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Page last updated at 14:46 GMT, Friday, 26 June 2009 15:46 UK
Will the Scots ever be happy?

Student with new tartan design
Scotland's devolved parliament commissioned a new tartan to mark the turning point in its history with the union

Ten years on from devolution, with the Scottish Nationalists in power at Holyrood pushing for a referendum on full independence, Panorama asks, can the UK be kept in one piece?

In Will the Scots ever be happy?, BBC Scotland's political editor, Brian Taylor, revisits the economics and the politics of devolution and speaks to a handful of key people who could hold Scotland's fate in their hands.

On one side are the SNP, keen to end the 300-year-old union with England and go it alone.

Whereas those determined to keep Scotland within the UK point to the recent recommendations of the Calman Commission. Most notably, it suggested a dramatic increases in taxation powers along with the chance to set their own agenda on everything from drink-driving to speed limits and the running of Scottish elections.

Scottish or British?

In an attempt to assess the mood for independence among Scots, Brian heads to Stirling to ask people if they feel more Scottish or British.

The resounding answer is that the Scots consider themselves to be firmly Scottish first and British second.

Politics professor John Curtice, of Glasgow's University of Strathclyde, tells Brian that the Scots have always had a strong sense of national identity, making it the obvious spark for constitutional change.

We're not free to decide what wars we will or will not fight. That is the most helpless, pathetic situation for a modern country to be in
Winnie Ewing, Scottish nationalist

"If any part of the UK was going to break away, it would be Scotland," Mr Curtice told Panorama.

Former prime minister Tony Blair was the man who addressed Scottish nationalism head-on, introducing devolution. He tells Brian that the longstanding desire for more control over their own affairs was not going away and needed to be dealt with constitutionally.

March to independence

Mr Blair remains confident that devolution will content the Scots, but others disagree.

Winnie Ewing
Winnie Ewing opened the first sitting of the new Scottish parliament in 1999

Panorama hears from stalwart Scottish nationalist Winnie Ewing, who says the job is not done and devolution was the first step towards full independence.

"We're not free. We're not free to decide what to do with our own wealth, we're not free to decide the policies, we're not free to decide what wars we will or will not fight. That is the most helpless, pathetic situation for a modern country to be in."

First Minister Alex Salmond makes no apologies in his relentless march towards convincing Scots that full independence is the answer.

Conservative Leader David Cameron - a potential future prime minister - says he sees it as the UK leader's responsibility to listen to the Scots' concerns, but to keep the union together and to ensure that certain areas, including defence, remain within the control of Westminster.

London's two pence

The programme also hears from a politician who represents more English people than the entire Scottish parliament does Scots - London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Gordon Brown, Alex Salmond, David Cameron
The key likely players in Scottish devolution gave Panorama their takes

"I do think it is pretty monstrous that you have free care for the elderly in Scotland and no tuition fees, no top up fees, when you still get considerable subsidies from the rest of the UK and in particular from England, and in particular from London."

Mr Johnson says he believes that Scottish parliamentarians need to use their taxation powers to raise the money required to pay for these services on their own - especially given that they are not currently offered in England.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown tells Brian Taylor that Scotland's budget - determined by the treasury - is a very fair deal that has benefitted Scots since devolution.

"I do think that most people understand that the main argument that nationalism has tried to put forward over recent years - the economics of independence, that it would be a better financial deal for Scotland - has been proven pretty hollow."

Mr Brown also asks whether an independent Scotland would have been in a position to save its two biggest banks in the recent financial crisis, or if it was the UK's combined clout that enabled such a high level of public spending relief.

Whose oil?

Panorama looks at the value of the North Sea oil and asks an expert if an independent Scotland's share of revenues would put it in a better position - a position to rival that of Norway, another small, North Sea nation that has benefitted enormously from its off-shore oil.

North Sea oil rig
The Scots believe their future lies in the riches of North Sea oil

Oil aside, Panorama also looks at Scots' attitudes towards defence and foreign affairs and finds that most are comfortable to remain firmly within the union on those counts.

These are trickier issues for independence-minded Scottish politicians, especially when membership in the union brings the clout of a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

As Tony Blair tells Brian, the geo-political and economic superpowers are changing - a situation that will not become any less complex in the coming decades and the need for a united, strong voice from the UK will be greater than ever.

Panorama archive: 'Scotland's oil?'

Panorama: Will the Scots ever be happy?, BBC One, Monday, 29 June at 8.30pm.

Archive: Scotland's defiant stance
Friday, 26 June 2009, 13:58 GMT |  Panorama



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