Each of the proposals listed – the Scotland Bill, Devo Plus, Devo Max, Independence – has to be judged against the back drop of ‘who owns Scotland?’
Over the last four decades there has been a continuing drift of economic power out of Scotland with 82.5% of large corporations externally owned.
Privatisation, as well as taking much of the economy out of democratic control, has also stripped away any semblance of meaningful regional control. To take just one example the South of Scotland Electricity Board turned first into Scottish Power and Scottish Nuclear (later British Energy) before being taken over by the Spanish and French transnational corporations Iberdrola and the EDF Group respectively.
With a few exceptions, all the biggest employers in Scotland are either UK-owned and controlled, quoted on the London Stock Exchange or highly dependent on the whole UK market of 60 million, compared to the Scottish market of just 5 million for the sale of their goods and services. Indeed the Scottish Government’s most recent data shows that Scotland exports almost twice as much to the rest of the UK (£34 billion) as it does to the whole of the rest of the world put together (£19 billion).
Nowhere is this state of economic and industrial integration more apparent than in the financial services sector. The 2008 collapse of Scotland’s biggest two banks RBS and HBoS and the takeover of their loan books by the UK Government and Lloyds has brought into sharp relief the branch plant nature of these leviathans of Scottish life.
It is clear that even the big business figures operating within the SNP’s own orbit like Sir George Mathewson, Sir Brian Souter, Sir Tom Farmer, Sir Angus Grossart, Peter de Vink, and Martin Gilbert are all ultimately dependent for their business success on external institutions, not least the investment banking networks which operate from the City of London. This is where much power lies now, and where it will remain irrespective of any future referendum vote for a separate Scottish state.
It is misleading to claim that “independence” as projected by the SNP and others in the pro-independence camp would amount to a break up of the British State and allow Scotland to follow a different economic path. The fact is that Scotland is in a highly advanced state of economic and monetary union with the rest of the UK.
Independence on these terms would simply mean abandoning any democratic avenue by which working people in Scotland, jointly with those in England and Wales, could seek to impose socially-accountable control. Corporate power is organised at British level. It would remain so. SNP independence would thereby place Scotland’s economic and monetary policy, the great bulk of its production and its biggest market beyond its democratic influence.