by Ryan McMaken
The BBC reports today that Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced she’ll seek a new referendum on Scottish independence to be held in late 2018 or early 2019:
That would coincide with the expected conclusion of the UK’s Brexit negotiations. The Scottish first minister said the move was needed to protect Scottish interests in the wake of the UK voting to leave the EU. … She will ask the Scottish Parliament next Tuesday to request a Section 30 order from Westminster. …The order would be needed to allow a fresh legally-binding referendum on independence to be held.
These “Scottish interests” to which Sturgeon refers stem from the long-asserted position by Scottish politicians that a majority of Scottish voters opposed Brexit, and wish to remain part of the European Union. In response to the successful referendum to withdraw from the EU, Scotland has instead said it must somehow be allowed to be a part of both the EU and the UK:
But speaking at her official Bute House residence in Edinburgh, Ms Sturgeon said the people of Scotland must be offered a choice between a “hard Brexit” and becoming an independent country.
The Scottish government has published proposals which it says would allow Scotland to remain a member of the European single market even if the rest of the UK leaves, which Mrs May has said it will.
Sturgeon wants the option of withdrawing fro mthe UK if the final UK bote on Brexit does not sufficiently address Scottish demands.
Predictably, the two leaderships in the two largest political parties have opposed a new referendum.
UK PM Theresa May claimed that “a second independence referendum would set Scotland on course for ‘uncertainty and division’ and insisted that the majority of people in Scotland did not want another vote on the issue.”
Meanwhile, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, according to the AP, said “The 2014 Scottish independence referendum was billed as a once-in-a-generation event. …The result was decisive and there is no appetite for another referendum.”
Why Not Have Another Vote?
Regardless of how one feels about Scottish independence, it’s unclear why two politicians from England — Corbyn and May — should have any say over whether or not the Scots should vote on independence.
If the Scots don’t want another vote on independence, they need do nothing more than decline to participate, or to simply vote “No” in the next referendum.
Given the response we see from May and Corbyn, however, it appears that little has changed ideologically since the 2014 Scottish referendum when national politicians drew on old-fashioned nationalism in their opposition to independence. These opponents of independence included David Cameron, Nick Clegg, and Nigel Farage, all of whom called for “unity” in British politics in 2014. They succeeded: 55 percent of Scottish voters chose “No.”
Opposition to a second referendum is likely to draw on similar sentiments, but this time will be the added claim that “we already did that” since, according to this position, voters are only allowed to vote on matters such as secession every 20, 30, or 40 years. Anything more often than that, we are told, would produce “uncertainty and division.” By this logic, of course, the practice of parliamentary elections at least once every five years should be curtailed or abolished since voters, presumably, are confused when voting is allowed as anything more than a “once-in-a-generation event.”
The Usual Economic Fear-Mongering
At the core of the anti-secession argument is an ongoing claim that an independent Scotland would be locked out of global trade without access to European markets without membership in the EU.
As pointed out during the UK referendum on Brexit, however, membership in the EU, if anything, restricts participation in global trade more than it enhances it. Even the EU admits that “growth in global demand is coming from outside Europe, noting that 90% of global economic growth in the next 10–15 years is expected to be generated outside Europe, a third of it in China alone.”
Moreover, the importance of the EU as an export market for the EU has been declining in recent decades. 15 years ago, the EU accounted for over 50 percent of all UK exports. By 2015, the number had fallen to 44 percent, reflecting the shift toward markets outside of the EU.
So, unless the goods and services produced in Scotland are somehow specially suited to only the EU and not to the rest of the world, it is very likely that — as with the UK — the EU is shrinking in importance as a trading partner for Scotland as well.