back to article Scotland's BIG question: Will independence cost me my broadband?

On 18 September, the people living in Scotland will vote in a referendum to decide if we should to slice the top off Great Britain and create a separate country. If that happens, and once the locals sober up, Scotland could be a country with universal broadband, a publicly owned postal service and mobile coverage which would be …

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  1. Phil W

    Realism

    I'm not fundamentally against Scottish independence nor am I particularly in favour of it (though personally if there has to be change I'm more in favour of greater national devolution and a more federalist UK). However the nut jobs in Scottish parliament seem to have no grasp of reality especially when it comes to their future economy.

    "The SBS would also inherit a proportionate share of the BBC’s commercial ventures, including BBC Worldwide Ltd, and their associated ongoing profits."

    So you want to separate yourselves from Britain and its government and public institutions such as the BBC but you want to keep your own replacement propped up with profits from BBC. Sure, that seems a totally fair and completely independent plan.

    What next? An independent Scotland should get a portion of UK licence payers money because those in Northern England can receive broadcasts from the newly formed SBS?

    Combine that with other wonderful plans such as a pinning your national economic future to a currency union with the rest of the UK, which the UK government has already said they won't agree to, and you have the picture of an independent future of economic ruin and chaos.

    Proper planning prevents p*** poor performance and all that.

    1. Malcolm 1

      Re: Realism

      BBC Worldwide partially funds and then sells BBC programming worldwide (and any associated merchandising). So if BBC Scotland (or whatever it might be called) continues to produce saleable programming then it seems reasonable that they would be able to profit from worldwide sales via BBC Worldwide (although I guess BBCW would be under no obligation to do so).

      Not that I disagree with your other points.

      1. Phil W

        Re: Realism

        "BBC Worldwide partially funds and then sells BBC programming worldwide"

        Indeed, but does this mean that SBS is going to produce content and give it to BBC Worldwide, and receive profit share in return? Plausible I suppose but does that mean they still get profit share even if no-one outside Scotland or the rest of the UK wants the content they product?

        Would it not make more sense for the SBS to sell their content to the BBC like they would (and the BBC do already) to any other third party television network, and reap the profits that way, assuming they product anything that people want.

      2. Slx

        Re: Realism

        Here in the Republic of Ireland my TV Licence is soon to change to an even move annoying concept : The Public Service Broadcasting Charge. That means it's just going to be a household charge with no opt out possibly collected by the Tax Office.

        Those funds go primarily to RTE which is Ireland's semi-commercial public service broadcaster - funds itself 50:50 from the licence fee and adverts. At present that's €160 a year per household.

        A % also goes to other commercial broadcasters and community radio stations that apply for funding for tje production of public service programmes.

        BBC is widely available here on cable and it's carried on Sky Digital in Ireland. However, we pay for it. BBC Worldwide charges cable providers and BSkyB Ireland a royalty fee for BBC 1, 2, 3, 4 and Cbeebees etc

        Channel 4 has an ad sales office in a Dublin and operates commercially here running Irish adverts on Channel 4 and E4 etc ccarried on Sky and cable.

        Sky and various other channels do similar.

        ITV isn't officially available here but most ITV programming is available on TV3 (main commercial TV channel) and UTV northern Ireland is on cable and sells Irish ads.

        I don't see how an independent Scotland could just assume it's going to keep BBC.

        It'll probably have to turn BBC Scotland into something like RTE in Ireland. Probably SBC or something like that and pay for BBC content and channels commercially like we do.

        1. Ross K Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: Realism

          Here in the Republic of Ireland my TV Licence is soon to change to an even move annoying concept : The Public Service Broadcasting Charge. That means it's just going to be a household charge with no opt out possibly collected by the Tax Office.

          Ah yes - Ireland - a little failed democracy inflicting tax after tax, and cut after cut on its citizens.

          I hope Scotland looks towards Ireland and takes note of what NOT to do after it gains its independence.

          1. Ken Hagan Gold badge

            Re: Realism

            "Ah yes - Ireland - a little failed democracy inflicting tax after tax, and cut after cut on its citizens."

            I haven't noticed anything wrong with Ireland's democracy recently. In the recent past it was a little theocratic for my tastes, but even that seems to be fading. Ireland's problem is that it got savaged by the bankers who were then bailed out by incompetent politicians. *Lots* of countries had that problem recently. (The UK, for one.)

            1. Ross K Silver badge

              Re: Realism

              I haven't noticed anything wrong with Ireland's democracy recently. In the recent past it was a little theocratic for my tastes, but even that seems to be fading.

              @Ken Hagan:

              Just as a matter of interest, are you resident in the country and thus qualified to comment on the quality of the democracy? Or just on the outside looking in?

        2. Ken Hagan Gold badge

          Re: Realism

          BBC Scotland and RTE could just club together. An independent Scotland and an independent Ireland would presumably be friends, right? And they both have *one* language in common (and it ain't Estuary English). And they will both be small countries within the EU with a long shared history and culture.

    2. Chris Miller

      Re: Realism

      And it should be obvious that an independent Scottish postal service is bound to cost more, simply because there's a greater proportion of remote locations than for the UK as a whole. I'm sure the same must be true for telephone and broadband services as well.

      1. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Realism

        "And it should be obvious that an independent Scottish postal service is bound to cost more, simply because there's a greater proportion of remote locations than for the UK as a whole. I'm sure the same must be true for telephone and broadband services as well."

        Does that mean that the cost in England and Wales will come down?

        1. Primus Secundus Tertius Silver badge

          Re: Realism

          @John Robson

          You have a tremendous sense of humour, I see.

      2. Tim Jenkins

        Re: Realism

        Ah; the Salmond effect: as long as Alex repeats the magic mantra "everyone in the newly formed country will be able to get broadband" enough times, it will become true, along with keeping the Pound and the Queen (although I'm happy to concede on that last one, as long as they promise not to let any Windsors stray south of Balmoral ever again).

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Realism

        "And it should be obvious that an independent Scottish postal service is bound to cost more, simply because there's a greater proportion of remote locations than for the UK as a whole. I'm sure the same must be true for telephone and broadband services as well."

        I'm not sure about that - while the overall population density of Scotland is lower than for the UK as a whole, there are large areas of Scotland that have no population, and therefore don't require any Postal or wired services at all. Mobile coverage may be an issue in some of those areas, but population clustering may mean that Scotland isn't necessarily any worse off that the rest of the UK it comes to telephone, broadband and postal services.

        1. Annihilator
          Boffin

          Re: Realism

          "I'm not sure about that - while the overall population density of Scotland is lower than for the UK as a whole, there are large areas of Scotland that have no population, and therefore don't require any Postal or wired services at all"

          It's a fairly valid assumption, given that most other non-Royal Mail delivery companies charge additional costs for the Highlands and islands.

          But this all assumes that the Scottish government can buy back their part of the Royal Mail from the privately owned company, which I'd be surprised about.

          1. Andrew Jones 2

            Re: Realism

            Well, as that privately owned company is getting less and less money everyday due to closing post offices left and right, and palming us off with a mobile van that either doesn't turn up or can't connect to post office network if it does turn up and if it manages to turn up AND connect to post office network, it somehow manages to increase the average time taken to deliver a package by another 4 days!

            A lot of us are now having to find alternative delivery methods like parcels2go which at least comes and collects from your house, and costs less than royal mail in a lot of cases.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Realism

            "other non-Royal Mail delivery companies" probably don't have the volume that would allow them to maintain a "standard" price for all of Scotland (and they can get away with charging more for for the Highlands and Islands anyway, just because).

            I'm not saying that it isn't any more expensive to serve the Highlands and Islands - just that Scotland's lower "average population density" than rUK doesn't automatically mean that it'll be 4 times as expensive to deliver services - it's the population density of the bits that are actually populated that counts. Sweden's population density is less than 1/10th of the population density of the UK as a whole, but it doesn't cost 10 times as much to run the postal service and the phone service in Sweden as in the UK.

    3. Khaptain Silver badge

      Re: Realism

      'Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled,

      Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,

      Welcome tae yer gory bed,

      Or tae victorie.

      I think that the Scots will surpise you.

      1. Richard 81

        Re: Realism

        If faced with a rational argument, spout patriotic poetry. Got it.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Realism

          > If faced with a rational argument, spout patriotic poetry. Got it.

          To be fair, I haven't seen much rational argumentation from the status-quo camp. More like finger-waving that change is bad, however the evidence from all the new small countries that have popped up in the last 20, 50, or 96 years is that none of them have failed so far, not even third world ones, and certainly not European ones (Czech Republic, Slovakia, Slovenia, Croatia, Serbia, Montenegro, Macedonia, Kosovo, ... not even something as dysfunctional as Bosnia i Herzegovina is anywhere close to failure).

          I am curious why people tend to rely so much on predictions based on whichever set of assumptions one chooses to use (from whichever side of the argument), when there is already plenty of actual State-building experience out there (and incidentally, some world-class academic experts in the field live in Scotland).

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Realism

          That wasn't surprising at all was it

        3. keithpeter
          Windows

          Re: Realism

          "If faced with a rational argument, spout patriotic poetry. Got it."

          Don't over estimate the power of rationality and don't under estimate the appeal to emotion in these matters. This is a yes/no referendum. 13% undecided and a 4% gap on the most recent poll I can find.

          1. Cliff

            Re: Realism

            http://youtu.be/Slu1OuykMIk

            Harry and Paul

        4. John Smith 19 Gold badge
          Happy

          Re: Realism

          "If faced with a rational argument, spout patriotic poetry. Got it."

          Indeed.

          And so far the Scots are saying about 58% No, 47% Yes, so it looks like logic is ruling emotion.

          Although Alan Cumming and Sean Connery are still in favor.

          1. Phil W

            Re: Realism

            @John Smith 19

            "And so far the Scots are saying about 58% No, 47% Yes, so it looks like logic is ruling emotion."

            If the actual results come out at those percentages then a recount will be in order.

          2. Fungus Bob Silver badge
            WTF?

            Re: percentages

            "so far the Scots are saying about 58% No, 47% Yes"

            Thats 105%. Do the Scots vote like residents of Chicago - early and often?

        5. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Realism

          "Patriotic poetry" - I am surprised that the Yes campaigners haven't insisted on singing all the verses of God Save the Queen and having them prominently displayed on public buildings, because it is in its origins an anti-Scots rant, imploring General Wade to go and smite the Scots. Those verses get missed off nowadays, but even so it is hardly a tactful choice of anthem.

          Wade had far more sense. He saw that the Scots problem was poverty, so he built roads to promote trade and provide work (there's a monument to him on one of them, forget where). This puts Wade far ahead in political thinking compared to Osborne (can't have the £) or the "won't let you join the EU" mob.

          Our politicians are very small men indeed compared to some of their predecessors.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Realism

            And why every village in the Highlands has a Wade's Road.

            I agree that we need more enthusiasm for far thinking imfrastructure projects. I'd like to see tunnel and span links down the Hebrides - wouldn't cost any more than the ferry services.

            As it is though we are struggling to see electrical infrastructure, that is demonstrably required to keep the lights on, procured.

      2. Jamie Jones Silver badge

        Re: Realism

        "Combine that with other wonderful plans such as a pinning your national economic future to a currency union with the rest of the UK, which the UK government has already said they won't agree to"

        It shows that I'm not an economist, but that has always confused me.

        What's stopping an imdependent Scotland (or any other country) deciding to mirror the value of the UK pound? The only restriction I can see is potentially international copyright laws, but why then couldn't they keep parity but call it (say) the 'ellbie' or something.

        I realise I'm being stupid here, so please reply with constructive answers not flames :-)

        1. mike2R

          Re: Realism

          "What's stopping an imdependent Scotland (or any other country) deciding to mirror the value of the UK pound? The only restriction I can see is potentially international copyright laws, but why then couldn't they keep parity but call it (say) the 'ellbie' or something."

          There is nothing to stop an independent Scotland (or anywhere else) from simply using the pound without an agreement, though it is generally considered a poor choice, given that its a complete surrender of monetary control.

          As far as having a separate currency with its value pegged to the pound, imagine the following scenario: many Scots with savings worry about the peg being maintained, and therefore decide they don't want their life savings in the new currency, and so change them for sterling, dollars, gold, etc. This floods the market with the new currency, and naturally that forces the price (ie the value) down. This forces the Scottish central bank to step in to support (ie buy) the new currency with its reserves to maintain the peg. But these reserves are limited, which everyone of course knows, causing more people and businesses to try to get their money out before its too late. At some point the Scottish central bank has to stop buying, or simply run out of reserves. The currency crashes and the peg is abandoned. And this doesn't even consider speculators who anticipate this exact possibility, place their bets on it, and then work to make it come about - as George Soros forced sterling itself out of a similar arrangement (the ERM) in the nineties, making himself billions.

          Currency pegs used to be a lot more sustainable, since capital controls could physically prevent people from changing their money, but that isn't how the western world works these days. If Scotland were to launch its own currency it would pretty much have to be free floating - which seems like it would be the logical choice anyway, given how much of the SNP's rhetoric is about escaping the control of Westminster, which is surely only possible with monetary independence. I guess their analysis is that asking Scots to vote to have their savings redenominated is a non-starter, hence their absolute insistence that the UK secretly intends to offer a full currency union in the event of independence.

          1. SleepyJohn

            Re: Realism - Currency Unions

            Presumably the significance of a formal Currency Union with Britain is that it would be the Bank of England that would have to spend vast amounts of money to rescue the pound should an independent Scotland get in a financial mess? This I understand is precisely why the UK Chancellor will not offer one to an independent Scotland - the risk of failure is deemed too high.

            It was, paradoxically, precisely this risk of failure that caused the EU to offer one to all who adopted the Euro, as it gave the EU the power to dictate the terms on which it would bail out miscreants - such as taking complete political and economic control of their countries. So perhaps an independent Scotland should be pleased with the UK Chancellor's refusal as otherwise it would effectively become a vassal of the UK (as the small Euro countries are of the EU) rather than the honourable partner that it currently is.

      3. Kernel

        Re: Realism

        "Scots, wha hae wi Wallace bled,

        Scots, wham Bruce has aften led,

        Welcome tae yer gory bed,

        Or tae victorie.

        I think that the Scots will surpise you."

        Not as much as the English surprised the Scots at Culloden, which is what this little piece was written about.

    4. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Realism

      Like it or not, Scottish licence fee payers have financially contributed to the BBC, which funds the programs that are subsequently sold by BBC Worldwide. Assuming a proportionate share, then Scottish licence fee payers own around 10% of BBC Worldwide, and 10% of future revenue streams on current productions, because they paid for it.

      Negotiations can take place in which that 10% of future revenue could be exchanged for a lump sum, but for you to suggest that it's owned in it's entirety by rUK and Scotland can go whistle is essentially, theft. However, the UK does have historical form for that, just ask any one of a number of ex-colonial countries.

      1. Phil W

        Re: Realism

        "Like it or not, Scottish licence fee payers have financially contributed to the BBC"

        Yes ok, I'll give you that. But an arrangement where a portion of ongoing profits for an indefinite future period go to the SBS would equally be theft. What about in x number of years time, when any content produced during the period funded by money from the Scots is no longer sold by BBC Worldwide or broadcast at all. For BBC Worldwide to continue to fund the SBS at that point would equally be theft.

        Either as you say a lump sum should be paid, or simply the past contributions should be written off as having paid for content received at the time and/or be considered as part of the cost of independence.

        After all, although you don't need a TV licence to watch pre-recorded content on iPlayer and such, previously having paid for a TV licence doesn't have any bearing on your entitlement to watch content produced during the period that you did pay for in the future.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Realism

          "But an arrangement where a portion of ongoing profits for an indefinite future period go to the SBS would equally be theft." Which is, of course, why I didn't say it. What I did say was "10% of future revenue streams on current productions", not future production, not for an indefinite time.

          As for Scotland having to write off that money as "part of the cost of independence" sounds a bit arrogant and vindictive, Imagine investing into a pension scheme, of which you own 10%, and you'd like to withdraw your money because you don't like the future direction it's going in, but the scheme directors say - 'Sorry, you can't have it, it's all ours, go away'.

          Not likely to win many friends with that attitude.

          1. Badvok
            Mushroom

            Re: Realism

            Loving the way everyone seems to round-up the proportionate share for Scotland to 10%. If it was done on population I think it would be about 8%, but I wonder what it would be if you counted people who actually paid the license fee.

          2. Jeff Green

            Re: Realistic percentages

            10% is rather high on current estimates Scotland has around 8.3% of the UK population and that's falling as the population of South Eastern England (pronounced London) rises fast, so by the time any independence came into effect they may be looking at around 7.5% of the revenues.

            1. The First Dave

              Re: Realistic percentages

              In what way does the exact percentage alter logic and fairness?

              10% or 5%, what matters is what is right, lets leave the percentages to the accountants.

              1. Phil W

                Re: Realistic percentages

                @The First Dave

                "In what way does the exact percentage alter logic and fairness?"

                If you ever get divorced I hope your wife's lawyers read this.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Realism

        "Assuming a proportionate share, then Scottish licence fee payers own around 10% of BBC Worldwide, and 10% of future revenue streams on current productions, because they paid for it."

        That's fine just so long we can use the same model for the oil and gas in international waters off Scotland - the UK government has funded all of the exploration and development via tax allowances, so Scotland presumably owns only a proportional share based on the size of it's population or GDP contribution, etc.

        1. Fink-Nottle

          Re: Realism

          "Assuming a proportionate share, then Scottish licence fee payers own around 10% of BBC Worldwide, and 10% of future revenue streams on current productions, because they paid for it."

          Doesn't it follow that non-Scottish licence fee payers own around 90% of BBC Scotland - or am I missing something?

          1. gzunk

            Re: Realism

            @Fink-Nottle

            If the split is 90-10 (or 92-8 or whatever), then 10% of the BBC *is* BBC Scotland. BBC Worldwide is a separate commercial organization responsible for licensing and selling BBC programs abroad, which in turn should also be split 90-10 (or 92-8 or whatever).

            As ever, negotiation is everything. It may be that the buildings and infrastructure in Glasgow are less than 8% of the assets of the BBC, what with the new MediaCity complex in Manchester together with all the London assets, it may be that they're worth more - either way there will be some serious horse trading come independence.

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Realism

        An international law professor I saw present to the Scottish Affairs Committee of Parliament said that international legal conventions point to an independent Scotland being entitled to a claim to a share of the UK's assets, but no claim on its institutions. The logic is that turning your back on the UK means turning your back on UK state institutions, even the ones (like the BBC or the £) you like and feel you have paid towards.

        So it would make sense for Scotland to have a claim to a share of the BBC's assets like buildings and kit located in Scotland. Would the BBC's back catalogue of telly programmes count as an asset that could be divvied up?

        Expect many such squabbles after independence!

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Realism

          > Expect many such squabbles after independence!

          The international law professor that you listened to described the principles guiding the arrangements made during the break-up of Czechoslovakia.

          There was a fair bit of negotiating, as you would expect, but it all got sorted out quite promptly and civilly in the end. I would expect no less from Old Blighty.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Realism

            The Czechs are intelligent, forward thinking people who are used to negotiation given their position in Europe. The present British government is run by arrogant, entitled, upper class white men with one university and one school conspicuously over-represented. Why would you expect them to do as well as the Czechs?

            1. asdf Silver badge

              Re: Realism

              >The Czechs are intelligent, forward thinking people

              Yeah beautiful Bohemia but based on my frequent visits a decade or so ago avoid going to that country late in a month. The police tend to turn the screws for bribes sorry fines on the spot so they can make rent then. Some of the speed traps they set up there are only matched in dodginess in my experience by some on Indian reservations in the US.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Realism

                asdf, please don't be so annoyingly stupid.

                > The police tend to turn the screws for bribes sorry fines on the spot so they can make rent then

                You may be confusing the quite legal power of police officers to negotiate the amount of an on-the-spot fine (within certain limits) with a bribe. Even a decade ago attempting to bribe an officer would have been pretty insane: that's the quickest way to get thrown in jail. Policemen in CZ are quite, and rightly, proud of their integrity and besides it being illegal, they will take personal offence at any bribing attempts, especially from arrogant foreigners.

                > Some of the speed traps they set up [...]

                The "speed traps" are intended to remind people that speed limits are actually enforced, not merely decorative as in many other countries. This, along with zero blood alcohol limit and a general culture of polite respectfulness, makes Czech driving the most disciplined I've seen anywhere in the world. "Speed traps" are not a problem if you actually respect the speed limits (and 50 kph means 50 kph, not 55).

                1. asdf Silver badge

                  Re: Realism

                  A speed trap is suddenly without warning dropping the speed limit to half or more of what it was before. Quite a few zones like that in Eastern Europe in general.

            2. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Realism

              > The Czechs are intelligent, forward thinking people who are used to negotiation given their position in Europe.

              Well, it's almost always been rather one-sided negotiations though. :-(

            3. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: Realism

              "The present British government is run by arrogant, entitled, upper class white men with one university and one school conspicuously over-represented. Why would you expect them to do as well as the Czechs?"

              Because that one school and one university are both leagues ahead of anything that the Czechs have?

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Realism

                > Because that one school and one university are both leagues ahead of anything that the Czechs have?

                I wouldn't be so sure. If I had to choose a place for my children to be educated, it would be any public school in the Czech Republic. Their system is pretty good, apart from being consistent across the country... and free, including higher education.

                I am not in any way detracting from the two UK institutions being alluded to in the previous post, btw.

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