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Independence in the modern world. Wealthier, happier, fairer: why not Scotland?

This paper sets out a detailed analysis of the UK’s performance across a range of economic and social indicators relative to that of ten European countries. It is the first in the 'Building a new Scotland' series, focusing on independence.


Introduction

Much of the debate on the economics of Scottish independence doesn't, paradoxically, concentrate on independence.

Instead the focus tends to be on the estimated fiscal position of Scotland within the United Kingdom (UK).

That tells us nothing about how Scotland would perform as an independent country and is, in any case, an argument for change, not against it.

The focus of this paper is on the future and on how to strengthen Scotland's economic and social performance (which would of course also be the most effective way to improve Scotland's fiscal position). The success of comparable countries – all independent, some of a similar size to Scotland – point the way forward.

This paper shows that the UK is already performing poorly relative to a group of such countries and there is a broad consensus that Brexit will lead to a further deterioration in the UK's relative economic performance. Improving the Scottish economy will therefore become even harder if Scotland stays tied to the under-performing UK model.

What do these other countries have that Scotland does not? They have significantly more economic policy autonomy and a much greater ability to tailor policies to their own specific circumstances. The evidence points to independence broadening the policy options available to address areas of relative under-performance and to make the most of Scotland's potential.

This paper discusses how other countries use the full powers of independence and, in doing so, describes the additional options that would become available to an independent Scotland.

The full powers of independence won't guarantee success – but they will increase Scotland's potential and put the levers of change in the hands of the Scottish Government.

This paper:

  • Sets out an analysis of the UK's performance across a range of economic and social indicators relative to that of a range of comparable countries.
  • Provides detailed evidence to show that a comparator group of European countries out‑performs the UK on a range of measures.
  • Provides further evidence confirming the success – sustained over the long-term – of independent European nations of Scotland's size relative to the UK (and other nations).
  • Discusses the policies, mechanisms and institutions underpinning the success of the comparator group and how these might influence an independent Scotland's approach to economic and social development. The evidence suggests that the full powers of independence are necessary for Scotland to fulfil its potential.
  • Provides the context for forthcoming papers in the prospectus series by highlighting the opportunities that could be created by independence.
  • Highlights some specific policies pursued with success by these nations that could be chosen by governments in an independent Scotland.

Contact

Email: ConstitutionalFutures@gov.scot

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