by a Newsnet reporter
Michael Moore’s remaining four questions for the Scottish Government were:
3. How would membership of international organisations, including the EU, be assured?
4. What will be our defence posture and the configuration of our armed forces?
5. How many billions would we inherit in pension liabilities and who would pay for future pensions?
6. How much would independence cost: what is the bottom line?
I come back to the point I made in my first article and that is, if Scotland chooses to become independent then the political construct which is the United Kingdom will cease to exist.
In response to Question 3 therefore this is a matter, not only for Scotland but also for England and for Wales and Northern Ireland whether they choose to remain in a form of union with England or go their separate ways. In my second article I said that it comes down to negotiation, negotiation, negotiation which the Westminster Government has not so far shown any inclination to agree to.
Wake up Mr Moore. Scotland is not choosing to jump overboard while the good ship UK continues to sail blissfully on its previously charted course. The ship is sinking. Scotland can jump overboard to save itself or it can stay on board long enough to help bring the crippled ship UK into port where all may safely disembark. That means working together, not trying to divide the crew into factions that are fighting with each other rather than working the ship. It means negotiation Mr Moore and that means we jointly negotiate with our international partners the future international relations of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland while the United Kingdom is still a single political entity and able to negotiate.
In response to Question 4 it is pretty clear that our defence posture will not include offensive actions around the world of questionable legitimacy. It has already been clearly stated that our defence posture will first and foremost be to defend Scotland and secondly to support the United Nations, where possible, in interventions designed to protect lives. As to the configuration of our armed forces the military footprint in Scotland could hardly be smaller than it is right now. We certainly don’t need Trident or any aircraft carriers both of which we are contributing to the cost of right now.
We have an opportunity here to build an integrated defence force for Scotland that eliminates inter-service rivalry, including the bureaucracy that goes with it, and is trained to work closely with the civil authorities in times of national emergency. It should be made up of a mix of professionals and committed part-timers who, because they remain part of local communities, could go a long way towards giving our youth positive role models to emulate. Finally we would be willing to work closely with England to ensure the defense of the island which we share.
Question number 5, how many billions would we inherit in pension liabilities. I don’t know Mr Moore, do you? Whatever the liability may be it already exists and forms part of our present obligations. The question should be is how do we determine who will be responsible for paying an individual’s pension, will it be Scotland or will it be England. There is precedent for that in other blocks of independent countries around the world where there is significant movement of labour between the countries.
The formula is relatively simple. You need a minimum number of contributions in order to qualify for a state pension. If someone has worked both in Scotland and England therefore you simply add up the total contributions made in both countries to determine the level of pension entitlement. If the pensioner is for example resident in Scotland but 60% of their pension contributions were made while they were working in England or their salary was paid from an English source and pension deductions made in England, then Scotland would pay the whole amount of the pension to the pensioner and then claim reimbursement from England of the 60%. The opposite would of course apply to someone resident in England who had Scottish source income.
As I am sure Mr Moore must know, if this simple formula is applied, the fact that Scotland is inhabited by branches of companies whose headquarters and payroll administration are located in London and whose corporation tax income is attributed to London, it is going to come back to bite them in terms of determining where the pension liabilities lie.
Negotiation Mr Moore, negotiation.
Mr Moore’s final question, how much would independence cost? That depends on whether the Westminster Government will start behaving like a responsible adult rather than a spoilt child that is having its toys taken away. If Westminster continues with its present attitude that it is only what they say that counts then the cost will be enormous to both Scotland and England. I suggest that you drop your bully tactics of trying to scare Scotland into dropping independence and start engaging in some constructive discussions with the Scottish Government. Negotiation Mr Moore, negotiation.
Finally Mr Moore, on a personal note. I have put the entire resources of my laptop computer, my internet connection and my dining room table at your disposal in order to answer your questions. Might I respectfully suggest that next time you need some questions answered you refer to your officials at the Scotland Office, for which the Scottish tax payers pay a great deal of money and whom, I am sure are more than capable of giving you the answers.