FREE NEWSLETTER: Econintersect sends a nightly newsletter highlighting news events of the day, and providing a summary of new articles posted on the website. Econintersect will not sell or pass your email address to others per our privacy policy. You can cancel this subscription at any time by selecting the unsubscribing link in the footer of each email.

posted on 27 June 2016

Scottish Independence Back In Play After Brexit Shock - With A Note Of Caution

from The Conversation

-- this post authored by Craig McAngus, University of Aberdeen

One question that was omnipresent in the EU referendum debate referred to Scotland: what would happen if it voted to remain in the EU but was pulled out on the back of votes from elsewhere in the UK? Would it lead to a second independence referendum and then a vote for independence?

In the aftermath of the result, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has given the clearest indication of what the answer will be. She told a press conference it is now "highly likely" a second independence referendum will be held.

It comes after a clean sweep of Scottish local authorities voted to remain in the EU but faces being forced out by the Anglo-Welsh Brexit vote. She said the Scottish government would begin drafting legislation to make such a referendum possible.

It was a bold move by the SNP leader, implicitly daring Westminster to suggest such a vote will have no legal basis. Yet she was cautious, too. She cleverly hasn't committed to a timescale and said the Scottish government will look to open channels of communication with the EU and other member states. This will buy her time while the UK gets its Brexit negotiations underway, allowing her to showcase to Scottish unionists her competency in standing up for the nation's interests in this fraught period.

The debate about Scottish self-government intensified from Margaret Thatcher's time in office in the 1980s, when Scottish support for the ruling Conservatives fell away sharply. Much was made of the complaint that what the electorate in the south of England voted for was imposed in Scotland against the people's democratic will. It was one of the driving forces in the creation of the Scottish parliament in 1999 and a key argument for Scottish independence in the 2014 referendum.

The EU referendum result has brought this issue to the fore in perhaps the most acute manner yet. This result represents what was described in the SNP's manifesto for the Scottish election in May as the kind of "material change in circumstances" in Scotland's status as a constituent part of the UK that would justify a second referendum. As such, Sturgeon referred to it in her press conference.

One reason why EU membership has long been given this status by Sturgeon and her senior colleagues is that during the 2014 referendum campaign, the pro-UK Better Together campaign argued Scotland was more likely to stay a member of the EU as part of the UK. Far from being allowed to continue, Better Together claimed the EU would make Scotland apply for membership from scratch and be denied some of the UK's favourable conditions - how ironic this looks now.

Sturgeon votes in Glasgow. Jane Barlow / PA Wire

Treading lightly

So now that the unionists have played right into the SNP's hand, why the need for caution? First, the party will want to wait and see how the post-Brexit negotiations play out. The deal that the UK is able to secure with the EU, whether it is some sort of continued membership of the single market or something much looser, will be crucial for the Scottish electorate when it comes to making a cost-benefit analysis of what Brexit actually means.

A number of devolved policy areas such as fisheries and farming are in actual fact Europeanised in the sense that the major decisions are taken at an EU level. Taking the Common Fisheries Policy as an example, Marine Scotland would take sole responsibility for the management of fish stocks in Scottish territorial waters, with its operations under more direct scrutiny from the Scottish parliament as a result.

Mackerel: important to Scottish economy. Thiradech

Brexit therefore actually enhances some of the powers and competencies of the Scottish parliament, something that those who back devolution over independence may well take into consideration. Having said that, there are questions for the Scottish government and Scottish parliament regarding the oversight and scrutiny of these policy areas in future.

Secondly, if Scotland was to vote for independence and was able to remain a member state of the EU, it would share its land border with a non-member. The last independence referendum campaign threw up a number of difficult questions about a shared currency and cross-border trade that will be even more tricky to answer in a post-Brexit contest.

The mechanics of the possible relationship between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK are therefore significantly altered to what they were in 2014. This requires a rethink from the Scottish government and the wider pro-independence movement on what shape and form Scottish independence ought to take.

The Quebec precedent

The third and probably most crucial reason for holding off from the point of view of the SNP is that there is little evidence to suggest that support for independence would receive a significant boost as a result of Brexit. The SNP's leadership is keen to avoid Scotland "doing a Quebec" where a second referendum on independence took place and was defeated, and over 20 years later the prospects of it holding another are all but dead.

The fiscal and economic conditions that an independent Scotland would be subjected to are significantly worse than they were in 2014, with the North Sea struggling due to the low price of oil. This would leave Scotland with an estimated fiscal deficit of £11.9bn (7.8% of GDP) compared to the UK's fiscal deficit of £59.8bn (3.3% of GDP). It is also unclear how important Scottish voters feel membership of the EU is and whether or not it is more important than economic risk - one of the most important factors that led to a No vote.

That the SNP had not yet persuaded the Scottish electorate to choose independence in spite of these problems is highlighted by a paradox in the party's 2016 election manifesto: while the "material change of circumstances" clause has clearly been triggered, another SNP referendum test has not. The manifesto talks about requiring clear and sustained support amongst the Scottish electorate for independence before a second referendum would go on the table. A source within the SNP has previously stated that support for independence would have to consistently remain at about 60% for this to be satisfied.

Salmond: hints at indyref2 EPA

Clearly the SNP felt such a clear Scottish mandate to stay in the EU could only be met with a strong signal that the second referendum is now all but irresistible. Yet Nicola Sturgeon's caution, preceded by a round of interviews by former leader Alex Salmond, shows that victory is far from in the bag - even in the face of such a difference of opinion with the English and Welsh.

In the timeframe available, she will hope that the pro-independence movement can awaken again and mobilise with the same vigour as last time - and that Brexit really does tip enough Scottish unionists towards supporting independence. The SNP will then have to win the argument or potentially face the same fate as their counterparts in Quebec.

This article was updated post-publication to reflect rapidly moving news events

The ConversationCraig McAngus, Lecturer in Politics, University of Aberdeen

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

>>>>> Scroll down to view and make comments <<<<<<

Click here for Historical News Post Listing

Make a Comment

Econintersect wants your comments, data and opinion on the articles posted. You can also comment using Facebook directly using he comment block below.

Econintersect Contributors


Print this page or create a PDF file of this page
Print Friendly and PDF

The growing use of ad blocking software is creating a shortfall in covering our fixed expenses. Please consider a donation to Econintersect to allow continuing output of quality and balanced financial and economic news and analysis.

Take a look at what is going on inside of
Main Home
Analysis Blog
Slow Economic Growth Will Be Around For A Long Time
The Job Guarantee, Wage-Price Inflation And Alternative Solutions: Part 2
News Blog
NASA's Plan To Use A Giant Magnet To Make Mars Habitable
Mexico Faces Cloudy 2017 Outlook, Recent Data Mixed
Money Market Funds And The New SEC Regulation
Life Cycle Hypothesis
How Tight Is The U.S. Labor Market?
Infographic Of The Day: President Trump's Budget Would Make Big Cuts To Agencies Which Focus On Science
Early Headlines: GW Will Increase Rainfall, New Ohio Law Inhibits Wind Farms, Break Up California?, EU C Emissions At 22-Yr Low, Mosul Offensive Suspended, And More
The Cynical Game
Earnings And Economic Reports: Week Starting 06 June 201627 March 2017
Harvard Raised Over One Billion Dollars In Donations In 2016
Lack Of 'Dark Matter' In Early Galaxies Perplexes Astronomers
The Global Cost Of Tax Avoidance
What We Read Today 25 March 2017
Investing Blog
The Week Ahead: Does The Demise Of The Health Care Bill Mean Anything For Stocks?
Buy This Red-Hot Trend As U.S. Stocks Stall
Opinion Blog
Fade To Black
Robots, Aliens, Corporate Drones - Who Will Be The Citizens Of The Future?
Precious Metals Blog
These Gold Stocks Will Produce Much Bigger Gains Than Gold Itself
Live Markets
24Mar2017 Market Close: Trumpcare Collapses But Little Affect On The Markets
Amazon Books & More

.... and keep up with economic news using our dynamic economic newspapers with the largest international coverage on the internet
Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government



Analysis Blog
News Blog
Investing Blog
Opinion Blog
Precious Metals Blog
Markets Blog
Video of the Day


Asia / Pacific
Middle East / Africa
USA Government

RSS Feeds / Social Media

Combined Econintersect Feed

Free Newsletter

Marketplace - Books & More

Economic Forecast

Content Contribution



  Top Economics Site Contributor TalkMarkets Contributor Finance Blogs Free PageRank Checker Active Search Results Google+

This Web Page by Steven Hansen ---- Copyright 2010 - 2017 Econintersect LLC - all rights reserved