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IT is Hogmanay 2039 and perhaps a good time to reflect on 20 tumultuous years; besides, I will be 78 in just five weeks. This last year saw the first men and women land on Mars under the auspices of the International Collaboration established in President Biden’s second term, but on the negative side the effects of climate change

got worse, and the Netherlands had to abandon some parts of the Zuider Zee polders to the rising waters. Venice is protected for now behind a permanent concrete dam.

Scotland might be a bit warmer, but it is definitely wetter. The world is cooking but we still can’t manage a decent summer! But that is not why I am writing. Just a few weeks ago we celebrated our 13th Independence Day, but all good stories start at the beginning.

Back in 2021 we were still dealing with the pandemic and the UK, with Scotland only slightly better, ended up with almost the worst outcome anywhere. Only the fact that vaccination finally reached 95% of everyone over 12 finally brought down the curtain. Not a lot seemed to be happening on the independence front until the surprise retirement of Nicola Sturgeon as First Minister changed everything. In her statement she stated that despite vaccination she had contracted Covid in the October, developed Long Covid, and it had taken such a toll on her that she thought it best to hand over to somebody younger who could take on the next stage. I can’t go crossing the timeline (think Star Trek!) by declaring names but suffice to say that the new leader established a Transition to Independence Commission and by bringing together many elements of the Yes movement there was in short order the detailed plan that had been so lacking after 2014.

Finally, the SNP leadership declared that “the currency question” was solved – we would have our own Scottish Pound managed by the Scottish Reserve Bank as soon as we could manage it after Independence Day. Thanks to the efforts of the Scottish Currency Group there was a plan, which the Scottish Government took over. We would also need somewhere in excess of 35,000 new core civil servants for all the new ministries and these would be spread around the 32 council areas in proportion to population with a 20% bonus for remote or deprived areas.

In early 2022 the Covid Inquiry provided the opportunity for Michael Gove to complete what he had started and finally replace Boris Johnson as UK Prime Minister. The rising tide of English Nationalism, so unwisely stoked by the Tories, turned out to have no place for “subsidy junkie” Scotland and thus an independence referendum took place in September 2022. With a clear plan before the voters and an obviously hostile English electorate, the result ended up being 64% for independence.

Without waiting for Independence, the new first minister increased the council tax differential such that Band H paid 10 times Band A, meaning the Duke of Buccleuch was paying £20,000 on his stately home. Band A charges were reduced by 20% so the tax finally became slightly progressive. Meanwhile, a proposed alteration to inheritance law was finally implemented requiring that any heritable property over 1000 acres had to be divided equally between all the children and not passed to the eldest son. That would be slow acting but would ensure the large estates would fragment. As a Highlander, the new first minister was well aware of rural issues so steps were also taken to restrict second homes, Airbnb, and to require the release of land for house plots and new crofts. Swift changes to the tax system saw the upper earnings limit on National Insurance abolished (which meant those on high incomes no longer paid only 2%), while all income (whether earned income, interest, dividends or capital gains) became taxed at the same rate.

Meanwhile, terms for divorce were set out, so Scotland agreed to take over the State Pension (which became the Scottish Universal Pension), but none of the so-called UK National Debt. In reality, it was really the UK National Savings when looked at from the other side of the double- entry book-keeping. Faslane was leased to the UK for a maximum of five years so they could find a new location, at a fee of £50 million per annum.

As the UK insisted on following the continuing state model under the Vienna Conventions (1978 etc), that meant they took over the assets and liabilities other than what was located in Scotland. The Scottish Government acquired new embassy premises in more than 60 countries. With Faslane and the State Pension sorted out there was little else to discuss other than technical procedures for passing citizenship records, HMRC & DVLA details and National Insurance records to the Scottish Government.

Thus, at midnight on St Andrew’s Day 2024, Elizabeth I & II (getting it right for the first time!), complete with zimmer frame, presided over what could have been the largest fireworks ever seen as independence came into effect at midnight. Alister Jack, the suddenly ex-secretary of state and MP, had to be taken home by aides as the VIP hospitality ensured he would have no memory of the final lowering of the Union flag.

Restoring a country to full independence requires both hard work and investment, and thus it proved with Scotland. Of course, we also had to take on full responsibility for addressing climate change, but that was addressed by the Green New Deal. This was a massive S£10 billion per annum project to entirely remove carbon from the economy. We actually just electrified the last stretch of railway line (to Kyle of Lochalsh) last month, while the last gas boilers for central heating are due to be replaced in 2042. Other than a few classic cars, all transport is now electric, the council-owned Lothian Transport model had gone nation-wide in 2026 resulting in vastly improved bus services, and just four years ago the free public travel schemes for under-18s and over-60s were extended to everyone.

For me, the most exciting moment was the last weekend of January 2025. Four years’ detailed preparation (it had been started before indyref2) came to fruition with the release into circulation of the Scottish Pound under the auspices of the Scottish Reserve Bank. Sterling notes and coins had almost vanished within two weeks and long before the one-to-one pegged period ended in April 2025. Over two years, £180bn of Sterling was exchanged into the S£, while S£120bn went in the other direction to settle Sterling mortgages and loans. At the end of the day, the Scottish Reserve Bank ended up with £60bn of foreign reserves (almost as much as the US$88bn of UK reserves), with £45bn of that being transferred to the Scottish Sovereign Wealth Fund (as proposed by former MP Douglas Chapman back in 2020). Back in 2020, the Project Fear “speculator’s attack” on the S£ had been much promoted by the likes of These Islands (a defunct anti-independence lobby group), but that ended up as a tiny one-pence wobble before more sensible investors started pushing up the new currency. In an over-heating and over-populated world, how could anyone fail to recognise the advantages of a cool, wet (if we have to endure climate change, I still don’t see why we can’t have at least a few weeks of proper summer each year!), and fairly sparsely populated resource-rich country.

The Ministry of Energy was established in Aberdeen back in 2022 and took over the National Grid from Scottish Power/SSE. That was enhanced with a massive investment (funded by the Scottish National Investment Bank) in sub-sea interconnectors to Germany, the Benelux countries and France. Between wave, wind and tidal power, we now provide 50% of German electricity needs. Just as well as the chaos in Russia after Putin’s death a few years ago abruptly severed the gas supply. Those who said we didn’t need oil and gas to fund independence were right as we are still the largest European domestic energy provider but on a permanent and sustainable basis.

Was it all so easy? Actually no. The 2025 referendum on re-joining the EU was 70% in favour, but this was not so easy to achieve. We had adopted the “Norway” EEA/EFTA position as of Independence Day (which solved trade issues with Europe at the expense of Northern Ireland-style issues with rUK), but four years of accession negotiations failed to reach an acceptable outcome. The Common Fisheries Policy remained, while it was joined by other issues such as 5% VAT on food, books and children’s clothes (as we had lost all the UK opt-outs). As with Norway, we opted to be in the Single Market but to stay, for the time being, outside full membership. As I write, we are in the middle of a national controversy in the run-up to the May referendum on the monarchy. It was put off for years. Finally we have to decide whether to stick with King Charles and the House of Windsor (or Schleswig-Holstein-Saxe-Coburg-Gotha-von Battenberg if you are me) or have a president. This has rather split the nation between children and grand-parents so we will have to see.

What has also been taxing the First Minister and the Parliament recently is the ongoing climate change situation in the Tropics. Huge storms and alternating droughts and floods have been fast rendering many areas uninhabitable. Two years ago, the president of Malawi appealed to Scotland for assistance. The country was visited by David Livingstone in the 19th century, evangelised by the Church of Scotland, has the largest city named after Blantyre and always retained links. They have asked if half the population could be relocated to Scotland, some 10 million people. You don’t need me to tell you that set the racist fox loose among the liberal chickens, so we are still trying to decide whether as a nation we are prepared to follow our consciences or give way to darker feelings. Meanwhile screens are filled every day with the death and suffering across much of the tropical and near-tropical lands.

It is 10 minutes to the “bells” and time to close – my favourite Kilchoman Glen Gorm is waiting after all. Does anyone regret Scottish independence? I have been told there is one person in the form of Sam Taylor, These Islands CEO, who lost his pension plan. Other than that, not that I know of. Even King Charles now spends June to September here as he says London is just unbearably hot (though the unkind say that is his own fault for refusing to have air-conditioning installed in Buck House). Statistically the answer is probably best shown by the fact we have a 10-year backlog of applications for immigration permits. The rUK border has become a problem, but for us because of the numbers seeking to move north.

Oops, old age and time goes faster and faster! There is the first “bong” so Slàinte Mhath! And welcome to 2040. To Scotland! And our future in a very uncertain world.