Scotland after a decade of independence - Monocolumn | Monocle


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16 January 2012

On 24 June 2014, the 700th anniversary of Bannockburn, when the Scots defeated the English in the wars for independence, the Scots made another bid for independence. They voted overwhelmingly in favour of leaving the United Kingdom – 78 per cent versus just 18 per cent. And that was that. Alex Salmond became prime minister and enjoyed a golden decade of turning Scotland into one of Europe’s richest, happiest countries.

Just months into independence, a significant new oil discovery was made in the North Sea and Scotland was able to pay off its share of debt apportioned to it by Cameron and Osborne. Salmond set about investing in industry and infrastructure. Thanks to the new oil discovery offshore, Aberdeen became a European boomtown once again. The airport was rebuilt and doubled in size, serving as home to the new national carrier Celtic Air, and also as the major connection hub for American passengers heading further east and vice versa.

The Scottish Shilling was soon one of the safest investments in Europe and Scotland was heralded as the new Switzerland – or Scotzerland as people referred to it.

In ironing out immigration laws, Salmond gave breaks to foreign students wishing to study and then work in Scotland. It became much easier and cheaper to study in Scotland than England, which resulted in a flood of gifted young foreigners seeking to study in Edinburgh, Glasgow, St Andrews, Dundee, Aberdeen and even Inverness. He followed this up with hefty breaks for start-ups and small businesses – making Scotland one of the easiest places to start up a business and it soon became a haven of entrepreneurship.

Considerable money was spent kick-starting industry once again. The Glasgow dockyards came back to life and soon Scotland was the greatest container ship builder in Europe.

Salmond pushed through the introduction of high-speed rail within a year of office – connecting the cities throughout Scotland making it possible to commute from John o’ Groats to Edinburgh. The small, sparsely populated country became mobile as the opportunity to make a quick buck exploded.

Tourism boomed – the Japanese and Chinese came in droves, fascinated by the quick turnaround in the new country’s fortunes and mesmerised by the beauty of the landscape and the ease of travelling around it. They bought whiskey and smoked salmon by the container load.

The saltire flag became synonymous with quality and optimism in a dark time for the rest of the world. All preconceptions that Scotland was a nation of rather overweight, fried food addicts were quickly transformed when a Scottish girl called Morag won Miss World and went on to front the global campaign for a New Scotland. Haggis and the deep-fried Mars bar were consigned to the dustbin of history.

Of course looking back now it was all very lucky that the oil was discovered so soon after Scotland became independent. It’s difficult to imagine it would all have been so easy and straightforward without it…


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