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A strong Scotland after Brexit?

Scotland, observers said in 2016, could tip the scales in the Brexit Referendum. Some predicted that leaving the EU would therefore be rejected. As is well known, the situation was different: three-fifths of Scots opposed the UK’s exit from the EU, but England and Wales agreed by a majority and outvoted Scotland.

In 2014, Scotland narrowly opted to remain in the United Kingdom in an independence Referendum. However, many Scots had voted strategically, not out of solidarity with their English Neighbour, with whom they had now been involuntarily involved in the Brexit process for years. Now many want nothing but gone. The Timing could be decisive.

Agonising negotiation process that Scotland never wanted

Long negotiations with the EU followed after the Referendum, then one postponement after another. Neither Boris Johnson nor his predecessor Theresa May made a particularly good figure as prime minister of the United Kingdom. The semi-autonomous Scotland felt alternately ignored or run over by the parliament in London.

The corona pandemic increased Frustration. Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, her serious demeanour and careful pandemic response contrasted strikingly with the British Prime Minister’s slavishness.

One of their most successful performances during the pandemic took place in a shopping centre in Edinburgh in June. Sturgeon wore a face mask with the well-known check pattern, Scottish: Tartan. The proceeds from the sale of such masks, went to a homeless organization. One photo made the rounds very quickly, other masks were sold out quickly – a clear indication of the political attitude of the Scots.

Dramatic Signal: the European flag remains

Scotland was forced to leave the EU at the end of 2020, although a majority of the population never wanted to. Support for a second independence referendum in Scotland has therefore been rising for months. There is even a decision by the Scottish Parliament to fly the European flag in front of the parliament building in Edinburgh even after Brexit.

Most recently, Scotland increased the police presence at the borders when a new, presumably highly contagious strain of the Corona Virus became known. The protective measures of other countries partly anticipated the feared Brexit Chaos.

As leader of the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP), Sturgeon is thus in a historically favourable position to launch “Indy2” – an acronym for a second Referendum for “Independence”. Currently, about three-fifths of Scots support independence. The centre-left is currently part of a minority government and hopes to bring the rest of the Scots on its side by the next general election in May 2021.

Complicated from the beginning

The 300-year-old love-hate relationship with England enters a new Phase. Scotland and England were rarely really closely connected. Even unification with the kingdom was more like a brutal takeover. The temporarily banned Scottish Kilt is still the official dress and symbol of the independent Scottish culture. Add to this the Gaelic language, which has been marginalised in Great Britain. In many respects the country has a different jurisdiction from England and a different education system.

The goal of the SNP is not a Revolution in Tartan, although many points are about identity. Many things sound rather undogmatic: the Queen as head of state could perhaps even be kept, the British pound would also be fine. But politically, the SNP does not have hay on the same stage as the government in London.

Unlike the conservative British government, the SNP’s programme is green, social and internationalist. She would prefer to shut down the two nuclear power plants in Scotland. She sees her task as “building a better country,” Sturgeon said at the virtual annual party conference recently.

Johnson puts" Indy2 " so far on stubborn

For a new Referendum, however, Sturgeon needs Britain’s permission. Johnson has categorically ruled out this possibility. If approval among the Scottish population continues to rise, however, he cannot refuse forever. Whether a vote of the Scottish Parliament was sufficient as a substitute is rather questionable. Sturgeon and the SNP would otherwise remain the grievance, but it is very protracted; the consent to leave could fade away. Timing is everything in this matter.

Sturgeon has already announced that an independent Scotland will apply for EU membership immediately in the event of a successful referendum. But Scotland will not be able to re-enter the EU as easily as this, even if the Referendum were to work quickly. The country would have to go through a formal admission procedure and renegotiate its membership status as well.

How the EU would handle Scotland’s re-entry is unclear

It is unclear how the procedure would be handled by a state that had been an EU member for 40 years. There is no similar case so far. There are also some economic concerns. Around 60 per cent of Scottish exports go to the UK, but independence would mean a hard border between Scotland and England. In addition, Scotland has so far received funds from the financial Equalisation Scheme, which amount to between 1’200 and 2’000 British pounds per inhabitant. Whether Scotland could meet the Maastricht criteria for national finances is uncertain.

Sturgeon, however, is optimistic. Scotland’s accession is “not an enlargement,” says the prime minister, just a kind of Correction: “Scotland comes home, this is not a new beginning”.