Everyone can now see how difficult it is to break up a unionby Alex Dean / February 14, 2020 / Leave a comment
Scottish independence has rocketed back up the agenda. Scotland has been dragged out of the EU against its will, which means there has been a material change since the 2014 poll that went 55-45 to the unionists. The SNP surged dramatically in the December election. Nicola Sturgeon now claims an unequivocal mandate for a second indyref and Holyrood elections next year could boost the case further, forcing the prime minister Boris Johnson, who has until now refused, to consider granting the Westminster permission needed for a legitimate ballot. There is even talk in some quarters of a unilateral referendum without London’s permission.
But has Brexit really given the nationalists a better argument? It is true that independence might offer Scots a chance to reverse Brexit. But on the other hand Brexit presents new challenges for independence. It means Scotland would definitely have to rejoin the EU as an independent country, where some say it could have difficulty meeting the accession criteria. Added to that, recent events have shown just how difficult it is to disentangle a longstanding Union. Brexit has surely changed the terms of the argument for Scottish independence. But has it made it a better idea or a worse one?
The position of unionists is a clear one. Ruth Davidson, the former leader of the Scottish Tories credited with decontaminating the party’s brand north of the border, told me the Brexit argument for independence is “like telling people that the answer to cutting off your big toe is to remove the rest of the leg.” She continued: “It’s always been a mystery to me why the SNP thinks it’s a winning argument to say the answer to leaving one political union—an act they reject as damaging folly—is to leave another.”
Yet despite this there is an argument for independence that is not going away. While Scotland voted 55 per cent “No” in the “once in a generation” 2014 poll, nationalists argue its 62 per cent Remain vote two years later changed everything. Legitimate grievances expressed in recent elections may only harden now the UK has left Europe—and at the hands of a prime minister who is toxic in Scotland. Steady recent polls show that 44 per cent want…