News story

Scotland. UK. 10 Myths. 10 Facts.

This news article was published under the 2010 to 2015 Conservative and Liberal Democrat coalition government

What would happen to Scotland if we became independent? Read the myths, and realities, of the Scottish independence debate.

1. Myth: Our global relationships won’t change

Hot air balloons

Fact: Scotland would be a new country. We wouldn’t inherit all the international deals the UK has struck over many years, decades, and even centuries (everything from extradition and trade treaties to the International Declaration Prohibiting the Discharge of Projectiles and Explosives from Balloons). So we’d have to start from scratch, negotiating to join everything from the UN to Nato.

Source: Scotland analysis: devolution and the implications of Scottish independence, February 2013

2. Myth: We’ll still play the National Lottery and share much-loved national institutions with the UK

National Lottery ticket

Fact: It’s called the National Lottery – not the International Lottery. You can’t buy a ticket in France, so why would it run in an independent Scotland? The same goes for everything from the Met Office to the benefits system. We’d have to spend millions setting up new institutions.

Source: Scotland analysis: devolution and the implications of Scottish independence, February 2013

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3. Myth: We’ll be an EU member (and inherit the same terms and conditions that the UK currently enjoys)

EU flag

Fact: We’d have to apply as a new state and negotiate entry – it’s hard to imagine it would be an easy process (look at how long it took Croatia to join - almost eight years), and even harder to imagine that we’d be given advantageous terms (like the UK rebate or opt-outs, including from the Euro).

Source: Scotland analysis: EU and international issues, January 2014

4. Myth: We’ll keep the UK pound

Cash

Fact: Labour, Conservatives and Lib Dems have all made clear if we leave the UK we’ll also leave the UK pound. A currency union would not work for Scotland or the rest of the UK – it will not happen.

Sources: Scotland analysis: currency and monetary policy, April 2013, Scotland analysis: assessment of a sterling currency union, February 2014

Find out more about the Scottish independence referendum

5. Myth: We wouldn’t have to bailout our banks – international investors bailed them out before

Piggy bank

Fact: During the last crisis the UK taxpayer shelled out £66 billion to bail out the banks – more than £1,000 for every man, woman and child in the UK. Including guarantees, UK taxpayers gave more than £320 billion of support to Royal Bank of Scotland alone. Could we really afford these sorts of sums on our own?

Source: Scotland analysis: financial services and banking, May 2013

6. Myth: The answers are in the independence white paper and it all adds up

Question mark

Fact: The white paper does not answer the key questions. Many of the independence plans, for example on currency and EU membership, are in the hands of foreign governments who would be acting in the interests of their own citizens ahead of Scotland’s. And the white paper does not add up - the plans to cut taxes and extend childcare need £1.6 billion of additional funding.

Source: Unfunded commitments in “Scotland’s future” HM Treasury, December 2013

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7. Myth: There would be tax cuts and more spending in an independent Scotland

Tax definition in dictionary

Fact: Scotland spent £12 billion more than it raised in taxes last year (that’s from the Scottish Government’s own figures, including North Sea revenues). So it’s hard to see how we’d be able cut corporation tax and air passenger duty on one hand but still spend more on benefits and create an oil fund on the other.

Source: The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland 2012 - 2013 (GERS), Scottish Government; March 2014

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8. Myth: Westminster won’t devolve more powers

M90 motorway

Fact: More powers were devolved in the Scotland Act 2012 (the largest devolution of tax powers in the UK’s history). As a result we now set even more of our own laws, from motorway speed limits to regulating air weapons. Plus, all 3 main UK parties have promised more powers will be devolved in future.

Source: Scotland Act 2012

9. Myth: You can’t trust unionists, they’re just negative

Dolly the sheep

Fact: The union has been a huge success story (from joint sporting glory to the amazing scientific collaborations that created Dolly the sheep!) for more than 300 years – that’s why the rest of the UK doesn’t want us to leave.

10. Myth: Remaining North Sea oil and gas is worth £1.5 trillion - and at least £6.8 billion in Scottish tax revenues in first year of independence

Oil rig

Fact: The Scottish Government assumes that oil and gas can be produced at zero costs (so rigs and pipelines can be built and run for free, and oil workers don’t need to be paid), despite the remaining oil being further off-shore and deeper under the ocean, so it costs more to extract. Over the last 2 years, taxes from the North Sea have been £3 billion below the Scottish Government’s most pessimistic forecast – that’s the same as our entire education budget.

Sources: Oil and gas analytical briefing, Scottish Government, March 2013, Statistics of Government revenues from UK oil and gas production, HMRC, April 2014

Find out more about the Scottish independence referendum

Photos above by Clint Mickel, Jaina, Giampaolo Squarcina, epSos.de, Philip Brewer, Stefan Baudy, Alan Cleaver, Tim Haynes, Gary Henderson and Berardo62. All used under Creative Commons.