SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon with Gordon candidate Alex Salmond during a visit to to the Dreams Daycare nursery in Insch, Aberdeenshire, on the election campaign trail.

A new book reveals the risks of Scottish independence

Breaking away from the UK could send Scotland into economic freefall
March 3, 2020

John Lloyd’s book on Scottish independence could not be more timely. It appears just a few months after the SNP swept all before it in Scotland in the election, winning 48 out of 59 seats. The call for a second independence referendum now seems irresistible.

As Lloyd shows, this is largely a response to Brexit, austerity, a succession of disastrous Tory prime ministers and the spectacular collapse of Labour. By comparison, first Alex Salmond and now Nicola Sturgeon won the PR war (at least until Salmond’s trial for sex offences). They seem smarter, more social democratic and pro-Remain.

But Lloyd is sceptical that independence will solve the country’s problems. What currency would an independent Scotland have? What are the chances of it being admitted into the EU? If the EU admits Scotland, how could they refuse Catalonia or a divided Belgium? Such a precedent could be disastrous for the EU.

Then there are economic questions. Would an independent Scotland, in economic freefall, meet the criteria for joining the euro? Critics argue this would lead to huge cuts in public spending that would make Conservative austerity look like peanuts. And how would it cope with capital flight? Banking and financial services play a huge role in the Scottish economy, but would either stay in an independent Scotland or would they move south?

From health to education, Scotland under the SNP is in a bad way, argues Lloyd. Supporters of independence have blamed two generations of English politicians for Scotland’s problems: de-industrialisation under Thatcher, the squandering of North Sea oil, and now Brexit. As Lloyd point out, though, large-scale layoffs caused hardship throughout Britain, not just in Scotland. Clearly written and well researched, Lloyd’s book should decisively change the debate about Scottish independence.

Should Auld Acquaintance Be Forgot: The Great Mistake of Scottish Independence by John Lloyd (Polity, £20)