Scotland’s independence hopes were cast in fresh doubt this week after the country’s deficit soared to £36billion. Many say that one of the main reasons why the first independence referendum failed was because Scots were not wholly convinced that Holyrood’s economic plan was watertight. In 2014, the country’s deficit stood at £12bn.
Later on, oil revenues were confirmed as part of the indy prospectus, touted as boosting the country’s finances.
But now, the deficit has soared to three times as much, with the 2020/21 figures more than double the level of the previous year and a whopping 22.4 percent of GDP.
The economy, then, remains the biggest obstacle to Ms Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party (SNP) achieving its main goal of separating from the UK.
Yet, there are other fine details that pose equally as much of a challenge.
Energy is a pressing issue, and how Scotland might operate its electricity grid if it were to gain independence.
Currently, the entire UK is connected by the National Grid – a network made of high-voltage power lines, gas pipelines, interconnectors and storage facilities that together enable the distribution of electricity.
The same applies for gas transmission.
During the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the SNP proposed that a single, Britain-wide, market for both electricity and gas should continue, and that an Energy Partnership with the continuing UK should be established to ensure a joint approach.
In a white paper published at the time, ‘Scotland’s Future’, Holyrood said, “regardless of its source, Scottish generation is now essential to ensuring the lights stay on across these islands”.
It added that: “The continuation of a system of shared support for renewables and capital costs of transmission among consumers in Scotland and the rest of the UK is a reasonable consideration for meeting the UK’s ongoing green commitments.”
The UK Government rejected this proposal, however.
It said it saw no basis to justify continued cost sharing between British consumers for shared renewables support, or for the costs of electricity or gas transmission following independence.
More generally, it argued that the integrated British energy market for electricity and gas “could not continue in its current form”.
Westminster said any decision made would be taken with “national interests of the continuing UK and its consumers” in mind.
The 2018 Sustainable Grown Commission report has led to Holyrood updating its position in many areas since 2014, it did not make recommendations for the areas of energy policy mentioned.
Meanwhile, public spending per head in Scotland is now £1,828 above the UK average.
Paul Hutcheon, political editor at the Daily Record, said any hope for a sea oil bonanza to level spending out “is a fading memory”.
He said the current deficit is not the type of figure “that will move soft No voters who are concerned about pensions and mortgages into the Yes aisle”.
Ms Sturgeon benefited greatly from the furlough scheme and other income protection schemes.
Under the way Scotland is currently devolved, these things would not have been funded by the SNP government.
The Scottish First Minister is currently calling for a second referendum by the end of 2023.
Yet, she has as of yet no economic plan under-girding the policy.