BLACK GOLD: THE KEY TO SCOTTISH INDEPENDENCE?

North Sea Oil Rigs

By James Kim
Contributing Writer

It is no surprise that gaining independence from the United Kingdom is no easy task. The United States had ten years of anarchy before ratifying the Constitution; India suffered a violent partition that divided her into two (eventually three) separate nations; and several newly formed countries of the developing world underwent and continue to endure civil wars and unstable governments. A referendum for Scottish independence has been scheduled for a vote later this year. Even though Scotland is a well-developed region with the highest per capita income in the whole of the U.K., that fact will not give her an exception from the difficulties of self-determination if the referendum passes in September.

However, there is a commonly held view among supporters of the independence movement and the Scottish National Party that petroleum would ease the troubles in the early days of home rule. Aberdeenshire, where most of the Scottish oil industry is headquartered, serves as a major SNP voting bloc and even forms the constituency for First Minister Alex Salmond, the main proponent for independence. Scotland’s petroleum reserves are located in the North Sea, which it shares with Norway. The Norwegian success with its lucrative resource has become a rallying cry for the independence movement, as unlike their prosperous Scandinavian neighbor, the Scots have no control over the tax revenues of the North Sea petroleum industry. London instead has the final say in wealth redistribution, leaving the Scots with only a fraction of their rewards. Relationship with the Westminster Parliament is becoming more contentious due to the domination of the Conservative Party, a political group long mistrusted by the majority of Scots. The Tories’ move to privatize the British postal service and even the NHS has frightened the socialist leaning Scots, who fear that their taxes would only be used against them. Thus, the rise of the independence movement is a response to the urgency of making sure that Scottish resources stay with the Scots.

Yet, oil cannot be viewed as a panacea to Scotland’s economic woes. OPEC recently released a statement that the discovery rate of new wells in the North Sea is at its lowest in three decades, initiating fears that production may have already reached peak capacity. To make matters worse, the Westminster Parliament stated that it would veto Scotland’s retention of the pound, a significant blow to the region’s financial security since oil is traded in American dollars. Losing a currency that has more value than the American greenback will create more obstacles than solutions for an independent Scotland.

Having a natural resource that everyone needs does not necessarily make a nation independent. While it does lead to a spirit of nationalism due its huge role in the local economy, oil also carries the risk of attracting foreign powers that want to possess all of its rewards. England knows that it will lose its tax benefits if Scotland gains full control over its own resources; a potential loss of billions of pounds forces Westminster to urge both the Conservatives and Labourers to hinder the SNP’s attempts at separation. However, Scotland also realizes that remaining in the union would prove to be a zero-sum game, as the price of the union means gambling with a hostile right-wing political party that has a sour history with the Scottish people. Despite the importance of black gold, it alone cannot break the stalemate between a compromised union and an uncertain independence.

Images by Berardo62

A SUMMER IN SWITZERLAND

By Natasha Azevedo
Contributing Writer

This is the first article in our 2014 Week of Photo Journals: Changing Perspectives. Check back each day this week to see more beautiful photography and travel accounts from UC San Diego students.

A Sunny Day on Lac Léman

A Sunny Day on Lac Léman

The Swiss Alps frame Lac Léman (commonly known as Lake Geneva) on a bright July afternoon. Trains in the southwest of Switzerland run along the lake, making stops at small lakeside cities such as Montreux in the Canton of Vaud. Known for its charming jazz festivals and scenic walkways, dozens of docks line the French-speaking city, serving as ports for local fishermen and sailors. I captured this photo on a three-hour walk along the lake with friends from Moldova and Ukraine.

Sunrise at Rochers de Naye

Sunrise at Rochers de Naye

During a summer internship in Switzerland, I hiked a well-known mountain called Rochers de Naye in the Swiss Alps. While tourists normally ride a train to the top of the mountain, my fellow interns and I decided instead to hike for six hours to reach the top before sunrise. With an overly-eager Romanian friend leading us and a single iPhone flashlight to light the way, my four friends from Egypt, Germany, China, and Thailand joined me as we hiked through forests and rocky cliffs in the pitch black. After a few bloody knees and breaks to watch the stars, I captured this photograph at the summit just in time for the sunrise.

Fribourg, Switzerland

Fribourg, Switzerland

After taking a train to Switzerland’s capital I decided to make a pit stop at a small city called Fribourg. This quiet city has dozens of picturesque scenes such as the one captured here. Houses are built into the mountains and charming wooden roofs sit atop shops lining the Sarine river. The city is small enough to walk through on foot and provided a nice contrast to the bustling streets of Bern as the town seemed less privy to tourists. Rather, it exuded authenticity and quietness; a hidden gem along Switzerland’s borders.

Caux Palace at Sunset

Caux Palace at Sunset

This photograph captures the Caux Palace, often referred to as the ‘Mountain House.’ It is situated near the top of the Alps overlooking Lake Geneva and is said to have inspired the castle in Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” Every summer it hosts a conference for Caux: Initiatives of Change where global leaders, diplomats, NGO coordinators, and international economists gather to discuss global conflict and cooperation. A subsidiary of the United Nations, the European Union-affiliated organization hosts a seasonal internship where 36 interns from across the world participate in global leadership programs. I had an opportunity to live and work as the youngest intern and only American at the Mountain House for the summer and spent evenings trying to capture the beautiful sunsets near the castle.

Big Ben at 6:18

Big Ben at 6:18

This image captures one of London’s most iconic landmarks. During one summer in the UK, I captured the clock tower surrounding Big Ben in Westminster. I took this photograph from a boat on the Thames at dusk. The clock tower is one of England’s largest tourist destinations.

Bern at Bird’s Eye

Bern at Bird’s Eye

After climbing 300 steps up a small tower in Bern’s largest cathedral, I was able to capture Switzerland’s capital in a new light. A UNESCO World Heritage site, the city was once the workplace of Albert Einstein and is the home of the attractive yet controversial “Bear Parks.” Bern is a primarily German-speaking city and has been ranked as one of the world’s top cities for a positive quality of life.

All images by Natasha Azevedo, Prospect Contributing Writer