Scottish independence referendum: Experts examine the claims

With the debate on Scotland's future entering "referendum year", the "yes" and "no" sides are intensifying their campaigns.

But what are their messages and how are they being viewed, not only by each other, but by experts, commentators and academics?

Throughout the coming months, the BBC news website will be picking out statements from both sides of the debate and asking a panel of experts to analysis the claims.

Here, we look at some of the key messages in the Scottish Government's White Paper for independence.

CHILDCARE

Alex Salmond

White Paper says: Transform the childcare system ensuring, by the end of the first parliament of an independent Scotland, all three and four-year-olds and vulnerable two-year-olds are entitled to 1,140 hours of childcare a year.

PRO-INDEPENDENCE - Alex Salmond, Scotland's first minister, says: "Closing the percentage gap between ourselves and Sweden in female participation in the workforce would increase Scotland's economic output by £2.2bn and raise taxation revenues across the range of taxation by £700m."

PRO-UNION - Iain Gray, Scottish Labour's finance spokesman, says: "John Swinney [Scotland's finance secretary] can choose to put Scottish families ahead of independence by bringing forward childcare for 50% of two-year-olds now and not after an independence vote."

EXPERT - Richard House, senior lecturer in Early Childhood Studies, University of Winchester, says: "This toxic 'Dutch auction" between the main political parties on who can make the best universal childcare offer could well be catastrophic for the well-being of many of Scotland's young children. The survey data actually shows that a majority of parents (usually mothers) would far rather spend the first years of their young children's lives at home than be plunged into the stress and anxiety of juggling both a career and the early attachment needs of a young child."

EUROPEAN UNION

European flag

White Paper says: An independent Scotland would "continue" as an EU member, following discussions with the UK government, member states and EU institutions to agree a "smooth transition". Talks would take part on the basis of "continuity of effect", meaning they would be based on treaty obligations currently applying to the UK, without disruption to Scotland's integrated standing within the framework of the EU.

PRO-INDEPENDENCE - Alex Salmond says: "In the 18-month period between the referendum and Scotland becoming an independent nation in 2016, we will negotiate our position from within the European Union."

PRO-UNION - Ruth Davidson, Scottish Conservative Party leader, says: "An independent Scotland wouldn't call the shots in negotiating entry to the EU, nor would it get any special treatment - it would join the back of the same queue as every other country."

EXPERT - Paul Beaumont, chair in EU and Private International Law, Aberdeen University, says: "The Scottish government believes this should be done from within the EU, as a Treaty amendment under Article 48, rather than as Scotland seeking accession to the EU as a new Member State under Article 49. All the other EU member states must accept the amendments required to make Scotland a member state. The Spanish prime minister is unlikely to allow the negotiations concerning Scottish EU membership to proceed quickly for fear of sending a message to Catalonia that an independence referendum there could lead to continuity of membership of the EU. Furthermore, a number of member states may not accept Scotland's argument for "continuity of effects" and insist on Scotland accepting all or part of the normal conditions for membership of the EU. Hard negotiations on substance would focus on the opt out from the Euro, the opt out from Schengen into the Common Travel Area in the British Isles, and the flexible opt in for justice and home affairs legislation. Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that Scotland's membership would be wrapped up in a treaty revision process in time for all the Member States to ratify the amendments by March 2016. The Scottish government should acknowledge this timescale is incredibly optimistic and be prepared to push back the date of independence if this is necessary to secure continuity of membership of the EU for the people of Scotland."

DEFENCE

Scottish soldiers

White Paper says: Remove Trident nuclear weapons from the Clyde by 2020 and establish a Scottish Defence Force consisting of 15,000 full-time personnel and 5,000 reservists and a £2.5bn defence budget.

PRO-INDEPENDENCE - Alex Salmond says: "The great argument in favour of having a Scottish Defence Force is two-fold - one, you wouldn't have to have the biggest concentration of nuclear weapons in Western Europe situated in Scotland, which many people support the removal, and secondly of course, we'd have the right to decide whether or not to participate in international engagements."

PRO-UNION - Philip Hammond, UK defence secretary, says: "At a time when sophisticated military equipment and capabilities are becoming increasingly expensive, smaller, less well-resourced countries often have to make painful trade-offs about which capabilities to retain, and which they can no longer afford to maintain."

EXPERT - Dr Phillips O'Brien, senior lecturer in history, Glasgow University, says: "There is actually more flexibility being shown here by the White Paper and Alex Salmond on the withdrawal of nuclear weapons on the Clyde. The White Paper has no firm deadline for withdrawal, merely expressing a 'view' that they would like them removed by 2020. Philip Hammond's statement is also less decisively critical than might be the case. Nato has already acknowledged the fact that smaller nations cannot be expected to maintain full military services. Certainly an independent Scotland would maintain nothing like as capable a defence force as a full UK, but it would maintain a force that could be integrated into Nato and the alliance would be the main pillar of its security."

BROADCASTING

BBC Scotland building

White Paper says: Establish a Scottish Broadcasting Service using the resources of BBC Scotland, while creating a formal relationship with the BBC to supply the same level of network programming, including Doctor Who and EastEnders.

PRO-INDEPENDENCE - Fiona Hyslop, Scottish culture secretary, says: "When compared to the expenditure by nations of a comparable size on their primary public service broadcaster, it is clear Scotland's current level of licence fee would be more than sufficient to provide a high-quality service, and as such I would not envisage the Scottish broadcaster carrying advertising."

PRO-UNION - Ruth Davidson: "We pay around £300m towards the licence fee but, by clubbing together with the rest of the UK, we get well more than £3bn worth of programming. Running a new Scottish broadcaster means something has to give - either, it will mean losing programmes or paying more for amazing coverage of things like the Olympics, to great channels like CBeebies and services like the iPlayer.

EXPERT - Philip Schlesinger, professor of cultural policy, Glasgow University, says: "The Scottish government's proposals about a Scottish Broadcasting Service (SBS) should be read as a negotiating position. If funding levels were fully retained in Scotland, it could certainly sustain a broadcaster with some quality production. But it would be a small-scale operation and its indigenously produced content could not match the range of that of the BBC as a whole. It is for that reason that what is being sought is a most-favoured nation trading relationship with the BBC. TV would still be very important in offering a common agenda and experience across the border. But we don't know if a future rUK government would take that view or whether the BBC would finesse its relationship with an SBS and say it's still business as usual, with its global image in mind."

CURRENCY

Sterling, notes and coins

White Paper says: Retain the pound in an independent Scotland as part of a "currency union" with the rest of the UK.

PRO-INDEPENDENCE - John Swinney, Scottish finance secretary, says: "It makes eminent economic and practical sense for us to share the same currency - that's the proposition at the heart of the sterling zone idea."

PRO-UNION - Alistair Darling, leader Better Together and former UK chancellor, says: "You don't have to imagine what happens in a currency union - you only have to look at Europe to see exactly how it works. Germany is, in effect, telling the smaller countries what to do."

EXPERT - Angus Armstrong, head of macroeconomics and finance group, National Institute of Economic and Social Research, says: "As the two remarks show, there is a fundamental disagreement on the currency issue. The White Paper makes clear that it is not just about using sterling every day. It is about whether the Bank of England (an institution governed by the UK Parliament) offers a full range of central banking services to an independent country. In order to do so, the UK government would require some fairly intrusive restrictions on Scottish affairs to control its risk exposure. The question becomes whether an agreement can be made binding and agreeable to an independent Scotland."

TAX

Calculator and pen

White Paper says: Set out a timescale for reducing corporation tax of up to 3% to stimulate economic activity and to retain and attract new investment, while reducing Air Passenger Duty by 50% and introduce a simpler tax system to cut costs and avoidance.

PRO-INDEPENDENCE - Alex Salmond says: "The one-size-fits-all economic policies of successive Westminster governments have failed and are continuing to fail the people of Scotland - we perform well at the moment but we should be doing so much better."

PRO-UNION - Alistair Darling says: "If we were to leave the UK we would face the prospect of big tax rises, damaging cuts to public services, or a combination of the two - the nationalists have chosen to ignore reality and to offer up a type of fantasy economics that beggars belief."

EXPERT - William Craig, senior law lecturer, Robert Gordon University, says: "The overview and focus of the White paper is very much about having a variety of approaches to tax raising rather than the standard approach currently operated. I think many would see the intention to be flexible with corporation tax rates by 3% as an attractive proposition for inward economic investment and therefore increased jobs in the Scottish economy. The White Paper also states the need to re-industrialise the Scottish economy."

OIL/ENERGY

Workers on a rig

White Paper says: Retain a single UK-wide market for electricity and gas and make no changes to the oil and gas fiscal regime without consultation. (The Scottish government says it has no plans to increase the overall tax burden on the oil industry).

PRO-INDEPENDENCE - Alex Salmond says: "Nobody would seriously argue that the UK has handled oil well as a resource over the last 40 years. Nobody would seriously dispute that Norway - the country across the North Sea - has handled that resource much better."

PRO-UNION - Alistair Darling says: "For the last 20 years, Scotland has spent more than it's got in, with the exception of one year, so if you were to set up an oil fund at the moment you'd actually have to borrow money to save it and that just seems complete nonsense."

EXPERT -Tony Mackay, energy economist, says: "The industry was badly affected by tax increases in the 2011 UK Budget and a number of important development projects were cancelled or suspended. The UK government subsequently recognised that it had made mistakes with the tax increases and has recently made concessions, in the form of field allowances, which have enabled some of those projects to go ahead, notably in the waters around Shetland. The basic position is that the UK Continental Shelf (UKCS) is now a very mature oil and gas province, having produced for about 40 years. Most - possibly all - of the best prospects have already been developed. The industry is now concentrating on developing the more remote and difficult fields, notably in the West of Shetland area, and these are inevitably expensive to develop. There is, therefore, no case for increasing oil and gas taxes. I believe retaining a single UK-wide market for electricity and gas is also sensible. Scotland is a net exporter of oil and gas, and also electricity from wind farms and other renewable sources. There would therefore be problems if exports to England were reduced, although that might in any case be against EU market rules."

PENSIONS/WELFARE

Pensioners on a protest

White Paper says: Increase state pensions by inflation, earnings or 2.5%, whichever is higher, and raise the state pension entitlement age to 66 in 2020 (in line with the rest of the UK) with an independent commission advising on changes thereafter.

PRO-INDEPENDENCE - John Swinney, Scotland's Finance Secretary, says: "In an independent Scotland we would make decisions for Scotland based on the needs of the people of Scotland. People's pension rights will be fully protected in an independent Scotland and payment of the benefits they have built up in their existing workplace pensions would not be affected by the move to independence.

PRO-UNION - Gregg McClymont, shadow pensions minister, says: "Leaving the United Kingdom would be costly and risky for pensions - barely a day now goes by without the nationalists making promises without any plan to pay for them."

EXPERT - Christine Scott, assistant director of pensions at ICAS, says: "The challenge for the Scottish government is to demonstrate that an independent Scotland can deliver a pensions system which meets the needs of Scottish citizens while ensuring that citizens would at least be no worse off in retirement. The Scottish Government's proposals on pensions in an independent Scotland seek to achieve this through replicating the status quo and adopting reforms which are currently planned, such as the implementation of the single-tier state pension. Any proposed differentiation is at the margins such as the proposal to establish an independent commission to examine the timetable for increasing the state pension age to 67. David Cameron's announcement that a future Conservative Government would maintain the triple lock further reduces any obvious policy differences. Replicating existing arrangements in an independent Scotland would not be without its challenges. ICAS has already highlighted that without changes to EU rules on the funding of defined benefit pension schemes, employers would need to make good any deficits held by new cross-border schemes."

More on This Story

Scotland Decides

More Scotland politics stories

RSS

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.