4 May 2016

Brexit does not mean Scottish independence


One of the quirks of the EU referendum campaign is the way in which SNP grandees pop up to condemn scare tactics and the “Project Fear” approach of their colleagues in the Remain campaign and then in the next breath say that Brexit would lead to a second referendum on Scottish independence. This way they try to sound reasonable while themselves simultaneously employing the ultimate scare: vote as we say on the EU or we’ll try to break up the country again despite the Nationalists being beaten soundly in 2014.

For quite a few English Brexiteers this outcome would count as a “two for one” special bonus, in which they get rid of the EU and Scotland with one vote.‎ Being a Scot and a Unionist I’m not in that camp, much as it is tempting to contemplate a future in which Alex Salmond is never on the television or radio south of the border ever again. But I’ve noticed in EU debates that the concept that Brexit equals Scottish independence or makes it more likely is a theory being aired in England.

Do not fall for it. Ignore the Nationalist hype. If anything, a vote to Remain in the EU is more likely to favour the SNP’s long-term plan to win a referendum when it can. That way the SNP can present leaving the UK as being not too much of a threat. Notionally we all then have the supposed comfort blanket of the EU to cling to.

If on the other hand the UK votes for Brexit and the SNP calls another referendum in response then the Nationalist pitch will be that Scotland should split from its biggest trading partner and apply to get into the Euro, against a backdrop of oil price uncertainty. Try selling that. What an offer. It’ll be as about appealling to middle-ground Scottish voters who were unconvinced last time as an evening in the Nationalist stronghold of Dundee spent wearing a Union flag onesie and singing Rule Britannia.

Of course hardline Nats won’t care about this; they wouldn’t care if independence cast Scotland back into the stone age: what matters is their obsession. Yet hardline Nats are not the people the SNP has to win over. Nicola Sturgeon is not daft. A post-Brexit Scottish independence referendum in which the SNP lost would be highly embarrassing. She will do all she can to avoid it. Which is why no-one south of the border should cast their vote in the EU referendum based on scare stories about what the SNP will do after June 23rd.

Iain Martin is Editor of CapX