest political victim of independence — it is often joked there are more pandas in Edinburgh’s zoo than there are Conservative Party lawmakers in Scotland. Scottish voters elected 41 Labour members of Parliament in the 2010 election and only one Conservative. There are two pandas in the zoo.If the next general election due in May were held today, eliminating Scottish votes would give Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives a 37-seat majority win.
That could drag Britain toward yet another high-stakes vote — on whether the country as a whole should leave the EU. Cameron has promised a referendum to appease voters concerned about immigration and meddling by bureaucrats in Brussels. Scotland has been very pro-EU, so losing its votes would weaken the camp that wants Britain to stay. . . .
More immediately, the loss of Scotland could hurt Britain through the amount of financial uncertainty it would generate over the next 18 months — the time it would take Scotland to sever its ties with Britain. During that period, policymakers would have to agree on whether Scotland would continue to use the pound as its currency as well as how to split British public debt and North Sea oil revenue.
“It would be a fairly long 18 months,” said Monique Ebell, an economist at the National Institute of Economic and Social Research.
Scotland accounts for almost 8 percent of Britain’s gross value added, a measure of economic value created in a year, according to official figures. It also has 84 percent of British North Sea oil reserves in its waters.
An independent Scotland would take with it some 7 billion pounds ($11.6 billion) a year in revenue from the oil. That would roughly balance out with transfer payments it gets from the central British government. For Britain, however, it would mean a drop in the amount of energy supplies it could rely on.
The currency question is the murkiest. While independence leaders say they will continue to use the pound, politicians in London have ruled out a currency union.