Scotland politics

Scottish independence: Youngsters quiz politicians on 2014 referendum

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Media captionThe five-member panel was quizzed by an audience of young people

The status quo would not be acceptable in the event of Scotland voting no to independence in 2014, politicians have told a TV audience of young people.

Those gathered for BBC Scotland's referendum debate, also heard taxes could rise in an independent Scotland.

The mainly 16 and 17-year-olds quizzed a panel of politicians for an hour.

In the hot seats were the Lib Dem's Willie Rennie, Labour MP Anas Sarwar, SNP minister Angela Constance and Green MSP Patrick Harvie.

The panel at the Motherwell Civic Centre event also included Scottish historian and academic Tom Devine.

Last month an agreement was signed by the UK and Scottish governments laying the ground rules for the referendum, due to take place in autumn 2014.

One of the deals reached was that 16 and 17-year-olds would be given a vote in the key ballot.

A number of that new electorate attended the BBC Scotland-hosted TV debate which was the fourth to take place ahead of the poll.

The young people asked questions on a range of subjects including whether a go-it-alone Scotland would have a separate immigration policy to the rest of the UK and whether in an independent Scotland the country would have its own Olympics team.

Land tax

Asked whether taxes would rise in an independent Scotland, Mr Harvie said he would "certainly like some taxes to rise".

He added: "Some of the wealthiest people and some of the biggest corporations in this country are currently getting away with paying very little tax. There are also resources like land - it would be really effective if taxes applied to land instead of something like council tax or business rates."

Mr Rennie said that "taxes might well have to rise" post independence.

He added: "Scotland can roughly raise what it spends, but that is with oil at the current price. The oil is not going to last forever, probably another 40 years, and you may have the volatility of the price of oil as well."

Ms Constance said that Scotland more than "pays its way", adding that over the last 30 years the country had contributed £19bn more than it had received back in expenditure.

She went on: "The important thing to acknowledge about taxation is taxation, and the whole basket of taxes that we should be deciding here in Scotland, are economic levers and if we are serious about getting this country back to work we need to be making a whole range of decisions about taxation in response to the economic climate of the time."

However, Labour's Mr Sarwar said that the SNP needed to be honest with its approach on public spending in an independent Scotland.

He said: "Let's look at the figures, 9.6% of tax intake is £53bn, 9.3% of spend is £63bn, that is a deficit for Scotland of £10bn. What the SNP are saying is let's have Scandinavian public services but the tax system of Monaco, that is not credible and that is not being honest with the people of Scotland."

Mr Devine said that if independence was to introduce a social justice approach, then taxes would have to be increased.

He told the gathering: "Some people think we should move in a Scandinavian direction, if we are are going to move in that direction where there is more concern for social justice and support for the disadvantaged in society, then there will almost certainly have to be an increase in taxation in some areas of our country."

On the question of what would happen in the event of "no" to independence, the majority of the panel agreed that change would be needed.

Scottish Lib Dem leader Mr Rennie believed that a no in the referendum did "not mean no to change". He added that there would need to be more powers for a new federal Scotland.

Devo max answer

Youth employment minister Ms Constance said she would accept the "will of the people", but she insisted that the status quo "would not be acceptable" if independence was rejected.

Mr Devine believed that the "established" pro union parties would have to look at devo max solutions and Mr Harvie expressed worries that Scotland might be ignored by the UK political and media classes if an independence vote failed.

Labour's Scottish deputy leader Mr Sarwar said that regardless of the outcome of the referendum, "all of us in the country would come together and work to build a more fairer, prosperous Scotland".

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