Tag Archives: Scottish Independence

“No Thanks” – the real legacy for Scotland’s teenagers

The votes were counted, the results were announced and – with that – the United Kingdom remained exactly as it was. For first time voters Sabina Jedrezejczyk, Sean Thomson and Amina Davidson, the Scottish independence referendum was so much more than just a ballot.

AS THE NEWS that Alex Salmond has stepped down as First Minister of Scotland pops up on my phone – interrupting our interview – Sean and Sabina both give a little gasp. “I told you!” exclaims Sean to Sabina, “I said this morning that would happen!”

Political engagement has been a welcome new dynamic among Scottish teens in the last few months, in the lead up  to what was a potentially life changing referendum on independence. Our chat takes place the day after the results are in: the country’s electorate have chosen to remain in the UK, by a margin of 55 per cent of those against independence to 45 per cent for it.

With the voting age in Scotland being lowered to sixteen ahead of the decision, and with an unprecedented 84.5 per cent voter turnout on the day, this revitalised level of engagement and enthusiasm in politics from teenagers like Sabina and Sean is – Scotland should be proud to admit – nothing unusual.

However, there are a couple of differences between this pair of sixteen year olds and  their peers. The two have been part of the BBC’s Generation 2014: a small group of young Scottish residents discussing issues for and against independence in the public eye since last September.

‘No Thanks’

Thursday’s referendum was the first time they voted.  It was a decision they made with some certainty, but not – I’m told – without a lot of thought and changes of heart beforehand. But for both, in the end, it was a “No”.

Sabina, who lives in Dalkeith but is originally from Poland, was undecided until only a week before the vote: deciding in the end that, ultimately, it “wasn’t worth the risk”.

“We’re stronger and safer together”, Sabina says decidedly, highlighting that security issues were a big part of her decision. “There could be a war soon – I’m not saying there will – but for all we know, it could happen any second”. Being part of the United Kingdom safeguards Scotland against this as part of a wider defence strategy.

Sean – a first time voter from Perthshire – nods in agreement. His stance on independence has gone through an even more drastic transition. Sean has gone from being an ardent ‘yes’ campaigner and SNP member, to an active advocate of the Better Together campaign and self-proclaimed convert to the political right.

This switch he attributes to the “contradictory and opaque” nature of the White Paper: a document released last year by the Scottish Government, outlining their vision of an independent nation. Far from convince him, the paper – which Sean adds, with some pride, that he read in its entirety – “pushed” him towards the No campaign.

“Yes was good in principle, but bad on paper: the more they wrote the less they said”, he summarises.

Sweet Relief

Even the promises of new powers to Scotland in the aftermath of a No vote aren’t something Sean is necessarily in favour of. Further plans for devolution should be taken “with a pinch of salt”, he argues: “there are just some things we should decide as a nation: its good to keep things within the existing framework”.

Sabina doesn’t necessarily agree. “No doesn’t have to mean no change” she says, the statement an echo of a popular phrase used during campaigning by Better Together. For her, waking up on the morning to find the country’s decision had been to remain in the UK brought a great sense of relief.

“I thought for a while that Yes were going to win, especially after the Glasgow ‘Yes’ rally. I was scared for the future. This morning I switched on the TV, and saw that No had won, and I was really relieved.”

“We had it in the bag”, Sean chimes in – confident in the No campaign’s victory from the beginning – “I knew we would win.”

There’s no need to be smug 

Still, it’s not something to be ‘smug’ about: this they both agree on. Indeed, the high levels of discussion and engagement around the country are not entirely positive now that the referendum is over, and just under half of the population have been given an answer they’re unhappy with.

The friction between Yes and No voters in the lead up to the referendum wasn’t just constrained to rallies and televised debates: Sean and Sabina describe regular lunchtime fall outs in the playground over the country’s future.

“We discussed it more and more as it got closer” Sabina says, to the extent that “we would be shouting over each other”. Sean agrees that – while most of his friends were also No voters – the flipside of other young people informing themselves meant “yet another argument”.

“Some people took a lot of convincing!” Sean jokes, adding – on a more serious note – that he’s planning already to return to school on Monday and “acting as though nothing’s changed”, in awareness of how high emotions can run on this topic.

“The nation is divided”, Sabina says: this decision is now something that we should all “accept and move on” from.

A disappointed Yes voter

As we continue to chat over coffee, more of the Generation 2014 group enter the cafe. Among them is sixteen year old Amina Davidson: a first time voter from Edinburgh who had decided to vote Yes in Thursday’s referendum.

“Obviously I’m a bit disappointed” she says, adding that the seeming momentum of the Yes campaign had her really “hope towards the end” for a positive result.

Amina tells me that she’s been a Yes voter since the very beginning. This is because, put simply, “we should decide what happens in our own country, and our wealth should be spent in other ways”. Far removed from Sabina’s worries on security and Sean’s disillusionment with White Paper specifics, Amina outlines arts funding, Trident nuclear defence and the expansion of Gaelic media among her reasons for voting in favour of independence the day before.

Much like her Generation 2014 peers, she worries about division in Scotland’s future between those on either side of the vote. “I’ve always been open to both sides”, she explains to me. “My friends were a big mix, though we mostly voted yes. I’m just worried about No voters being smug now – they seem a bit up themselves today. Not all of them, obviously, but some”.

Nonetheless, the opportunity to vote and to participate in shaping the future of Scotland is something Amina found extremely exciting – even if the vote didn’t go the way she’d hoped. “We’re mature enough to work, to marry, to have kids and pay taxes: we’re old enough to decide our future”.

The real legacy

During my afternoon chatting with the most well-informed teenagers I’ve met in a long time, I get a glimpse of what they’d like their own – personal – futures to look like. Sabina, Sean and Amina all voice a desire to continue being active in politics and the media: with ambitions of political and journalistic careers. In fact – despite their differences on polling day – all three of these bright, informed and enthusiastic young people seem to share a common vision for what the legacy of this referendum should be: continued youth engagement with politics.

I sincerely hope that, outside the huge prospective changes passed up by fellow Scots last Thursday – or the proposed changes decided for us in Westminster in the coming months – that the real transformation to Scotland will be in the attitude of its youngest generations: towards politics and their part to play within it.

Written by Rachel Barr
Image: BBC images, Generation 2014 

Green Shoots: The post-referendum momentum of the Scottish Greens

TODAY AT 4PM, the Twitter page of the Scottish Greens announced that in the 24-odd hours since Scotland voted ‘no’ to independence, some 2000 people had elected to join their party.

As the tweet so gleefully affirms, they were at one stage confirming a new member of the Scottish Greens every 15 seconds.

For any political party 2000 new members in little over a day is outstanding. For a relatively small, ‘alternative’ party like the Greens it’s nothing less than monumental – especially considering that Scotland voted in opposition to the Greens’ stance regarding independence.

Why then has the referendum been so good for the Scottish Greens?

The answer seems to be threefold. Firstly, there is a significant convergence between those most likely to vote Green and those most likely to vote Yes. 40 years of political science supports this assertion. Secondly, the Scottish Greens are benefiting greatly from the momentum the Yes campaign – in essence, a campaign for change – generated. This is an occurrence with precedence in regards to growing Green party membership around Europe, especially in Germany and France. The final reason for the startling growth of the Scottish Greens these past two days is based on more anecdotal evidence. This evidence suggests that the Scottish Greens are profiting from a sizeable fallout between the Scottish electorate and the Scottish Labour party.

Political science has long studied the potential reasons behind people choosing to vote Green. From Inglehart’s work on the ‘Silent Revolution’ and  post-materialism onwards, a few defining features have been found to be indicative of supporters of environmental movements and Green parties.

Possibly the most important of these indicators is youth. Young people are far more likely to show sympathy for environmental concerns and to join Green parties. This is also true of those most likely to vote Yes. Indeed, if the 65+ vote was removed from the referendum, there would have been a Yes majority of 54.3%. That number rises to 56.6% if the 55-64 vote is also removed. Quite simply, the majority of young people in Scotland voted Yes. Perhaps then, a swathe of young Scots will now decide to vote Green.

Both Germany and France have strong Green party presence in their national politics, with the Greens in Germany regularly getting 10+% of the vote in national elections. In both of these countries, the Green parties grew rapidly after vast public protests demanding a ‘new politics’ and great degrees of change regarding how their countries were run in the 1960’s and 70’s. Both of these demonstration were long-lived and driven mostly by youthful members of the electorate determined to have a  discussion about the symbiotic apathy which existed between the electorate and the political establishment – sound familiar?

In France, it was the student demonstrations of 1968 and the localised opposition to nuclear power in the 1970’s and 1980’s which drove support for the Green parties. Indeed Daniel Cohn-Bendit a key leader of the student movement of 1968 was for years a figurehead in the French (and German) Green parties and was a co-leader of a European Green alliance in the European Parliament.

The same reasons were also behind the growth of the Greens in Germany. However the German electoral system is far more representative than the French, and thus the Greens have had not insignificant success in elections. The German electoral system and the system used in Scottish parliamentary elections share some similarities. The most important likeness is that they are both relatively kind to small or ‘alternative’ parties.

That parallel, coupled with the Yes campaign replicating the momentum created by the issues which caused Green party membership to rise in Germany, have given the Scottish Greens a few reasons to be very hopeful for the future.

What links the two previous sections together is a left-libertarian mindset.

The majority of Green party members in both Germany and France would define themselves as left-wing, as would have the students and activists involved in the nationwide demonstrations in those countries. This gives us some further insight into why the Scottish Greens appear to be in a bubble of rapid growth.

The left-wing youth of Scotland who supported the Yes campaign need somewhere to direct their momentum. Traditionally, these types of voters (young left-wing activist) would have joined the Scottish Labour Party. However the Scottish Labour party actively supported and campaigned for a no vote.

Those same young voters who have been invigorated by political debate in Scotland for the first time in a generation are instead joining in huge numbers the two biggest political parties that supported Yes: the Greens and the SNP (who have also reported that new members are joining in their thousands). These voters are not only members gained for the Greens and the SNP, they are members lost to the Scottish Labour party.

Written by Daniel Rueben Comiskey
Picture Credit: snappybex 


Campaigning and comedy collide for Scottish Independence


POLITICAL APATHY CAN be attributed to many things. A lack of trust in politicians; a disillusioned, disenfranchised electorate; a breakdown between government and citizen.

That, and politics can be really fucking boring.

Regardless of the side you’re on, you have to hand it to the impending independence referendum in Scotland: the subject does spice up a normally bland dish of abstract policy, nonsensical political jargon and stressed, peaky looking politicians who (particularly in Scotland) are about as well known and relevant to the general public as the minor members of Blazin’ Squad.

That said, even the most patriotic or politicized  within the debate can’t help but stifle a wee yawn when it comes to the inane semantics of the subject at hand. As massive a decision as this is, those taking it most seriously can admit (even just to themselves) that they don’t exactly relish the thought of flicking through a 670 page ‘mission statement’ that still only covers half of the debate. They’ll do it, of course, but lets not pretend to enjoy it.

(“Oh yeah, the Referendum White Paper? I’d love to read it. Just send it to my fax” But you don’t have a fax machine Rachel, it’s 2014. “…Send it to my fax.”)

It is with this in mind that the Radical Independence Campaign (RIC) organized some light comedic relief for its canvassers, for Yes voters and for those still undecided, in the fundraiser with The Stand Comedy Club in Edinburgh: “Stand Up for Independence”.

Attending the show last night, the question for me was: can comedy and campaigning go well together? If so, is it actually funny?


Chatting before the show begins, event organizer Stuart Rodger is more focused on the well being of the canvassers than the quality of the acts, or even the funds raised. He described how he hoped the show will be a bit of a ‘morale boost’ for RIC campaigners this far along on the road to September 18th. Working fiercely in spreading the message of the group through the wider population can be exhausting and often a little disheartening, and so the show was organized predominantly as a way to blow off some steam and laugh “at both sides of the debate”. Whatever the motive, he’s clearly succeeded in attracting a crowd: the room is packed out, with many squashed together at the back – standing for the night.

The lights dim and the show begins. All the acts, I’ve been informed, are pro-independence and are doing the gig for free in support of RIC. Jay Lafferty warms the already slightly rowdy audience up with light banter in preparation for the first act, Andrew Learmonth. His act doesn’t focus too heavily on the topic of independence, bar some choice gags thrown in to the delight of the very clearly politicized crowd. Eleanor Morton follows with some musical comedy, but again seems to get louder laughs when she makes political points. A pattern begins to emerge. By the time Vladimir McTavish & Keir McAllister begin their double act, which really has a primary focus on the independence referendum, and headliner  David Kay takes the stage, the theory’s cemented. The atmosphere is good, the room is responsive, but the crowd of RIC campaigners don’t take much of a night off from politics. The most political (and, lets be honest, pro-independence, naturally) gags get the loudest laughs. The evening seems to be half stand up performance, half rally.

And that’s exactly the intention of pairing comedy and campaigning, I’m told. RIC – this internationalist, left wing  team of volunteers – aims to utilise independence not as an end in and of itself, but as a means to a more progressive end. At the heart of their campaign lay ideas of equality and social justice and this is what makes comedy such an important vehicle for discussion. Central to their campaign lies the belief that existing power structures need to be challenged. That, Rodger passionately claims, is what’s so brilliant about comedy as a medium: it’s subversive. It has the ability to undermine uneven political power; something which is at the heart of what RIC aims to challenge.

More than that, comedy and creativity are something which lie at the heart of Scottish culture in a more general sense. Exploring politics this way, Rodger explains, helps engage huge segments of society (young people in particular) in a way which traditional methods of campaigning cannot. This is something that can be seen not only in the acts featured that night, but in their work as artists and activists outwith the confines of the comedy club (see the video, below): mirroring other similar movements in Scotland today, such as creative campaigners “National Collective”.

Comedy and RIC political campaigning are part and parcel of the same thing: influencing and engaging an increasingly apathetic electorate. Last night may have been about lightening the mood, but at the heart of all of this is something all involved take extremely seriously: the future of their country.

Written by Rachel Barr

The 5 big issues on Scottish Independence, as debated by young BBCGen2014 voters

Martin:  “Better Together – reap all the benefits we haven’t taken away from you already. Here, have some more bedroom tax”
Max: “I’m going to tax your pie. So, the scores for this evening Rachel?”
Rachel: “I don’t even want to interrupt. If this whole article is just a slanging match between you two, I’ll be happy (#journalism). As you were…”

Max Merrill and Martin Close are both members of Generation 2014 – a group of 16 and 17 year old voters in Scotland that the BBC is following all year. Martin is passionately in favour of Scottish independence, while Max feels just as strongly about staying in the UK. They are NOT SHY about telling us what they think, as you’ll see below…

#1: the UK is sort of like a big ship…

unnamedMartin:“I think Scotland should be independent because the best people to make decisions about Scotland are the people who live and work here. With the powers independence will bring we can use our resources to build a better nation for everyone”


p01gny15Max: “I agree with Martin here (surprisingly) – that Scotland’s people are the best for the job. However, Scotland’s people are only the best when they get accurate, reliable and credible information to make a decision, so far this has not been given. The 300 year old Union truly gives us the best of both worlds with a strong Scottish Parliament having control over important things like education, roads and hospitals, but having the safety and security of the United Kingdom.”


unnamedMartin: “I’m sorry but what we need is a parliament with full powers which is fully accountable to the people of Scotland.The whole notion that because the UK is big then it is safe is not correct.You can have a big a ship as you want but if the captain is heading straight for the rocks then you are far better off in a smaller ship going in the right direction”


p01gny15 Max: Those are important issues I agree, however you cannot deny that, given all external factors of previous years, Westminster has not sent us to the dogs with these issues. My question to you Martin, is can a newly independent country cope with all these issues while introducing things like massive defence cuts and the most radical childcare policy since the Liberals of the early 20th century? Your small boat in the right direction is of course better, but a small boat led by a deluded captain over choppy seas is a recipe for disaster and I will stick with my big boat on the rough seas.”

unnamedMartin: “The UK tax system is dysfunctional. We have billions of pounds worth of business taxes being uncollected. And it’s one of the most complicated in the world, with over 11,000 pages of tax code. The cuts in benefits have forced thousands of people into poverty, with in-work poverty now more common than out of work poverty. Food banks are everywhere, that is not a successful handling of it by my standards”

p01gny15Max: So why do we need separation to achieve this? Scotland is set to gain more powers in 2016 (I think its 2016) and we do not know how great these powers may be! We have the potential to have the powers of an independent Scotland as part of the UK, which to me seems like a very good deal.

unnamedMartin: If the UK government was serious about giving new powers to the Scottish parliament then it would have outlined and have legalization passing the Commons and Lords by now. But we heard nothing about radical new powers for the Scottish parliament.

Next Page: #2 Who’s attacking Scotland? 

Is Scottish independence the solution to healthcare challenges?

Scottish independence

IN 2011, THE SCOTTISH National Party  (SNP) won a historic majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament, leading to the independence referendum vote in September 2014.

The SNP claim that the Scottish economy is in a stronger position than the UK economy, for example, in 2010, Gross National Income per head in Scotland was estimated to be higher than the UK as a whole.

Since 1999, the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government have overseen healthcare and the NHS. This has seen progressive policies such as free personal care and free prescriptions being introduced. In contrast, the English healthcare system has seen almost constant re-organisation and increased private sector involvement leading to funding shortfalls.

There remain huge challenges facing Scottish healthcare, including substantial health inequalities meaning that children born in the poorest parts of Scotland can expect to live 11 years less than those in the wealthier areas. In addition cancer mortality rates are 76 per cent higher in deprived areas.

Scottish parliamentWhile healthcare is devolved to the Scottish Parliament, the Conservative-Liberal Democratic coalition government in London is planning to cut Scottish welfare spending by around £6 billion by 2016. The Child Poverty Action Group estimates that child poverty will increase to 100,000 by 2020 due to these cuts. This increase in poverty will lead to widening health inequalities and more ill health, placing more pressure on the NHS in Scotland.

The Coalition Government has introduced a number of measures which have reduced the living standards of some of the poorest in  society. The ‘bedroom tax’ penalizes households who are deemed to have one or more bedrooms more than they ‘need’ by  reducing their housing benefit by 25 per cent. This has had a massively disproportionate impact on people with disabilities and  their families.

The Coalition Government also announced that they wish to abolish Disability Living Allowance (DLA) for 16 to 64 year olds and  introduce a new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) with far higher criteria, meaning that many people with disabilities will end  up losing this essential benefit. The introduction of PIP has been shambolic, with the last figure from the Department for Work and  Pensions (DWP) showing that 220,000 people had made PIP claims, but less than a fifth had been processed.

There is little wonder then that there has been a huge increase in the number of food banks. The Trussell Trust recently announced   that 71,428 Scots had used its food banks over the last year, compared to 14,318 in 2012/13. Independence will allow Scotland to   abolish the bedroom tax and hold on to Disability Living Allowance.

In terms of employment, the Coalition Government introduced the Work Programme in June 2011. Under the scheme, the task of helping the long-term unemployed has been outsourced primarily to private sector organisations. The results have been very poor, with job outcome figures much lower than the Government’s Minimum Performance Level.

Westminster There have also been large increases in the numbers of people who are unemployed being sanctioned, thus taking them out of the  unemployment statistics. Clearly, removing payments to benefit claimants will worsen an already poor situation, leading to  increased reliance on food banks and high-interest loan firms. Indeed, it may exacerbate mental health issues, making it more  difficult to find work.

Only through independence will the Scottish Government control the economic leavers that can develop the economy and create  much needed sustainable employment opportunities. Without such, there is little opportunity to significantly tackle poverty and  inequality.

The challenge facing healthcare in Scotland is a significant one. Successive Westminster governments have failed to substantially  reduce health inequalities in Scotland. There have been decades of underinvestment in the housing stock leaving hundreds of  thousands of households in fuel poverty.

Independence gives Scotland a better opportunity to use its economic resources to invest in its housing stock, sports facilities, community health programmes, and health education, creating thousands of much needed jobs and improving living standards and health.

Declining access to healthcare provisions: My Opinion 

My main concern about a no vote is that I received Disability Living Allowance (DLA). This comprises of a care component and a motability component. I use my motability component to lease a car through the motability scheme. I use my care component to meet the extra costs of having a disability. Indeed, it is estimated that people with disabilities have at least 25% extra living costs.

The Government in London in reassessing everyone aged 16-64 who receives DLA for the new Personal Independence Payment (PIP) with far higher criteria. Based onDepartment for Work and Pensions (DWP) figures, it is estimated that 46,000 Scots with disabilities will lose their entitlement to get a car through the motability scheme.

Stephen McMurray is a member of the Radical Independence Campaign http://radicalindependence.org/

Picture credits: Pro-independence rally by Mártainn MacDhómhnaill, Holyrood by Wojtek Gurak and Westminster by Justin.

Radical Independence for Scotland



After the 2014 Generation debate earlier today Daniel Rueben-Comiskey writes for Pandeia about Tariq Ali, the outspoken supporter of the radical independence for Scotland movement.

Ensconced at the centre of a long row of incredibly uncomfortable seats, I tell myself slowly and forcibly that I absolutely do not need to visit the bathroom. Me and the maybe 300 others sitting in a Glasgow University lecture theatre have just been asked to get “really friendly, really quickly” and share seats with total strangers. I end up perched over the crack between two already unpleasant pews. At least I’m sitting down. The aisles are filling up with people frantically looking for friends. Some give up and take residence on the stairs. The security guards look at them with an unappreciative shake of the head, but it has no effect. They’re not going anywhere. The atrium outside is a swarm of disappointed faces; they know they’ve arrived too late. We’re told a spillover theatre with a live feed is also full, another scene of excited disarray.  One thing is certain, there is an audience for RIC’s “Independence Lectures”. These people want to hear what Tariq Ali has to say.

 Flyers and posters are being passed from hand to hand, t-shirts, books and canvas tote bags are being sold to help fund some campaign or other. Smash Patriarchy, Anti-Trident and Socialist Republic of Scotland, just a few of the array of movements being represented here. The one cause, however, that has drawn these people here is the campaign for Scottish independence.

 Tariq Ali walks on to a sturdy applause from an audience that has packed out the two largest lecture theatres the University has to offer. They are not to be disappointed. RIC’s spokesperson introduces Ali as a friends of Malcolm X, John Lennon and Hugo Chavez. Oh, and the Rolling Stones wrote a song about him.

As if the audience aren’t already on the speaker’s side, he begins with a reference to the Glasgow’s most famous Socialist, John MacLean. A man who had songs written for him by Hamish Henderson and poems about him by Hugh MacDiarmid.

 What follows is a systematic decimation of the Better Together campaign and of Westminster politics in general. Some of his sharpest barbs are reserved for the Labour parties of London and Edinburgh, who, rather than asserting a trustworthy left alternative to Conservative rule, have been following the blue line and chasing the median voter since the earliest days of Tony Blair.  Ali belittles the No campaign, and reduces it to a highly organised operation driven by fear mongering, false accusations and broken promises. Incentives, Ali claims, will come next. With the momentum seemingly with the Yes campaign, Osborne & Co will offer the electorate of Scotland some sort of inducement, financial or otherwise.

Throughout the lecture, Ali approaches the notion from multiple disciplines, cultural, political, historical and economic. In all of them he provides ample evidence as to why the Britain of today cannot continue. Scottish independence, he feels, may be the rejuvenating factor that the country desires. That the country needs. How, Ali asks, can a left wing Scot trust any Labour party that allows Alastair Darling to link arms with George Osborne in their march to maintain the union?

However, for all his discussion of the problems with the No campaign, Ali speaks little of the Yes campaign. He seems reticent to discuss the plan laid out in the white paper, perhaps for fear of certifying the common opinion that a yes vote is a show of support for the SNP, a party whose neo-liberal economics rile Ali. These policies, he feels,  are the real enemy of equality, and should Scotland achieve independence, it would be well advised to follow the Norwegian model. This seems to be the crux of Ali’s lecture, the main point he has come here to make. Scottish independence would give the new state the ability to create a more egalitarian system. One, the crowd feels, is long overdue.

This crowd, however, already supports this view. Most appear to have come to verify their stance, to have it confirmed by a great thinker, not to have it challenged. However, even for these staunch supporters of independence, entrenched in their activism, Ali has a new argument to drive them further into the Yes camp. The rejuvenation of an independent Scotland, finally able to elect governments that it desires, governments with full autonomy over the nation may have an unexpected and significant consequence. This potential new state might offer hope to a devastated English left. The damaged representative democracy in the rest of the UK could find itself cure by a resurgent British left, inspired by a nation finally taking control of it’s own affairs. Independence, Ali asserts, not only gives hope for a better Scotland, but for a better England, a better Wales and a better Northern Ireland.

Scottish independence – student media react

photo: marianavarrosorolla

photo: marianavarrosorolla

With exactly six months to go before the September 2014 referendum on Scottish Independence, Rachel Barr tests the water of what news on the potential UK split has reached the student press in a special edition of Pandeia’s The Bottom Line.

THINK SERIOUSLY about independence, writes Miles Adams for St Andrew’s The Saint  – echoing the words of UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who this year spoke of the repercussions of September’s referendum.

Talking to the campus on the issues of Scottish separation and the consequences to St Andrews, reactions of students are mixed. A clearly important issue to many is that of tuition fees – in Scotland, it is currently free to attend University, though students from the rest of the UK continue to pay fees to the same institutions. In an independent Scotland, this might change.

A third year geology student interviewed stood firmly against independence on the grounds that: “The

[Scottish National Party] claims that tuition fees for students will remain free, but with no stable economic plan for a post-independence Scotland I find it hard to believe this will be the case, not to mention the difficulty that will face English students who will technically become international students with the possibility of increased fees”.

photo: mountainbread

photo: mountainbread

RESEARCH GRANTS are just as much at risk as tuition fees, chips in Riley Kaminer at Edinburgh University’s The Student . The article – which discusses the risks to university research in an independent Scotland – comes off the back of Aberdeen University’s Professor Pennington’s comments on the damage of the union break could mean to the nation’s higher education. Currently, Scotland takes a ‘disproportionate’ share of UK research funding and attributed the success of  British science to the “two way traffic of ideas, money and people across the Border”.

FUND EDUCATION, Scrap Trident says Sam Beaton for Glasgow University’s Guardian. Less than thirty miles from Glasgow are 180 Trident nuclear warheads which will be replaced in 2016 at a cost of £100 billion. “At the same time as arming Britain to the teeth with nukes, we are seeing cuts to Higher and Further Education”  – Beaton continues – “Education is a right and not a privilege. We need to scrap Trident and fund education…Voting for independence guarantees a Britain free from nuclear weapons”.

SCOTLAND’S ECONOMIC future is merely a tool used  for scaremongering as part of the No campaign,according to campaigners at the recent Radical Independence Conference (RIC) Scotland. Also featured in Edinburgh’s The Student was coverage of the 2013 conference, which saw over 1000 delegates congregate in recognition of the need for “radical social and economic change”. Talking about everything from austerity, the monarchy and an Independent Scotland’s rejection of nuclear weapons, the conference aimed to assure people that a Yes vote was “…not a vote for the SNP”.

photo: Ric Lander

photo: Ric Lander

EITHER WAY, The Scottish people as a majority want decision making powers to be held in Edinburgh, not London, concludes Scottish Student Newspaper The Journal. Though not necessarily voting in favour of Independence, 74% of those surveyed want power to be held in Holyrood, in contrast to the mere 24% of those asked who would entrust decisions for the nation to the Westminster government. Speaking to The Journal, Edinburgh MSP Jim Eadie – representing the SNP – remarked:

“The debate in Scotland is no longer between change or no change – it is about the kind of change we seek, and the right of the people to choose their future in a free and fair referendum.”

The referendum will take place throughout Scotland on the 18th of September 2014.


photo: Bernt Rostad

photo: Bernt Rostad



Salmond, Phone Hacking and The Church: UK Fast News

Sougata Ghosh

Sougata Ghosh

 Blair advised Brooks in hacking case

It emerged this week that the former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair advised Rebekah Brooks at the height of the phone hacking scandal last year.

Blair reportedly told Brooks to “tough up” as the crisis would pass and that she should launch a “Hutton style” report into the scandal. He also said he would act as an “unofficial advisor” during the scandal to Brooks and Murdoch.

The scandal erupted about 18 months ago when it emerged that the News of the World had been involved with phone-hacking. It led to the arrest of Brooks and the Prime Minister’s former head of communications Andy Coulson. It also resulted in Rupert and James Murdoch being quizzed by a parliamentary group of MPs.

Scottish Independence

The Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond this week rejected claims made last week by the major UK parties that Scotland could not share a currency with the UK. The Scottish National Party (SNP), who are the governing party in the devolved Scottish parliament, have accused the rest of the UK of ‘bullying’ the Scottish people into voting to stay part of the UK.

This week the Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Danny Alexander, said that Scotland could have borrowing rights. This would allow Scotland to borrow money on the international markets – while the SNP welcomed this they dismissed claims that an independent Scotland would suffer high rates when borrowing as they are a newly sovereign nation. They have also claimed a currency union would be best for the whole of the UK in the event of Scottish independence.

Religion and Inequality

In an article for King’s College London’s Roar Nik Jovčič-Sas argues that the views held by Archbishop Carey are not religious. Carey has been criticised for opposing gay marriage in the UK after he called for a “Coalition for Marriage” which he said was needed to counter a move towards gay-marriage in the UK. Carey claimed that society could be harmed by same-sex marriage. Jovčič-Sas argues that these views are not an example of Christian teaching but instead “the bigoted views of a bitter man.”



Meanwhile, in the Durham-based Palatinate Edward Stroud argues that the Church should do more to encourage the participation and influence of women in the church. He says that the recent failure to approve women bishops in the Anglican Church as well as dealing with issues of inequality in the Catholic Church. Stroud argues that this is “not just an issue which should concern only women, it is a human issue.”  

Syria, Hacking and Independence: UK Fast News


This week’s news has focused on the British Government’s response to the Syrian refugee crisis, as well as the trials and tribulations north and south of the border. Greg Bianchi continues The Bottom Line series from the UK.

After weeks of pressure the UK agreed to accept some of the most vulnerable refugees fleeing the on-going Syrian crisis. During Prime Minister’s Questions (PMQs) on Wednesday David Cameron confirmed that while the UK will accept up to 500 refugees, it won’t sign up to the UN backed quota system. The Guardian reported that this was the conclusion of weeks of negotiations between the Home Office and UNHCR after the government came under mounting criticism for failing to accept refugees.

The trend of immigration and asylum has been contentious in recent months. With the emergence of the anti-EU United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) as a political force, there has been increased pressure on the government to cut immigration. Some have claimed this is a politically motivated manoeuvre to stop UKIP gaining more votes. The media war over the end of controls on Romanian and Bulgarian workers resulted in some newspapers The Daily Mail  claimed that the UK was facing large scale immigration, however in an report by the BBC David Cameron apparently said to the Conservative Party that the levels of immigration from Romania and Bulgaria were “reasonable”.

Dan Nevill

Dan Nevill

Meanwhile, north of the border Scottish nationalists received a boost this week as a poll suggested the pro-independence movement had gained more support from the public. According to The Scotsman 46 per cent of the Scottish public could support independence, provided the party is able to gain more votes in the undecided portion of the electorate.

However, the pro-unionist ‘Better Together’ campaign today claimed that the Governor of the Bank of England Mark Carney had “quietly demolished” the claims made by Alex Salmond about the nature of an independent Scotland’s relations with the rest of the UK. Carney suggested that in order to remain within a currency ‘sterling zone’ the Scottish government would have to cede some sovereignty.



The referendum on Scottish independence takes place on 18 September 2014.

The Phone Hacking trials continue this week with claims that Andy Coulson, former director of communications for David Cameron, knew about phone hacking at the News of the World. Coulson allegedly said that a voicemail left by actress Sienna Miller for actor Daniel Craig was “brilliant”.

Ninian Reid

Ninian Reid

The phone-hacking controversy has led to calls among some in society for greater controls on the press in the UK with politicians proposing a Royal Charter. However the press have rejected this proposal claiming it would infringe on press freedom.