Independent, the country could make great economic progressby Tasmina Ahmed-Sheikh / April 7, 2017 / Leave a comment
A week is a long time in politics, so the saying goes, but the political events of recent days will resonate throughout the history of these islands as they are discussed and dissected in years to come.
Last week, prime minister Theresa May triggered Article 50. With her obstinate and intransigent attitude towards the democratic will of Scots, who voted overwhelming to “Remain,” she has made the long-term effects of this even more severe than they would otherwise have been. There may be more than one constitutional consequence of Brexit.
Rather than adopting a consensual approach at this vital moment in our shared history, May now seems wholly intent on pursuing an agenda to satisfy the fringe elements in her own party. She is not addressing the interests and concerns of each individual part of the UK.
Now we are locked into this course a progressive settlement with the European Union, which serves in the best interests of everyone who lives here, seems out of reach. Our island’s future seems increasingly bleak.
Over a momentous last few days, Tory politicians have simply dismissed the serious economic and social concerns surrounding the forthcoming Brexit negotiations, at the same time as threatening to withdraw security support from our European allies, championing the return of blue passports and threatening war with Spain. A year ago the Leave campaign would have dismissed this as a hideous caricature of Britain’s “glorious future,” but now Nigel Farage’s vision for Britain has come to life.
Throughout the Brexit process the SNP has attempted to make the best out of a bad situation. But rather than keeping their promise to deliver an agreed, UK-wide approach to Brexit negotiations, the Tories have dismissed out of hand our compromise proposal that Scotland remain in the UK while retaining membership of the single market. In Westminster, SNP MPs tabled fifty amendments to the Brexit Bill in order to try to make some progress towards a deal which could attract wide backing, not just support from Tory right-wingers and their insipid colleagues.
There has been no real negotiation and no compromise. Now May’s determination to jump over the “cliff edge,” a term she herself has used before, with a hard Brexit will mean disaster for Scotland’s economy and its close relationship with Europe.
The UK that Scotland voted to remain in back in 2014 simply doesn’t exist anymore. Added to this, the implosion of the Labour Party, first in Scotland under Jim Murphy and Kezia Dugdale, then in England and Wales under Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell, means that Scots will likely be stuck with a Tory government that they do not want and will not vote for, for at least a further decade. Which progressive politician in Scotland could really support doing nothing while the Tories dismantle our welfare state, cut social security payments for the disabled and force victims of rape to prove their case before receiving tax credit payments?
A recent report by the Fraser of Allander Institute stated that a hard Brexit would see Scottish GDP 5 per cent lower within a decade than it would otherwise have been, with 80,000 fewer jobs in Scotland’s economy. Now the question surely isn’t what independence will cost Scotland, but what the cost is of Scotland staying in a failing UK.
With the rest of the Britain heading for an economic crash and international isolation, an independent Scotland would have a range of new opportunities for economic progress which simply weren’t possible in 2014, when the last independence referendum was held.
As an English-speaking country with a strong financial services sector within the EU, we’d be in prime position to build on our previous success in securing inward investment by attracting jobs from the City of London. We could once again open the doors of our first-class universities to the world and attract the brightest and best to live and study here. We could build our growing tech sector by providing a warm welcome for the most talented programmers and entrepreneurs from across the globe. We could give our global brand a boost when it comes to food and drink. This will be dragged down if Scotland remains in the UK. There is growing antipathy towards “little England.”
Scotland now has a clear choice between futures. With a fresh referendum once the outcome of the Brexit negotiations are known, we can make an informed choice. Do we want Scotland to become a bold, successful, outward-looking country, in charge of its own affairs and playing its full part on the global stage? Or do we want to sink, with the rest of the UK, as Boris Johnson and Liam Fox make a titanic success of Brexit?
The answer is becoming ever clearer. It’s time people in Scotland had their say.