Public Law

At long last, the event we’ve all been waiting for is almost here. The Scottish Government’s White Paper, its prospectus for independence, is due to be published tomorrow (Nicola Sturgeon announced at the end of last week that it won’t actually be called a “White Paper”, although that is still how everyone is referring to it).

Semantics aside, no doubt you, like us, can hardly wait to get your hands on one of the 20,000 copies of the Scottish Government’s blueprint for an independent Scotland. But if, unlike us, you don’t want to have to wade through the expected 670 pages (or 170,000 words) to find the answers to your questions, watch this space for updates on key issues throughout the day.

The only detail released so far has been the proposed date for ‘independence day’: 24 March 2016, which (perhaps somewhat mischievously) would mark the anniversary of both the original Union of the Crowns in 1603, and the date of the Acts of Union in 1707. But what else might you expect from the paper?

First Minister Alex Salmond has promised that the economy will be at the heart of the paper, which is hardly surprising given that it has dominated the debate so far. Just last week, a report was issued by the Institute of Fiscal Studies that concluded an independent Scotland would require tax rises, spending cuts or both because of its reliance on North Sea resources. More coverage of that report is available here.

The following day, the Scottish Government published its own vision of how the economy of an independent Scotland would operate. Building Security and Creating Opportunity: Economic Policy Choices in an Independent Scotland contains ten chapters setting out a range of economic issues and options, Scotland’s economic performance under devolution and a comparison with other independent countries of comparable size, and the challenges and priorities that would be addressed. For a good summary of the content, see the BBC’s at-a-glance guide.

However, and perhaps so as not to steal the (so-called-but-not-really) White Paper’s thunder, the paper did not set out any clear commitments to specific policies that would be adopted in the event of independence. The paper instead gave examples of the different types of policies and economic principles that independence would allow for, and argued that that greater choice and flexibility would benefit Scotland.

But some economic factors received only limited attention in the paper (again, perhaps so as to be dealt with tomorrow). In particular, the paper did not say anything new on currency, beyond noting that currency arrangements and monetary policy would come under Scotland’s control in the event of independence. Instead, the paper just referred back to the Scottish Government’s existing proposals (“Plan A”) for a currency union with the rest of the UK without adding any detail on how that could be achieved, how it would operate in practice or what effect it would have on the policy choices available to an independent Scotland.

Given the recent flurry of exchanges between both sides of the debate on currency issues, we expect that it will feature prominently in tomorrow’s paper (or at least the arguments that follow), so we hope to have some answers for you by then. Or, at least, some new questions!

Government, Regulation and Competition Law
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