Well, today's the day that Alex Salmond and his SNP party finally start to make their official push to win the approval of Scottish voters for an independent Scotland.
All the indicators are that they face an uphill battle as opinion polls continue to show steep resistance to the idea. Just as well then that the SNP have given themselves almost three years to win over the crowd and present their arguments as to why independence for Scotland from the larger Union that is the United Kingdom would be a good thing for Scotland.
Rather telling though that Alex Salmond spent last night in London trying to persuade residents of the rest of the UK (note - that doesn't just mean England but Wales and Northern Ireland as well) that we will all be better off if Scotland goes independent (I guess the UK would be as the Scottish would be bailing their own banks out again in future...). We still have little firm detail on big issues such as the future of Scottish currency, defence and political engagement with both the remaining UK countries or the wider global community.
Unsurprising perhaps at this stage, but the SNP have been preparing for this for many years and now have to deliver answers rather than simply try to come to blows with the UK government whenever they don't get their own way.
Two consultations have recently been launched, one by the UK government and one (today) by the Scottish government. Both are simply about the mechanics of the referendum and make for some interesting reading with some clear divides between the two and the Scottish (primarily an SNP document) consultation launched today and the media coverage of the last few weeks only continues to highlight those differences.
That's nice, but one way or the other the referendum is happening so in the public sphere it is probably time to move the debate on to the merits (or not) of an independent Scotland but also the consequences for Scotland if it breaks away from the Union. Two issues there.
As an English-born scientist who has been working and resident in Scotland for six or seven years now I will apparently be getting a vote on this (provided I am still in Scotland at the time), so what happens matters to me personally and I really like being in this country and its people.
What happens to Scotland's science base is also of interest to me as currently it punches well above its weight (as does the UK as a whole, but Scotland proportionately higher) both in terms of publication output (one good way of measuring academic productivity) and also in terms of its share of research funding (important as this is what pays the bills other than by charging students which the Scottish government doesn't want to do very much of).
So, two questions:
- If Scotland becomes independent what happens to its researchers given that a substantial proportion (a clear majority even) are not 'Scottish'? Many of us are either from other parts of the UK or Europe or completely international. What happens to us? I don't want to become Scottish as I regard myself as British and would want to keep that citizenship in preference to being Scottish. Technically then I would become a European/international/foreign/etc worker in that case. Will I (and my colleagues) require work permits? Visas? What happens during the period of transition? If the referendum happens in 2014 as the SNP hope I will be halfway through my first post-doc. If that is happening in Scotland will I be kicked out? And what if my funders decide my funding is strictly meant to be used at UK (i.e. no longer Scottish) institutions? I should imagine this might be splitting hairs in the short term but in the medium to long term how will Scotland support foreign researchers and the ease of movement that UK researchers currently enjoy and that research thrives in?
- If Scotland becomes independent how does the Scottish government intend to make up the shortfall caused by decreased research revenue that would follow from no longer having access to the UK's Research Councils? Will Scotland simply divert the equivalent amount of money from its own budget based on population or instead maintain it at the previous proportion of Council funding? If the latter where will it obtain the extra funding from? Especially in the light that it will not be charging its undergraduate students any substantial amount of fees? Can an independent Scotland afford to do this?
Currently I doubt that is the SNP.
Gosh. A post on politics.