Scottish independence: What do we know about the SNP's vision?
- 19 November 2013
- From the section Scotland
The SNP-run Scottish government is soon to publish its long-awaited case for independence - in the form of a white paper.
That comes 10 months before the Scottish independence referendum taking place on 18 September, next year. Voters in Scotland will be asked the "yes/no" question: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"
We already have a few insights into the SNP's vision, should it be elected as the first government of an independent Scotland - so what tasters has the party revealed so far?
1. 'IT'S SCOTLAND'S OIL'
The old ones are often considered the best - the SNP's longest-running and most famous slogan continues to be the cornerstone of its case for independence.
A study for the Scottish government has recommended setting up two oil funds - one to cope with the volatility of oil prices and the other to fund long-term investments to make Scotland better (like the one Norway has, which is worth £470bn).
But the UK government says it's not credible to base the case for independence on something that's going to eventually run out, and questions have been raised about when and how an independent Scotland could start paying into a fund while the country is in deficit.
2. MONEY, MONEY, MONEY
Financial strife in the Eurozone means the SNP's plan of an independent Scotland joining the single currency (subject to a referendum) is off the table for now.
Instead, they've proposed continuing to use the pound as part of a "sterling zone" - a policy which would include the Bank of England continuing to oversee monetary policy and set interest rates.
First Minister Alex Salmond says this is a perfectly sensible approach and has suggested an independent Scotland could have a seat on the bank's monetary policy committee, or have a role in appointments.
Critics ask why an independent Scotland would want its interest rates set by what would effectively be a foreign country.
3. DEFENDING THE REALM
Given the SNP's opposition to all things nuclear is as longstanding as its support for independence - the UK's Trident missile submarines, based on the Clyde, would be sent "doon the watter" to England. Permanently.
And don't say "army". The SNP's 15,000-strong "defence force" would aid overseas peacekeeping and disaster relief operations, but would not be sent into contentious conflicts like the Iraq War.
Faslane Naval Base, which would otherwise be awfully empty without those nuclear submarines, would become Scotland's naval HQ under a £2.5bn defence and security programme.
The Scottish government insists defence jobs and bases would be secured under independence. But UK Defence Secretary Philip Hammond says it's "laughable" to simply subsume British military units into a Scottish Defence Force.
4. FAIR AND WELL
The SNP often tells us the UK is "one of the most unequal societies in the developed world."
The party's vision under independence is a commitment to a "fairer" society - so what policies would they pursue?
So far, Alex Salmond has said the SNP would ensure the minimum wage would rise with at least the level of inflation, to allow people to keep pace with rises in the cost of living.
And the first minister has also pledged to reverse controversial UK government welfare reforms, including what critics call the "bedroom tax".
5. JOINING THE CLUB
No small independent nation would be worth its salt without seats at the top tables - the SNP says Scotland would have its own, strong voice in the United Nations, Nato and the European Union, where it's currently represented by the UK government.
The SNP says joining Nato - a pro-nuclear security alliance - would be dependent on Scotland's refusal to host such weapons and, given that 26 out of the 29 Nato countries are non-nuclear, Alex Salmond says this is a sound approach.
His opponents have questioned whether Nato would accept this condition, and if the nation would ever be able to get rid of Trident if it joined up.
When it comes to the EU, the SNP government's one-time claim that Scotland's membership would be "automatic" has since given way to a strategy of negotiating its position "from within".
There's never been any serious suggestion an independent Scotland wouldn't be allowed to become an EU member, but some say it could take longer and be more complicated than the SNP has previously set out.
6. GRANDDAD, WE LOVE YOU
When it comes to looking after the older generation, the SNP says basic state pensions would be paid "on time and in full", with the same level of protection that currently exists.
And from 2016, new pensioners will get £160 a week - making them £1.10 better off than those in the rest of the UK.
In the first year of an independent Scotland, the SNP would embark on an exercise to consider when the state pension age should kick in - a pledge which comes as the UK government is thinking about increasing it from 65 to 67 as it faces the reality of an ageing population.
The UK government argues the SNP is still ducking the difficult pension questions and says it's still to reveal the price tag for the pensions system.
7. YOU'VE GOT MAIL
The UK government decided to float the Royal Mail on the London Stock Exchange to allow it to stay competitive.
The SNP didn't like that, and has pledged the service's red letter day will come when it is re-nationalised in an independent Scotland.
Mr Salmond's announcement of the policy in September was a (pretty significant) step on from the previous position of his finance secretary, John Swinney, who said it was "impossible to give a definitive answer" on the future of the Royal Mail, because he didn't know what state the service would be in after privatisation.
Nevertheless, the SNP says re-nationalisation would remove a serious risk to the economy and rural communities - opposition parties say they're still waiting to hear how much it will cost.
8. BILLS, BILLS, BILLS
In the current climate, few things get people hotter under the collar than the price of their energy bills, and the SNP says it can cut those by 5% - or about £70 - a year through removing green charges.
Every year, the Scottish government puts about £80m into schemes to fight climate change, while a further £120m comes from a Westminster-designed scheme - paid for by a levy on gas and electricity bills.
The SNP says it would remove the energy saving measures and the warm home discount from energy bills, replaced by a more joined-up approach with funding for fuel poverty schemes - worth up to £200m per year - coming directly from government.
9. 'PASSPORTS, PLEASE!'
The SNP insists there would be no checks or customs posts while crossing the border into England and that Scotland would become part of the Common Travel Area, which has existed between the UK and the Republic of Ireland, and the Isle of Man, Jersey and Guernsey, for many decades.
That means no passports would be required to travel across these borders, as at present, while European and international travel would be subject to the same checks, as at present.
The SNP also says people would be able to get a Scottish passport after independence - whether the government in the rest of the UK would agree to issue them isn't yet clear.
10. BY THE PEOPLE
In the event of independence, the SNP says much of the above would be enshrined in a new Scottish constitution.
The idea is that a Scotland based on democracy and social justice would be contained in a document that the people would help write and then sign up to, offering the kind of protection afforded to the citizens in countries like Germany, Denmark and Sweden.
Former UK chancellor Alistair Darling says he's "innately suspicious of written constitutions".
Mr Darling, leader of the Better Together campaign for the Union, says releasing such a document without the resources to back it up is "hot air".