A Personal Retrospective on the Scottish Independence Vote
Sadly, I'm old enough to recall the last independence vote conducted in the 1970s. Back then, Scotland was a very different country and where many worked in the coal mining industry and the prospect of North Sea Oil was a 'pipe dream' if you'll forgive the pun. On that occasion. 1.2 million Scots said 'yes' to the proposal while 1.1 million said 'no' with the total vote amounting to less than 64% and therefore deemed insufficient to carry the plan forward. 1979 was also the year in which Margaret Thatcher started her term as the longest serving Prime Minister of the 20th century and whom was also the luckiest with the first of the North Sea Oil revenues rushing into Treasury coffers. The Falklands War of 1982 was a close encounter with disaster with troops running low on ammunition during the final hours and where Australia had been promised purchase of 'HMS Invincible' just weeks beforehand. Her most popular legacy was the sale of 'council housing' at a fraction of their value but where monies collected from these sales were directed to central rather than regional government. The current day shortage of affordable housing began from that period onwards.
Jumping forward some thirty-five years later, the new vote for Scottish Independence started in a lacklustre fashion and continued that that way throughout the campaigns. As the predicted outcome narrowed sharply towards the end, the entire process began to mirror that of the independence vote for Quebec conducted in Canada during 1995 and where the politicians began to recognise how the gap was narrowing and prompting the Canadian Premier to deliver an empassioned plea just days before the vote. David Cameron, the UK Prime Minister in 2014, did likewise.
Like many Scots, I watched the televised debates between Alistair Darling and Alex Salmon but neither debate adequately furnished what the Scottish people were supposed to be voting for! What benefits of being an independant country would actually mean to ordinary people was never explained or answered.
On the day of polling, Scots were told that North Sea Oil revenues would last for just two decades yet the most recent estimates have jumped to a century. A close relation of mine works in the oil production industry and he scoffed at the notion of the twenty years estimate. He even described to me a gas turbine power station being constructed in the Shetland Isles and where the gas supplier for this facility had taken up licenses many years ago and knowing these reserves could not be tapped with the technology of yesteryear. In current times though, new research and technology is permitting companies to go where they couldn't go before. The Shetland gas turbine project thus made sense.
Taking energy as an important part of modern living, it's nice to know that Scotland has no plans to builld future nuclear energy power stations but where the application of sophisticated windmills and solar panels will fall well short of the requirement. Coal power stations like that of Longannet are imensely useful but it's also Scotland's largest polluter and where the new Cockensie power station will follow this model. Longannet is currently scheduled for decomission in 2024 and around the same time as the Torness nuclear power plant. Throughout the campaign of independence, little was ever discussed about this. In Germany, similar decisions about the avoidance of nuclear power stations has been put in place but it actually means little since neighbouring Ukraine is pressing ahead with several power stations of this kind. It seems Germany might be compelled to introduce coal fired stations or else import their energy from Ukraine in the future. Scotland will not have similar options. Already, the UK government plans for the Severn Barrier tidal scheme have been cancelled and the building of a new nuclear plant will not afford additional capacity for sale to Scotland. In an adjacent sort of way, there are decommissioned nuclear submarines at Rosyth in Fife and nobody said a jot about what would happen to them if independence were selected by the Scottish electorate.
The scrapping of bridge tolls was most welcome when the Scottish National Party (SNP) came to power in the Scottish Assembly but the new bridge across the Forth Estuary carries no similar guarantee. Tolls across the Forth could be coming back into force or have I got it wrong? Nobody ever raised the subject during the debates that I observed. In a similar fashion, one might ask how long free prescription charges will last while the population gets older.
In summary, these are just a few of things that I personally would have liked to know about before submitting my vote in favour of independence. I truly believe that the 'Yes' camp could have swung the vote in their favour but for wholly unanswered questions and where a substantial number of people sought the safety of 'better the devil that you know' rather than take a substantial leap of faith into the unknown.
On September 18th 2014, 1.6 million Scots voted in favour of independence but it wasn't enough despite the narrowest of margins. Already, opinion polls suggest that 58% of the population expect another referendum within five years or earlier if electoral promises made during the run-up are backtracked or watered down. If true and accurate then it would need just a modest shift to create the Independent Scotland scenario - whatever that actually means!