Two years ago, Scotland spent months debating the merits of independence. In September 2014, they voted overwhelmingly to remain in the United Kingdom – by a margin of over 10% and 500,000 votes. One would not believe that such a debate had taken place with today’s rhetoric.
The clamour to remain in the European Union at all costs in other high Remain areas of the United Kingdom have been much more muted. Gibraltar, with a Remain vote of 94%, has committed to staying within the United Kingdom – their Chief Minister told a UN gathering: ‘There is absolutely no chance that Gibraltar is going to be bartering its British sovereignty, in exchange for…any one of the…advantages we enjoy as members of the European Union’. Northern Ireland’s First Minister has been equally assertive, committing Northern Ireland to ‘looking towards the opportunities of Brexit’. Nor has there been any notable independence movement emerge in London.
So what has changed in Scotland since 2014? Not a lot it would seem since Alex Salmond called upon ‘all Scots to follow suit in accepting the democratic verdict of the people of Scotland’ – alas it would seem his successor as First Minister did not hear that particular speech.
EU membership was a key topic of the Independence Referendum. Scottish voters were convinced that a vote to Leave the United Kingdom would bring with it the loss of EU membership – that still holds true. If Scotland were to go independent, so the rhetoric goes, they would be able to remain in the European Union as a continuing state. While Nicola Sturgeon would have us believe this, the credibility of the claim is unfounded. Unfortunately for Scotland, EU member states have vetoes on new members – some SNP supporters have claimed no state would block their accession, but unfortunately they would.
As Angus Robertson, SNP leader in the UK Parliament, said on the 14th October 2016, ‘Remain means Remain’.
Spain would veto because of Catalonia’s separatist ambitions; if they didn’t then Belgium would because of Flanders’; if they didn’t then Germany would because of Bavaria’s; if they didn’t then Italy would because of their various separatists; one could go on – the shortest way to say this is: someone would veto Scotland’s accession to the EU.
When the referendum on Scottish membership of the United Kingdom was won, a clear mandate was given that Scotland was to remain a part of the United Kingdom, come what may. Not a part of the United Kingdom where it wanted to be, but a part of the UK with the good and the bad. As Angus Robertson, SNP leader in the UK Parliament, said on the 14th October 2016, ‘Remain means Remain’.
The SNP would argue that they have a mandate for ‘IndyRef II: The IndyRef Strikes Back’ because their 2016 Scottish Parliamentary election victory was based on a manifesto including a commitment to hold another referendum if there was either a) evidence that independence was the preferred option of the Scottish people, or b) a significant and material change in circumstances. With Scottish independence polling at just 43.2% in an average of polls taken since the 23rd June – 1.5% lower than the Yes vote in 2014 and still trailing those opposed to it – one cannot see any logic in the former justification for reopening the debate. Likewise, as the United Kingdom has not yet left the European Union, there is no current justification for the latter case – we do not yet even know what Brexit will look like, and thus no significant and material change can possibly have occurred.
There is no case for Scotland to go independent, simply because of the EU referendum producing a result to Leave. Without clear evidence that the Scottish people desire independence, and without clear evidence that Brexit will harm Scotland (let us not forget that 1 million Scottish people voted to Leave the European Union), it is simply premature for the SNP to propose a second referendum now – it looks a lot more like political opportunism, then responding to the will of the people.
The case for Scotland to remain in the United Kingdom is strong. We share a common language, a common history and a common island – we even have the same complaints about the weather. Scotland in the United Kingdom gets far more autonomy and far more powers than nearly any other non-independent entity in the world, without any of the costs. They get to elect representatives to their own parliament, to make their own laws; while sending representatives to Westminster to influence national laws (even in areas where Scotland would not be affected). Better still, for every 1 MP an English voter has, a Scottish voter gets 1.05.
Our nations are far more prosperous together. 64% of Scotland’s exports go to rUK, which would be heavily hit by independence. Of course, economics should not be the main reason for Scotland to stay in the UK – that reason is that there are no benefits to leaving.
We share a common language, a common history and a common island - we even have the same complaints about the weather.
Claims that Scotland must throw off Westminster for Brussels seem absurd. Claims that they should have open borders with the European Union, even if that necessitates a border between themselves and rUK, equally so. Of course, both of those conditions are based on the vaguest of assertions that Scotland would negotiate their way around the countries worried about separatism and those worried about another net beneficiary from the EU budget signing up to join the European Union.
More than the negative reasons why Scotland shouldn’t stay, are the positive reasons they should stay. Scotland and rUK have more in common than that which divides us. Weather, football, queuing – we despair over the same things. Putting aside division and working together to create a global, outward-looking Britain is what is needed. Nicola Sturgeon’s opportunistic attempts to divide us should not succeed – Scotland, we are, by far, Better Together.
Matthew Cowley is a second-year student at the University of Southampton, where he studies Politics & Economics, and is the President of the Conservative Association.