Nicola Sturgeon says there’s a ‘choice between two futures’
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The Scottish First Minister sent the country’s business sector into a frenzy this week after she announced her party’s discussions of a formal co-operation agreement with the Scottish Greens. Speaking to MSPs in Holyrood, she said the Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Greens were working on policy areas they could collaborate on in the future. While Ms Sturgeon ruled out a full coalition, she said Green MSPs filling ministerial jobs could be a possibility.
The Greens are the only party other than the SNP to both support Scottish independence and have representation in the Scottish Parliament.
Scotland’s business sector has been unnerved by the move, with the further left Greens’ policies on core industries to the country posing a major challenge.
The price of a bolstered SNP government with Green support for a second independence referendum could, critics argue, come at a huge price for industries like the beleaguered oil and gas sectors.
Countless more sectors closely tied to the UK face a similar existential threat in the event of a breakaway.
Scotland’s defences have been a huge sticking point, and it is not currently clear how Ms Sturgeon would go about funding and creating a Scottish army.
Ahead of the first independence referendum in 2014, the UK Government released a research paper compiled by the Economic Affairs Committee.
Without making a pro or anti-independence argument, it weighed up the economic implications for the wider UK – notably England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Defence employment in Scotland, and the jobs created around it, tally into the tens of thousands.
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Yet, the paper found that, “witnesses expected Scotland to lose defence jobs on independence as former UK defence installations were run down, UK procurement orders were switched away from Scotland and defence manufacturers shifted their activities elsewhere”.
Lord West of Spithead, a former Chief of the Naval Staff, told the report he believed many of these jobs would be lost if Scotland gained independence.
He said: “We would be talking 20,000 or 25,000 jobs gone.”
This would amount to just under one in a hundred of all jobs in Scotland.
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Lord West also found it “inconceivable that the UK, separate from Scotland, would have its warships built in a Scottish yard”.
Further, Councillor Gordon Matheson, Leader of Glasgow City Council, feared that 4,000 jobs in Glasgow shipyards reliant on Ministry of Defence (MoD) contracts would be lost.
The paper notes that the unemployment might be offset to “some extent” by employment in an independent Scotland’s armed forces and defence installations.
At the time, however, little evidence had been provided for an independent Scotland’s defence budget or the scale and capabilities of its armed forces.
A similar picture is seen today.
Ahead of the 2014 vote, in a Holyrood white paper for independence, ‘Scotland’s Future’, set out the country’s role as “a committed and active participant in the global community of nations”.
It would join NATO and the UN as an independent member “as swiftly as possible”.
The key point of the paper was a contentious one: Scotland wanted to see the removal of nuclear weapons within the first term of parliament following independence.
An alliance with the Scottish Greens – who are vehemently opposed to nuclear weapons – would likely further empower the SNP’s long-standing opposition to the Trident programme.
Things will be further complicated since MPs voted to renew Trident in 2016, which is based at Her Majesty’s Naval Base Clyde at Faslane, home missiles and warheads, and acts as the UK’s main nuclear deterrent.
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