Referendum Live Q and A

15 September 2014

12.50: That wraps it up for Full Fact's first ever live Q&A. Thanks for all your questions and apologies if we didn't have time to answer yours.

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12.47. Via Email:  "Scotland's Oil": What proportion of development costs have been borne by Scotland?

The cost of exploring for oil and gas in the UK is borne by companies holding licences granted by the UK government, rather than the government itself. According to a Scottish parliament briefing, these operating costs have more than doubled since 2002, influencing decisions over whether some reserves are economically viable to extract.

Any direct costs that might have been incurred by government through the involvement of the nationalised British National Oil Corporation (subsequently Britoil) would have been incurred at a UK level before its  privatisation by Nigel Lawson from 1982 onwards.

On this basis there is no identifiable amount of oil 'development costs' that were borne by Scotland or are being borne by Scotland now.

12:30 UPDATE  to Q. at 12.05 below: It's also worth mentioning that the recommendations of the Constitution Committee in the House of Lords (who published the report), whilst respected, don't have legal force. 

12.05:  Via email: House of Lords could veto Gordon Brown's proposals? I've just noticed this article circulating and was wondering if it is correct.

The article claims that a House of Lords report suggests that the timetable put forward by Gordon Brown last week "would be unconstitutional". The report, it says, states that any further powers for Scotland would be subject to a UK-wide constitutional process, including the possibility of a UK-wide referendum.

The House of Lords report referred to in the article was published in 2012 and discusses the options for questions to be asked in the referendum. So it does not specifically address Gordon Brown's proposals last week.

It concluded (before the referendum question had been agreed) that including a 'devo max' option in the referendum would have required "negotiations involving all parts of the United Kingdom", which includes "intergovernmental negotiations" with all parts of the UK - which we infer to mean the Welsh and Northern Irish Assembly too.

What isn't clear is the detail of the requirements for these negotiations. As far as we understand it, the report was making clear that any referendum on 'devo max' would require further negotiations beforehand. This doesn't necessarily mean that a further referendum would be required were Scotland to vote 'no' and further 'devo max' sought.

It also said that if a 'devo max' option had been included in the question, it would have meant pulling together "two entirely separate constitutional issues".

12.02: Via email: How much is spent on healthcare in Scotland and what will happen to it after a Yes vote or a No vote? 

Spending on health in Scotland was £2,115 per head in 2012/13 according to Treasury figures. It's been on an upward trend since 2000/01 but as analysis from the Nuffield Trust and Health Foundation shows, spending in real terms flattened from 2009/10 (as it did in the rest of the UK).

Scotland's funding for public services comes from a block grant based on comparable spending in England via the Barnett Formula. How much of that money it spends on health is its own decision. The IFS has published analysis saying that based on the Scottish Government's spending plans, there'll be a real terms drop in spending on health of 1.2% between 2009/10 and 2015/16.

In the longer term, it's difficult to say how much will be spent on the Scottish NHS after either outcome. An independent Scotland would have control over its taxes, and it looks like after a No vote it might also gain income tax powers following further devolution. Whether it would choose to raise taxes to fund greater spending on the NHS (or other public services) is unknown.

11.45: Via email. How will the Scottish Government's proposals for increased immigration affect funding for pensions?

Population projections show that Scotland's pension-age population is increasing faster than its working-age population - in other words the 'dependency ratio' is increasing, and this is happening faster than the UK average.

The Scottish Government is also considering delaying an increase to state pension age, which the Institute for Fiscal Studies has said would be costly for a rapidly ageing population and mean tougher choices in other areas of spending and/or taxes.

However, the effects of Scotland's ageing population could be somewhat mitigated by the Scottish government's plans to encourage skilled migrants to move to Scotland, as well as convincing young people to stay and attract others back. These would boost Scotland's working-age population, thereby reducing its 'dependency ratio' in a way that would not be mirrored in the rest of the UK. It is not clear how large any impact of encouraging immigration would be, and of course people who settle in Scotland would themselves age.

Our Pensions in an independent Scotland article looks in more detail at the Scottish Government's plans for pensions, and our Passports and Immigration piece looks at its options on immigration policy, including what this might mean for the Common Travel Area

11.36: Via email: I noticed a claim over the weekend: "Over 1 million jobs in Scotland are linked to the rest of the UK" - is it true?

The Better Together campaign are now claiming this in various forms, sometimes inaccurately saying they're all based on trade links. This is actually just one part of the figure.

The one million figure originates from research carried out by Professor Brian Ashcroft of Strathclyde University. In total, the research puts the number or linked jobs at 962,000:

  • 313,000 jobs based on Scotland and in firms owned or controlled by rest of UK
  • 247,000 jobs linked Scottish companies which 'export' to the rest of the UK
  • 75,000 in UK public sector jobs based in Scotland and linked to public sector contracts
  • 327,000 'secondary jobs' (so jobs linked to the above jobs) in local firms

Professor Ashcroft has separately estimated 859,000 jobs are linked to UK trade with a slightly different methodology.

The figures don't tell us how many jobs will be lost if Scotland becomes independent. They're representative of UK-Scottish economic links, so it's the extent to which these links are maintained post-independence which affects how many jobs are actually put on the line. Independence is likely to reduce some of these links as we've discussed in our Spotlight on trade, but it won't sever all links.

11.25 Via email: Have you done a detailed breakdown of post-independence Scottish expenditure allowing for currently shared items such as defence, foreign aid, EU net payments etc? The usual figures quoted seem to be merely for expenditure IN Scotland rather than total government expenditure

The official statistics for expenditure in Scotland include a breakdown of what's defined as 'identifiable' expenditure, so that which is explicitly spent in Scotland, and 'non-identifiable' expenditure which is an estimate of what amount of UK-wide spending applies in Scotland. That can be found here. This also includes a share of the UK contribution to the EU budget.

In terms of what spending under an independent Scotland might look like, we've not looked in lots of detail at what the Scottish government's spending plans for independence would mean for the breakdown of spending. You may be interested in a report by the Institute for Fiscal Studies, who have looked in detail at its spending promises, some of which we've also touched upon in our piece on tax and spending in Scotland.

11.07:  Will there be a right of return for those of Scottish descent if the EU doesn't let Scotland in? Brits of Scottish descent. I.e. a Scottish grandfather. #FFQA

The Scottish government has said that following independence:

"citizenship by descent will be available to those who have a parent or grandparent who qualifies for Scottish citizenship. Those who have a demonstrable connection to Scotland and have spent at least ten years living here at some stage, whether as a child or an adult, will also have the opportunity to apply for citizenship. Migrants on qualifying visas will also have the option of applying for naturalisation as a Scottish citizen."

And you won't necessarily need to become a citizen in order to live in an independent Scotland. The Scottish government also plan to join the "Common Travel Area" which allows passport-free travel between members (for example Ireland and the UK).

We've got this in more detail in our Spotlight on passports and immigration.

11.00:  Live Q&A on Scottish independence

Please email your questions on the Scottish referendum to or tweet them @FullFact and we'll attempt to answer as many as we can.

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