The Referendum on Separation for Scotland: Unanswered Questions - Scottish Affairs Committee Contents


2  Unanswered questions

4.  While this list is not exhaustive, it indicates the scale and complexity of the issues which need to be resolved. Many relate to specific policy areas- where the answers would most likely vary according to which political party or parties formed a Government in a separate Scotland. While it is fair to raise these questions, as they will be crucial to voters in determining which party they might vote for in any Scottish General Election post- separation, the main structural and institutional issues, which will form the constitutional architecture of a post-separation Scotland, are more pressing in terms of enabling the electorate to make a choice on how they would vote in a referendum on Separation, and will therefore be our focus.

The Referendum

5.  While questions relating to the process and mechanics of the referendum itself are the subject of a separate inquiry, several of the submissions we received raised questions in relation to the referendum- which are worth noting here. Correspondents asked:

1)  Should there be more than one question on the ballot paper?

2)  Should there be a minimum threshold for voter turnout?

3)  If the referendum is a mandate to negotiate, would a second referendum be required in order to allow the Scottish people to accept/ reject the package?

Finance

6.  Many questions were raised in relation to finance: both in terms of the costs of establishing a separate Scotland, and what the potential fiscal and monetary policy of a separate Scotland would be. Key questions include:

1)  What is Scotland's share of the national debt?

2)  How would North Sea oil revenues be defined and distributed?

3)  Would Scotland retain the use of Sterling? If so, would it be fiscally independent?

4)  Would there be a Scottish Central Bank?

5)  Can the population of Scotland produce sufficient tax revenue to sustain a separate Scottish economy?

6)  What would be Scotland's credit rating?

7)  What is the income derived from Scottish exports, and how much does Scotland pay for imports?

8)  What is the potential impact, in both the immediate and longer term, of constitutional uncertainty on inward investment into the UK as a whole, and Scotland specifically, in the period before a referendum?

7.  In addition to these major economic issues, many questions were also raised concerning specific policy issues in relation to fiscal policy, for example, whether the Scottish Government would meet existing UK Government state and public sector pension commitments. A range of questions were also raised in relation to potential levels of income tax, national insurance contributions, corporation tax, road tax, fuel duty, VAT and welfare benefits in a separate Scotland.

Defence

8.  The primary focus of concern expressed in relation to the defence of Scotland was the question of whether Scotland would have separate armed forces, and if so, how they would be constituted, configured, funded and equipped. Correspondents were specifically concerned about jobs, contract and defence procurement. Questions were also raised in relation to the type of role Scottish Forces would have. A further issue raised was whether Scottish citizens would, or could, continue to serve in English, Welsh and Northern Irish regiments, and vice versa. Scotland's position in relation to international organisations, for example, NATO and the United Nations, also remains unclear.

9.  Uncertainty was expressed as to how the scale and nature of any Scottish defence estate would be established. Would the Scottish defence estate be configured on the basis of a proportion of the UK's defence estate, or based on another formula? Questions were also raised as to how Trident would be managed - and what the future might hold for Faslane and Coulport. Finally, correspondents raised issues around Scottish border controls and security.

Constitutional issues

10.  The main constitutional issues raised related to the Monarch's status as the Head of State, and whether Scotland would be a Commonwealth country. Questions were also raised as to the practical nature of the relationships between Scotland and the remainder of the UK:

1)  Will a passport be required to travel?

2)  Will Scottish citizens have free access to NHS services in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and vice versa?

The broader issue of the consequences of the Separation of Scotland for the constitutional status of the remainder of the 'UK', and specifically whether the constitutional relationships between England, Wales and Northern Ireland would need to be re-configured, was also identified.

Shared institutions

11.  Many correspondents raised questions as to the future of existing UK wide institutions in Scotland. For example, there was uncertainty as to whether the BBC would remain as the main public broadcaster in Scotland. Similar questions were raised in relation to other organisations such as the Royal Mail and the NHS, and shared standards and regulatory bodies.

Europe

12.  Finally, a number of questions were raised in relation to Scotland's relationship with the European Union:

1)Would Scotland automatically become a Member of the EU, or would it have to apply through the normal membership procedures for candidate countries?

2) Would adopting the Euro and Schengen be conditions of entry?

3) Would Scottish membership of the EU (and potentially the Euro), be subject to a referendum?

Conclusion

13.  Having identified these key questions, we will shortly begin a series of evidence sessions which will explore these issues in greater depth - and will report on each of these in due course. We recommend that, as a matter of urgency, the Secretary of State for Scotland, first; takes responsibility for clarifying the UK Government's position on appropriate matters, by co-ordinating work across the Cabinet, and second; undertakes to work with the Committee to provide a joint provision of factual and unbiased information to the people of Scotland.

14.  We also recognise that other Select Committees might wish to examine possible impacts arising from the break-up of the United Kingdom. While they will mainly, and properly, be concerned with the departmental and policy consequences of Separation upon the rest of the United Kingdom, we would welcome their help both in identifying issues which will need to be resolved as part of any 'divorce' settlement, and in identifying those matters which we may have overlooked. Accordingly, we will approach the Liaison Committee to ensure that any such inquiries are established in as helpful and constructive a manner as possible.

15.  Similarly, in a spirit of mutual respect and co-operation, we would expect the Scottish Government to provide such answers as it has already formulated to the questions that have been raised and to work with us, and others, to shed light upon knowns, unknowns and all variations thereof.

16.  The people of Scotland will soon be invited to make a historic decision. We recognise our role and duty, as the Select Committee responsible for all matters Scottish, to work on behalf of Parliament, our electorate and the Scottish people, to ensure that the choices are clear, the vote is fair and the issues are understood.


 
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Prepared 15 February 2012