The Scottish First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has made calls this past week for a second referendum on Scottish independence. This comes only three years after the last referendum, something that would seem unbelievable, except for the fact that the political landscape has changed completely: last June a monumental vote was passed for the UK to withdraw from the European Union. Scotland is to be implicated in this secession, despite a voting majority of 62% within their nation preferring stay in the EU.
Sturgeon, who is also the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), put her demands for a referendum forward to UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May, asking that the vote is held between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019. Sturgeon’s intention is that this referendum is held before Brexit negotiations are concluded. But May is not so willing to indulge the Scots: she rejected Scotland’s demands, reasoning that individuals cannot vote on something that still has unclear results. She suggests that she will be more willing to hear these appeals once the new trading and immigration deal between the UK and EU has been formalized. At that point, though, any referendum could be far off, as both governments must agree and authorize a referendum, followed by another year for the Electoral Commission to decide on a question and then hold the campaign.
Even the idea of May potentially considering Scotland’s requests in the future is not necessarily comforting, as these two nations have had a long relationship with England monitoring and curtailing how much independence Scotland has. Sturgeon explained the current situation as, “the Prime Minister is intent on sinking the boat – now she’s slashing the lifeboats to make sure that Scots can’t escape the fate she has visited upon the UK.”
Although this struggle for independence has been central to Scotland as a nation, the meaning of “nationalist” between the English and Scottish could not be any more dissimilar. The English sense of the word has recently involved the rise of populists, with unapologetic overtones of xenophobia. In contrast, a Scottish nationalism is largely the desire for the English to stop dictating what the Scots do with their nation.
Through all of this, the questions still persist: should Scotland, under these new circumstances, vote to leave the UK? Would that vote even pass?
The answer to the latter is unclear; if the referendum failed before, now amidst the refugee crisis, it is likely that this vote would be even more divided. But as for the former question, the risks of leaving the UK are no smaller than they were three years ago, in fact, they might be even greater. This is for a few, mainly economic, reasons. Firstly, there is no guarantee that Scotland would be able to stay in the EU. This is because of the Barroso Doctrine, which states that if any part of an existing EU country becomes an independent state, it then has to apply for membership, a process that is likely to take years. As well, as the NATO Secretary General stated, “by leaving the UK, (Scotland) would also leave NATO.” In this case, Scotland would similarly have to reapply and wait years for a verdict. Lastly, since Scotland exports four times as much to the rest of the United Kingdom as it does to the EU, Scotland becoming independent almost certainly means that it would also find itself outside of the British single market.
Though the Scottish Parliament is set to debate the referendum proposal this week, The SNP has already refused to concede the idea of holding its own, unofficial independence vote. Prime Minister May continues to block this second referendum, with no sign of changing her stance. For those who wish to see an independent Scotland, there is work yet to be done.
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