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Scotland – does independence loom?

Written By: - Date published: 9:56 am, December 6th, 2019 - 14 comments
Categories: boris johnson, Brexit, Jeremy Corbyn, Nicola Sturgeon, uk politics - Tags: , , , , , , ,

Scotland matters in the 2019 UK general election. Yet much of the electorate have little understanding of the place, it’s politics or what could happen after the December 12 election. Scotland could well decide the outcome of the 2019 UK Election. It did in 2017.

At the last election fierce electoral competition between Labour and the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) split the vote and allowed 13 Conservative MPs to win Scottish Constituencies. In the 2015 election the Tories only won 1 constituency in Scotland.  Without these 13 Scottish Tories, Theresa May would not have been able to form government in 2017.

After Boris was elected leader of the Conservative Party in July 2019, Scottish Conservative Leader Ruth Davidson announced she was standing down from parliament. It was clear that Ruth, and many others in the Scottish Conservatives did not like the direction Boris Johnson would take the Party and the country. Many now believe the Tories will face political annihilation in Scotland on December 12th. If this comes to pass, the Conservatives will need to win 13 other new constituencies to the south just to maintain their current numbers, and many more than that to get the majority the Conservatives seek in this election.

So what is at play in Scotland?

In 2014 a referendum was held in Scotland, asking the Scots if they wanted to become an independent state rather that stay part of the United Kingdom. Scotland voted to stay in the UK with 55% voting No to independence and 44% voting Yes. Case closed, Scotland voted to stay. So thats it right?

Nope.

June 2016, the UK holds a referendum on membership of the European Union. We all know how that referendum result went, 52% voted to leave and 48 voted to remain. Not so in Scotland. In June 2016 62% of Scots voted to remain in the EU, compared with 38% who voted for Brexit.

In the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, membership of the EU was a significant factor in many Scots voting to stay in the UK. Early on in 2014 then President of the European Union Manuel Barroso said with would be “extremely difficult, if not impossible” for an independent Scotland to get the necessary approval from the member states for it to join the European Union (EU).

After the 2016 Brexit result, the SNP wasted no time pointing out that when Scots voted to stay in the UK in 2014, they did so thinking they would be remain a member of the EU. Now that the UK has voted to leave, the SNP claim a second referendum on Scottish independence is now needed.

Since 2007 the SNP have been in government in Scotland. During this period the SNP have actively pushed the independence agenda. While 2014 referendum result was a set back for them, overall the SNP has performed well electorally and built support for Scottish independence.

Image result for scottish independence
Pro Scottish independence rally 2014

For all that Boris Johnson, and many others in the Westminster establishment may whinge that Scotland has already had a referendum, the objective fact is that things have changed since 2014. Scotland wanted to remain in the EU, and now is being taken out against its will. Since the Brexit referendum the European Union has now indicated that they would now be much more open to an independent Scotland joining the EU. So in 2014 if you were Scottish and wanted to stay in the EU, your best bet was to vote No to Scottish independence. In 2019, Scottish independence now offers Scots a way to stay in the EU if the rest of Britain leaves.

Orangemen march through the streets of Edinburgh during a
The Orange Lodge (usually associated with Northern Ireland Protestants) March against Scottish independence in Edinburgh in 2014

Labour initially opposed another referendum, but has more recently softened their position saying they would respect a vote of Scots to leave the UK. In turn SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon has said her party would back a Labour Government if they agreed to a second referendum. Nicola would like an independence referendum within a year of forming government. Whereas Jeremy Corbyn has indicated he’d like such a referendum, if it were to happen at all, to occur after the next Scottish Parliament elections in 2021.

The Conservatives in the 2019 election have been saying that electing a Labour government would put at risk the Union of Great Britain.

First point: there is no guarantee a second Scottish referendum would result in Scotland voting to leave the UK.

Second point: if the Conservatives win the coming election, the SNP who are in government in Scotland, could still call an independence referendum. In October 2017 the Catalonia state government in Spain called a referendum on Catalonian independence, and 90% of those that voted supported independence. The Spanish government didn’t recognise the referendum and civil unrest and political instability ensued. The SNP have already indicated they would consider holding a similar referendum, even if not recognised by Westminster after Britain leaves the EU.

Forcing Scots to stay part of the UK against their will would do nothing to “defend the precious union” as Boris Johnson waxes lyrical about on the campaign trail. Many in the UK may not want Scottish independence to happen. But it needs to be accepted that the situation has changed significantly since 2014. If people in Scotland don’t want to be part of Brexit Britain, then this needs to be democratically tested and the result respected.

Whatever happens in next weeks general election – the issue of Scottish independence is not going to go away.

14 comments on “Scotland – does independence loom? ”

  1. mickysavage 1

    Does independence loom? One can only hope so!

    • bwaghorn 1.1

      Would they need to have customs police the boarder with England, if Scotland was an independent EU member and England wasn't?

      • Peter chch 1.1.1

        Scotland would not remain as an 'independent EU member', as Scotland is not currently an EU member. Great Britain is.

        Donald Tusker, until recently EU Council President, has already stated that.

        • wayne 1.1.1.1

          A newly independent Scotland would need to apply for membership. It is pretty certain the EU would require scotland to adopt the euro. If the UK (England, Wales and Northern Ireland) was not in the EU, then some sort of border would be inevitable.

          If the UK is not in the EU, it makes no sense for Scotland to join the EU. The great majority of their trade and other exchange is with England. Joining the EU in such circumstances would make Scotland poorer.

          • McFlock 1.1.1.1.1

            If the UK leaves the EU, England won't be buying so much from Scotland. And the Scots will know who is responsible for that.

            As for borders… not so complicated as Northern Ireland.

    • Peter chch 1.2

      Well I guess if I was English, I would hope so too, as Scotland has been shown in numerous economic studies to be a drain on GB finances.

      What possible advantage would Scotland gain from independence? It would not 'remain' in the EU, but have to undergo a very prolonged and expensive application process to obtain EU membership anew.

      But I guess one week from now we will know the true wishes of the Scots people, rather than Sturgeons opinion.

  2. Gosman 2

    "If people in Scotland don’t want to be part of Brexit Britain, then this needs to be democratically tested and the result respected."

    Why, or more exactly why anytime in the near future? The EU won't want to support a nation splitting up even if they are no longer a member. There are too many potential fault lines in Europe that would open up.

  3. alwyn 3

    There are a couple of major problems with your idea.

    If Scotland did decide to become independent after Britain left the EU they would have no automatic right to return. It would be quite likely that Spain would veto the idea of them becoming a member rather than encouraging the independence movement in Catalonia. Scotland could be left with being neither part of the United Kingdom not the EU.

    Scotland currently gets a great deal more money from the rest of Great Britain than they collect in taxes. Their deficit is currently around 8% of their GDP, which is more than 3 times the percentage for Britain as a whole. I doubt the English would keep paying that out. It is also much more than EU countries are allowed to have as a continuing deficit.

    https://fullfact.org/economy/scotland-economy/

    Scotland would, if they were to be allowed to join the EU, be forced to adopt the Euro.

    There are a number of large banks that have their Head Offices in Scotland. They are guaranteed by the Bank of England. I think it would be a certainty that the BOE would refuse to continue that policy and the banks would have to move south of the border.

    There would be an enormous fight over who owed the National Debt of Great Britain after a split. Scotland might get away with refusing to take any responsibility. However England could refuse to take any responsibility for the clean-up of the North Sea oil fields, which are rapidly running down. After all the large majority of the fields are in waters that Scotland would become responsible for. Fine while they are producing but there isn't much oil left.

  4. Bill 4

    Nice to see acknowledgement of the role "Idiot Dugdale" played in the UK having a Tory government.

    Okay. I'm less than impressed with Sturgeons politicking at the moment. The SNP has written in its policy (always has had) that they will seek independence if they form a majority government. At the moment they are not a majority government. After the next Holyrood elections they may be. And that seems to be a part of Corbyn's reasoning.

    He's said he wouldn't stand in the way of a referendum and also that he would argue against independence. Fair enough.

    Staying in the EU as an independent nation is…problematic. I'm not sure people have thought it through. Domestic economic policy determined by the liberal (austerity) ideology of the European Central Bank? That ends well…how?

    Alternatively, there's a federated UK espousing social democratic priorities… (That's also probably a part of Corbyn's thinking).

    If the SNP really are social democratic (they've done much that would appear to be social democratic – ie, free university, free aged care, protection of the NHS as a public body in Scotland etc)…then they have to explain how they square the circle of arguing to be locked into a liberal framework through remaining in Europe if the rest of the UK has departed…even though the departed UK may have ditched the liberal policy framework.

    Then there's the protestant/catholic divide that plays havoc with Scottish politics. But no-one seems keen to go there. 🙂

    Finally, I also wonder how many people voted tactically to remain in 2016 because it would offer leverage on the independence front?

  5. Ad 5

    It may take a decade, but the Conservatives in particular Cameron and Johnson will be seen as the ones who diminished the UK into a shrunken and declining country with a totally shattered society.

  6. swordfish 6

    Many now believe the Tories will face political annihilation in Scotland on December 12th.

    Latest YouGov Scotland poll (just released a few hours ago):

    (+ / – compared GE2017)

    SNP: 44% (+7.1)

    CON: 28% (-0.6)

    LAB: 15% (-12.1)

    LD 12% (+4.2)

    GRN: 1% (+0.8)

    BREX: 0%

    So Tory support holding up relatively well in Scotland … but – along with Labour – they are indeed likely to lose a few seats given the increasing dominance of the SNP on the Left (hence a diminished split vote). Doubt that the Cons face complete political annihilation, though. Scottish Labour's the more likely candidate for that paticular fate, I'm sorry to say.

    Seat Projection from this YouGov is:

    SNP: 46 seats

    Tory: 8 seats

    LD: 4 seats

    Lab: 1 seat

    (although the Electoral Calculus model suggests SNP 44 seats / Tory 9 / LD 4 / Lab 2)

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