SNP divisions on Brexit make independence less likely

It feels as though from the minute that Scotland voted No to independence in 2014 the SNP have been seeking “IndyRef2”.

The independence debate in Scotland isn’t just whether you want to be part of the UK anymore, it is whether Scotland will re-join the EU if they become independent.

Although revoking article 50 was a part of SNP’s 2019 General election manifesto, their party isn’t united on the Brexit front. In fact over a third of SNP voters voted for Brexit. I suppose they are staying true to the party’s isolationism.

The reason I’m mentioning this is it now makes the independence debate more difficult for those on the Yes side due to the fact that some want Scotland to re-join the EU if they became independent and some would rather Scotland become separated from both the UK and the EU.

Whether Scotland would be allowed to re-join the EU is a debatable issue in itself and even if Scotland were to re-join, it wouldn’t be the same relationship as the UK had with the EU prior to Brexit.

The SNP will cause controversy either way they choose to go but are most likely going to re-join the EU(if they can), as over half of their party voted to remain.

Even if they decide to go with the majority, they would still be going against the wishes of over a third of their support.

The problem is the SNP cannot afford to lose a third of the independence support and even if some were willing to compromise it would still be a big hit for the cause. The SNP may look back at 2014 as the last real chance they had at independence as Brexit division in the party will make it even less likely.

* Ryan Hollinsworth is a member of the Scottish Liberal Democrats

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  • Why are we so against Scottish independence? Perhaps we should go the way the wind is blowing. Is it such a bad thing? After all our present stance does not appear to be getting us anywhere does it. 2005, second place in Scotland, what was it 12 MPs and a number of close second places, then ripe for the plucking. Where are we now?

  • @Theakes, we are against it for the same reasons we are against a variety of policies that don’t meet with our values. Scexit would make the people of Scotland poorer, and would weaken the UK as a whole.

    I’m not sure of the latest polling on capital punishment, but for a long time it was popular with the general public, but we didn’t once think that we should change our policy to reflect that.

    The figures from the “White Paper” (manifesto) for the 2014 referendum have been proven to be all wrong, and arguably a pack of lies. We’d have been out of Europe as an automatic consequence of leaving the UK, and who even knows what currency we’ve be using? Would we keep on using Sterling in the same way that some countries use the dollar? Another option would be our own currency, especially if we did hope to apply for EU membership, but that’s not easy, and it’s not cheap. It was recently mooted that an independent Scotland could use private savings as national reserves to support a new currency. Does anyone think that’s acceptable?

    I have considerable environmental concerns for an independent Scotland. The White Paper showed an independent Scotland’s economy to be heavily reliant on income from tax on oil revenue, so how we’d be in the situation where we’d have to choose between the environment and hospitals. As it is, the oil price has dropped to a level at which that choice is now removed.

    Scotland is already operating at a substantial deficit, and in order to bring it down to a sustainable level would require substantial cuts to public spending, even with considerable tax increases. The Scottish Government have already made a mess of using their additional tax raising powers, not raising as much as they thought they would. But consider the scale of tax rises required to maintain public services at a level close to how they are now, and then do the calculation again once you’ve factored in all of the high earners who would relocate to England.

  • Will McLean 12th Jul '20 - 2:51pm

    I’m not sure what you’re saying really rings true. What are you basing your figures on that a third of the SNP support voted leave? To say the SNP are going to be having a huge internal feud about the EU membership issue is a bit fanciful, sure there maybe voices opposed to it, the but the party line is very much in support of it and that’s what matters.

    I’d say on independence as a party we should become a little more agnostic on the issue and should support another referendum with a second question on federalisation as I’ve previously mentioned in a blog post. A party trying to seek compromise on this very polarised issue may have some success. What’s the point in shouting Pro UK Pro EU, it hasn’t done much for us since 2016. I agree with theakes, the winds changed direction. Why fight against the inevitable referendum? The SNP aren’t going to suddenly give up. We’re polling in Scotland at 6%, which let’s not forget is lamentable. We need a different approach.

  • Andrew Melmoth 12th Jul '20 - 3:26pm

    I expect the SNP policy will be to join EFTA/EEA in the short – term to medium term with re-joining the EU more of an aspiration for the future than policy. This would avoid splitting the pro independence coalition and neatly sidesteps all the difficulties you raise.

  • Robin Bennett 12th Jul '20 - 3:48pm

    In 2011 we went from 17 seats at Holyrood to 5 and have been stuck there since. The latest poll predicts no change. Being against even a referendum will not help us improve. That apart, let’s leave speculation on independence within the EU till we see what, if any, trade deal comes out of current UK/EU talks

  • I think I’ll listen to what Scottish Liberal Democrats are saying about independence which is that they do not want it.

    That said, I think there are a fair number of Scottish liberals who are behind independence and the SNP.

    I think it would be a mistake and merely add to the current political and economic turmoil.

  • An independent Scotland gets the choice of rejoining the EU or not.
    As part of the UK it doesn’t.
    And rejoining the EU would be a separate issue, not a job lot with independence.
    This knee jerk Unionism isn’t helping us.

  • Alan Jelfs: “An independent Scotland gets the choice of rejoining the EU or not. As part of the UK it doesn’t.”
    I don’t think it’s that simple at all Alan. There would be big problems for an independent Scotland’s application to join (not rejoin). Not least the likely veto of some of the member countries like Spain, and also the fact the Ind-Scottish economy will be a mess so they may not want us, or they’d impose tough conditions.
    Plus, there are other reasons why the Scottish LibDems are against independence – eloquently described above by Fiona.
    To those who are saying we should change policy for tactical reasons. Well, I baulk at that because for me this is a strong issue of principle. But OK, let’s think tactically for a moment: Why do you think pro-indy voters would suddenly start voting for us when they have the SNP and the Greens? On the flip side, we’d definitely lose some of our own voters – and members (including this one).
    Plus, think about it this way: Since the coalition, our ‘big picture’ brand problem is that people think we don’t stand for anything, that we have no principles, and will abandon policies as it suits us. Our big strategic objective as a party must surely be to overcome that image. In that context, would a sudden U-turn on the one big clear Scottish policy we’ve been pushing strongly for years really be such a good idea?
    Back to the EU: I believe that, if we can stay together, there will be a time when the UK wants to rejoin, and that the EU will be sympathetic to that. This may be a long time in the future or it may come sooner than we think, but I believe as a party we should be working towards that end, not splitting the UK up and each bit trying to join piecemeal.
    Brexit is already a tragedy for us all but splitting the UK into bits would just make it worse.

  • Peter Martin 13th Jul '20 - 8:11am

    The assumption always was that Brexit would be more likely to lead to the Scots breaking away from the UK. Scotland was being taken out of the EU against its will and all that. As the OP goes some way to explain, it could be just the opposite. A separate Scotland and rUK, both within the EU, would be logistically much easier than what will need to happen now we’ve left the EU.

    The Scots will have to have a period of genuine independence from both the EU and UK. It will likely be a condition of membership that they show a capability of running a supposedly “responsible” fiscal policy which they can only do if they have their own currency. Spain won’t want any dangerous precedents set which could encourage the Catalans and Basques. So, even though most of the EU would like to be able to bend the rules for Scotland, it is unlikely to happen.

    In other words it won’t just be swapping London and the pound for Brussels and the euro. There will be an extremely difficult transition process which will put off many Scots. Many lukewarm supporters of Independence, and also those who would like a genuine independence, won’t want the destination anyway.

  • marcstevens 13th Jul '20 - 2:18pm

    I don’t get the tenet of this article. Scotland should have another opportunity to decide its future as over 60% to remain in the referendum. The fact that a third of SNP voted to leave is neither here nor there. They were told, yes told, by Cameron that they could stay in the UK and the EU but that never happened did it as this government rushes to get us out as soon as possible with all the chaos it will cause. I’ve just been hearing on the radio that travel insurance to the EU will shoot up, the EHIC card will no longer be valid, roaming will not always apply and will be virtually impossible to travel with pets let alone all the other stuff about visas. So an independent Scotland in the EU can only be a good thing for the Scottish people. Most people I know who live there will vote to leave the UK but stay in the EU. I can see a great future for Scotland and its economy when that happens.

  • David Allen 13th Jul '20 - 8:03pm

    As an Englishman, I am strongly opposed to Scottish independence. Nicola Sturgeon is the UK’s best leader by a street. The SNP have shown that centre-left government can win and retain popularity. The Scottish government have shown rational caution and leadership on coronavirus. We can’t afford to let these guys get away, and leave us stuck in the mire with Bumbling Boris!

  • Charles Smith 13th Jul '20 - 9:30pm

    Although the situation is already in a terrible state, fears have been raised that it could get worse due to Brexit.
    Alois Gerig, chairman of the Committee on Food and Agriculture in the Bundestag, said due to a large part of the fishing grounds in the North Sea are in British waters, the situation will only get worse.
    The UK officially left the EU back in January and negotiations are currently ongoing with a deadline thought to be set for October, two months before the transition period ends on December 31.
    One of the main disputes in the negotiations is fishing as the EU wants to maintain its rights to Britain’s fishing waters.
    Under the controversial Commons Fisheries Policy (CFP), all member states are given access to EU waters via quotas.
    As the UK has a large coastal area, critics have often argued the system is unfair.

  • @ David Allen The logic of your comment, David, is that you’re compelling those of us living north of the Border to be stuck with your Bumbling Boris even though we don’t want him. That’s hardly kind or democratic is it ?

    We didn’t vote for him – it was the southern English wot did it – and his front man here, Jackson Carlaw & his chums have gone 8 points down in the latest poll.

  • Peter Martin 14th Jul '20 - 10:44am

    “As the UK has a large coastal area, critics have often argued the system is unfair.”

    It’s also unfair that the European countries have much warmer climates and can grow lots of produce that would require expensive heating and Greenhouses in the UK. No doubt the Israelis think its unfair that other countries in the region have the oil and they don’t!

    Canada has better fisheries than the USA. Yes they’ll be disputes on fishing and oil rights in Canadian waters but they are resolved in the same way as they’ll be resolved between the EU and the UK.

    The “life isn’t fair argument” won’t be a factor though. Most of us learn at a very early age that it isn’t!

  • I quite understand why independence appeals to many Scots – the long independent history and the tendency of the UK to elect governments supported by few Scots and antagonistic to values strong in Scotland. The UK’s outdated and unfair voting system greatly contributes to this.

    I don’t think many English Liberals understand how clientistic and centralising the SNP is: for example, the merging of separate, pretty effective Scottish police authorities into one (not very effective) so the SNP government could control all policing.

    A strong argument against independence is very similar to one against Brexit. If you’re a relatively small unit next door to a much larger unit with a whole lot of links – trade, transport networks, security and envoronmental issues crossing boundaries – it’s better to be in the larger unit influencing its decisions, than outside, affected by what it does but with no power to affect it.

    Nationalists of all sorts talk about freedom and mean independence – freedom for a nation-state. Liberals talk about freedom and mean freedom. They should ask themselves, “Will independence make people in this country more or less free and empowered?”.

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