The Better Together campaign against independence has been heavily criticised for its constant stream of negativity; having picked their way through the Scottish Government’s White Paper with a fine tooth comb, it seems as though no detail, regardless of how small, has been left untouched from their mockery, scorn and seething contempt.
The White Paper lays out the plans for an independent Scotland, it gives a starting point to negotiations, and a place from which to begin building a new Scotland. However, it seems as though whatever the Scottish Government would like to see happen, there’s a Better Together representative waiting in the wings to pour a dose of doom onto their aspirations.
Currency union? Naw!
EU membership? Naw!
Paying pensions? Naw!
NATO without Trident? Naw!
Defence sector jobs? Naw!
Scottish Defence Force? Naw!
Oil fund? Naw!
Better manage our economy? Naw!
You get the point…
Whilst the Yes campaign – and it truly is a cross-party and non-partisan campaign at grass roots level – prefer to focus on the more positive messages about independence, adopting the message of hope over fear, we do need to spread a little dose of harsh reality ourselves from time to time.
Browsing through Twitter a few nights ago, I stumbled upon a conversation regarding Scotland’s free higher education. A university student was questioning why those in the yes campaign kept bringing up protecting free higher education by voting yes. She said:
“Higher education is free just now, why would that change? A no vote is voting for the status quo – so we will keep free higher education”
I actually groaned in despair. The fact that this bright young student was so blinkered to the truth was staggering.
The truth is, a vote for no is not a vote for the status quo. If you are planning to vote no at the referendum on the 18th September, then you have to do so being aware of the consequences.
The continuation of free higher education is not a given simply because it’s free at the moment. There is absolutely nothing stopping any future Scottish Governments from scrapping the current policies and reversing the decision. The current Scottish Government have said they will enshrine the right to free education in to Scotland’s constitution after a yes vote, making it impossible for future Governments to reintroduce fees.
With Scottish Labour and Conservatives having already said they don’t believe free higher education is beneficial to Scots – it is an area which could see drastic change in the coming years if it’s not protected and written into law.
Free education is not an anomaly. In fact throughout Europe it’s entirely normal for the cost of higher education to be either extremely low, or absolutely free like it is in Scotland – With only a few countries in the minority choosing much higher costs. The fees in rUK are in the higher band, with England at the extreme end of the scale.
The NHS is another area where voters who plan to vote no must think of the consequences of their vote.
Whilst the NHS in Scotland is a separate entity from that of its UK counterparts, the budget is entirely dependent on the money the Scottish Government receives from the UK Government. The mechanism from which we receive that money (known as the block grant) is called the Barnett Formula.
I have written about the Barnett Formula in previous blogs.
The money Scotland receives is a direct proportion of the money which is spent on services in England. The more money England spends, the more money Scotland receives. However the reverse is also true, and if England sees a reduction in public spending, the Scottish block grant and budget will be reduced to reflect the change in that expenditure.
The UK Government has been rapidly privatising the NHS in England, which obviously means they are spending less money in that sector. Scotland’s budget will fall to incorporate that privatisation, and there isn’t anything the Scottish Government can do about it as things currently stand.
Not only will the budget for Scotland be cut, it is also being stretched as the Scottish Government attempt to mitigate the cost of unwanted UK Government policies such as the ‘bedroom tax’.
Our budget as part of the UK isn’t infinite. We pay all of our taxes to HM Treasury and receive our allocated pocket money share in return, and are told to buy ourselves something nice.
Sooner or later, with all of the cuts being made on a UK wide basis, something in Scotland is going to have to give.
Cuts are going to be unavoidable, and that is a real reality of voting no.
*Please excuse the awful formatting, my devices aren’t cooperating today!