Politicians, especially progressives, must recognise a nation’s right to chooseby Kirsty Hughes / January 16, 2020 / Leave a comment
Will Brexit lead to an independent Scotland? The question has been asked many times in the last few years. But now Brexit is definitely going ahead in just two weeks, with a Tory government firmly installed for the next five years, the question has gathered new intensity.
Boris Johnson’s “no” this week, to Nicola Sturgeon’s request for the transfer of powers to Holyrood to hold another independence referendum, is entirely unsurprising. And, equally well understood by both sides, the independence debate is not going away.
The choice for Scotland—a majority Remain country—is now clear: independence in the EU or Brexit within the UK. These questions are already much debated: can an independent Scotland re-join the EU (basic answer, as a European state, yes), how long will it take, how hard might it be, what are the implications for the border with England? What is certain is that the debate requires a nuance all too absence from Westminster politics of late.
This week Labour’s leadership candidates have added to the strident Tory dismissal of a second independence vote. Jess Phillips has declared herself 100 per cent committed to the union and engaged in a Twitter spat with Nicola Sturgeon. Lisa Nandy outrageously suggested, in her Andrew Neil interview, that Scottish nationalism could be tackled by learning lessons from Catalonia, where pro-independence politicians remain jailed.
Yet while Johnson wants to end the use of the word “Brexit” and Labour’s candidates mostly accept that the Brexit debate is now over, in Scotland the Brexit and independence debates are intertwined. They are, and will remain, centre stage.
We have yet to see polling on independence now that Brexit is definitely happening. But one poll in the autumn put support for independence at 50:50. And recent polls that asked hypothetically about support if Brexit happened show a small but clear majority for independence.
There is also a strong demographic pattern—young people under 35 are the strongest supporters of both independence and membership of the EU, while those over 55 are most clearly opposed to independence. Meanwhile, polls suggest around two-thirds of Scottish voters back remaining in the EU while, of the third that back leaving, a chunk (another third) are still in favour of independence.
Politicians should take note of this range of public…