Indyref2: Expert discusses Nicola Sturgeon’s referendum stance
The Scottish First Minister was given a boost after her Scottish National Party (SNP) secured Holyrood in the Scottish Parliament elections just one seat shy of a majority. It has, Ms Sturgeon claims, given her the mandate to hold a second Scottish independence referendum in the near future, but not until the country has dealt with its coronavirus epidemic. A recent poll unveiled by former Prime Minister Gordon Brown has thrown shade on Ms Sturgeon’s Indyref2 hopes, however.
The survey, commissioned by the former Mr Brown’s Our Scottish Future think tank, found that 58 percent of Scots say they don’t know enough about the impact of separation on issues like the English border and currency.
People were also concerned about Scotland’s security and defence post-independence, as well as a new tax policy and how, if, it could join the EU.
Taxation and fiscal autonomy has been a sticking point of the independence debate.
Ms Sturgeon and her allies say a breakaway would help Scotland gain sovereignty over domestic economic issues.
Nicola Sturgeon: The Scottish First Minister could be forced to cut spending and hike taxes
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Yet her critics and staunch Unionists claim independence risks hurting Scots more than its political proponents.
Their fears appeared to be confirmed following a report published by the Institute for Government (IfG) in late April.
The report found that “Scotland would have to make difficult fiscal adjustments in the years after independence.”
IfG said Scotland’s deficit will likely be worse than the 7.7 percent of GDP reported in 2018-19 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, adding that the effect of the last year “could be lasting” on public finances.
Scotland: The impact of the coronavirus pandemic has hurt Scotland fiscally
To bring the deficit down the IfG claimed a newly-formed government of an independent Scotland would have to impose a crippling combination of spending cuts and tax rises.
These would most likely be targeted at immovable assets such as land or property, along with launching policies to boost the economy.
The report said: “There are many reasons why the people of Scotland or Wales might want to seek independence from the UK, or why the people of Northern Ireland might want to be part of a united Ireland.
“However, one cost of doing so would be that they would no longer be able to benefit from the redistribution of resources that currently takes place across the UK.
“The larger the deficit that they have is, the harder the case for independence becomes.”
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The IfG admitted that it is difficult to clearly predict what an independent Scotland’s fiscal position would be, and that it would be dependent on negotiations with the UK Government on issues like how much debt should the country be left with.
However, the think tank said the country’s current level of deficit, paired with maintaining the current level of public spending “would not be sustainable” if Scotland left the UK.
It added that a stark fiscal picture is likely to strike the whole of the UK, predicting it to be far worse for some time to come.
Ms Sturgeon and independence supporters hope that Scotland might be able to join the EU after separation.
Sturgeon latest: Sturgeon became Scottish First Minister following the failed 2014 referendum
This is especially salient given that Scotland voted resoundingly to remain a part of the bloc in the Brexit referendum.
Yet, Robert Tombs, the renowned historian, claimed the EU would view Scotland as more trouble than the country is worth.
He told Express.co.uk: “It would cost the EU money, the Scots would expect to be subsidised by the EU, and the bloc is getting more and more reluctant to do that.
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“Countries like Spain would oppose the idea too, because it would be an encouragement to the Catalans again.
“I would also guess that the EU would hesitate to do something which would seem really to be a seriously unfriendly act towards a major state like Britain, to actually encourage the breakup of another state.
“Countries in other parts of the world go to war over things like that; we wouldn’t, of course, but you would be risking a real crisis of relations if the EU was seen to be trying to encourage the breakup of the UK.”