Scotland talks independence – but can it afford it?
With a vote on Scotland's independence from the UK becoming more inevitable, Scots want to know how an independent Scotland would pay its bills.
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Few critics of Scottish independence argue that it wouldn't be able to stand alone – they simply believe it is stronger as part of the UK. Douglas Alexander, a Scottish member of Britain's Parliament for the constituency of Paisley and Renfrewshire South, said earlier this month that the entire union "benefits from the sharing of risks, rewards, and resources in the most successful political union in history."Skip to next paragraph
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While Scottish economic growth has traditionally lagged behind that of the UK, in the third quarter of 2011, it kept pace, matching the union's 0.5 percent growth. And although Scotland has a deficit, its deficit spending is less than that of the UK, Douglas Fraser, the BBC Scotland business and economy editor, recently reported.
Some Scots feel that being a part of the UK has actually held them back.
"I just don't think we have lived up to our full potential as part of the union," says Barry Boylan, a Scottish construction worker who travels to Belgium for weeks at a time to find work. "I feel we could do so much better. Just [look] at places, like parts of Glasgow, that have been let down really badly."
The improvements since the Scottish National Party was first elected to power nearly five years ago preaching a nationalist message are noticeable, he says, noting local improvements such as a renewable energy park and regular announcements of deals with overseas investors, "but they can only do so much with their hands tied."
Alistair Hunter, a local politician for the Scottish National Party, goes further. "If Scots are better in the union," he says, "why am I watching a BBC Scotland report on the shameful number of children in poverty in Scotland?"
Unionists say that Scotland is ill-equipped to govern itself and has developed a track record of financial mismanagement since 1998, when devolution gave it some control over its public spending. Expenditures on some major public works projects have far exceeded their initial cost estimates.
Kevin Funnell, a local government worker in the eastern town of Glenrothes, notes that when the previous Scottish government decided to build a national parliament, it severely undershot the cost. It budgeted roughly £50 million ($78 million), but in the end, the project cost roughly £430 million ($669 million).
"The same bunch of elected MSPs (Members of the Scottish Parliament) then opt to build a tram system in Edinburgh for a measly £375 million ($583 million) to now get a price of £1 billion ($1.5 billion). Oh, and you might not get the full system, they now tell us."
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