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I voted for Scottish independence in 2014 but I'd vote 'no' in Indyref2

The i logo The i 16/01/2020
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Editor’s note: The opinions in this article are the author’s, as published by our content partner, and do not represent the views of MSN or Microsoft.

At the time of the last Scottish independence referendum in 2014, I was in my final year of university and very much on the fence.

I wanted to chose the side that would create the most opportunities for a hapless soon-to-be graduate like me. I had no work experience outside of the retail and care sectors, and I knew that graduate schemes were difficult to get onto, with tight submissions windows, many applicants, and the typical requirement of a 2:1 degree, which I was not guaranteed.

The then first minister of Scotland, Alex Salmond, proposed a three percent cut in corporation tax after independence to encourage new businesses to set up shop in Scotland — allegedly creating up to 23,000 more jobs. And the Yes campaign’s argued that the estimated £180m spent on Trident every year could be reinvested back into Scotland, with stickers reading “Bairns not Bombs” circulating at the time. This money could be used to give businesses the means to recruit more graduates, I concluded. This swayed me in favour of voting 'yes'.

So when the result was announced I was disappointed, but in hindsight, it was a blessing in disguise.

Now, I know Scotland pays a price for its union with Westminster. In the 2019 general election, the SNP won an amazing 48 seats but we are still ruled by a Conservative government and in 2016, 62 percent of Scots voted to remain in the EU, but we are being forced to leave regardless. Yet, I believe that this is a price worth paying.

There is a financial upside to remaining in the UK that I never fully understood until I left Scotland for one of the many entry-level jobs that attract people to London.

The Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland revealed that in 2019, Scotland spent £12.6bn more on public services than it raised through taxation (and that’s not to mention that Scottish people pay, on average, £300 less tax than those in England). The UK government - with millions of pounds in funding - helped to plug this gap. This would not be available in an independent Scotland.

To put this into the context of individuals, public spending in Scotland is £1,660 higher per person than the UK average, and this is something I have benefited from first-hand. Something that I do not believe Scotland can maintain without the union.

For example, Scottish nationals’ undergraduate fees are paid for by the Scottish government. In England, the home student fee is £9,250 a year, as per UCAS. My English flatmate has over £50,000 worth of student debt. I barely have £10,000 in debt — and that was acquired over a longer period of time.

Shortly after I moved to London, I got sick. Prescriptions are free in Scotland, but cost £9 per item in England. My sickness resulted in a root canal treatment. Root canals on the Scottish NHS are £44. In England, it is £62.20. I ended up travelling back to Scotland for a white crown which cost me £250 on the Scottish NHS. I was quoted £500 for the same treatment in England.

I was the first person in my working-class family to go to university thanks to the absence of tuition fees. If they had existed in Scotland, I may not have attended or been saddled with more debt than I could ever repay. Reduced healthcare has meant that I have been able to get the dental care I needed in a timely manner, instead of putting off essential procedures like a crown because I couldn’t cough up £500 at a moment’s notice.

Since the first independence referendum, the SNP have focused on what they want to provide — such as an increased minimum wage and more NHS funding — without clearly explaining where the money is coming from. Pro-Independence campaigns repeatedly emphasise Scotland’s rich natural resources, industries, and its skilled population, but as the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) pointed out, even in 2019, the SNP's plan could mean more, not less austerity for Scotland.

a group of people standing in front of a building © Provided by The i Yet the SNP are still relentlessly campaigning for a second referendum. They argue that Scotland voted 'no' when the UK was still part of the EU. It should be given the chance to go it alone. But at what cost?

Brexit has shown us that breaking up a union is a complex affair and that terms can be nigh on impossible to negotiate. We are set to leave the EU at the end of this month, but with trade talks ongoing for at least the rest of the year. In this instance, and in the case of Scottish Independence, it seems that we are almost always better together.

One of the arguments for leaving the EU was that the UK pays more into the union than it receives back, but Brexit has already cost almost £200m. That's more than the UK has paid into the European Union in 47 years.

Now that Boris Johnson has rejected Nicola Sturgeon’s call for a second referendum, she should focus on fighting for Scotland’s rights in the UK. We need more political autonomy, but until the SNP has a clear and approved plan for how Scotland’s finances would work as an independent nation, I’m of the opinion that the support of our biggest neighbour is helping us thrive.

Emma Guinness is a full-time journalist for Vt.co.

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