We are firm supporters of UK independence from the EU, which faces us with a dilemma over ‘Indyref2’, the Scottish Nationalist Party’s proposed bid for independence from the UK. Is it possible to support the first but not the second?

The UK was part of the EU and its precursor, the EEC, for 47 years; Scotland and the rest of Britain have been unified for more than three centuries The economic, social and political integration of Scotland within the UK is therefore very deep and firmly ingrained, so would take a lot of unravelling.

Alex Salmond once called London an economic “dark star” that sucks the wealth out of the rest of the UK. He has a point, though in return London, the South East and Eastern counties are the only parts of the Union that pay more to the Government than they receive; Scotland gets a much bigger subsidy than regions of England that are even poorer. This is one of many differences from the split with the EU, in which the leaving party was a substantial net payer rather than a beneficiary of subsidies. However, people and communities may not appreciate being dependant on subsidy, it damages their pride and creates resentment, so Government plans to spend even more in Scotland might not reduce support for independence.

A vote for the SNP was not necessarily a vote for independence, which was in fact de-emphasised in this month’s Holyrood election campaign. It might be better for all to get it over with quickly rather than continuing the uncertainties, which add to those of Brexit plus covid, so hindering recovery.

Should the border be redrawn to allow the Border Counties, whose citizens strongly support remaining part of the UK, to follow their voters’ wishes? There is a precedent in Ireland, which has not been without subsequent difficulties. The islands of the north, Orkney and Shetland, also reject separation.

This brings us to the question of democratic choice; at what level should it apply? The SNP feels that Scotland has been excluded from the EU against its choice, but some of its regions do not wish to be excluded from the UK. On the whole we cannot argue against the right of citizens to decide who governs them but in this case the details are not straightforward. For example: How often should citizens be offered a choice—once in a generation perhaps? Who should have the franchise—Scots by residence or by birth?

If the SNP wins a majority, what’s the plan?

The immediate economic consequences of independence from the EU were (and remain) unclear and strongly disputed, and the terms had not been settled at the time of the 2016 Referendum or the previous independence referendum in 2014. Some vitally important issues can be determined before running an Indyref2, such as the currency, the trade and immigration borders, defence arrangements and the separation of assets. It does not have to be a completely blind choice and should not be.

Is the SNP’s plan for a political union with the EU and a monetary union with the UK? That implies no independence whatsoever. It also implies a trade border with the UK, if the EU is consistent with its stance on Ireland. But of course the situation is entirely different, the Irish are famed smugglers [1] or [2] or [3] so British goods sneaking across their border would be sure to violate the Single Market. The Scots are models of rectitude by comparison and would never allow that. Well, some excuse would be found if necessary, the EU is not famous for consistency when applying its rules [4].

Of course another option would be to adopt the euro currency rather than keep the pound (sterling); in neither case would Scotland have a ‘lender of last resort’, the ECB leaves this to the central banks of the member states. The Bank of Scotland might struggle to set itself up, and who would lend (and at what price) to a country with such a massive budget deficit? The last time Scotland found itself in this situation was 300 years ago; its solution then was to join a currency and political union—with England. But unlike Scotland’s (then) wealthy and generous neighbours the Continentals might not be too happy to bail them out.

If the EU did accept Scotland as a member would it insist on applying its rule that new members must adopt the euro (and then treat them like Greece, which has lost 25% of its GDP through bailout terms that enforced austerity?) And would it also insist on Scotland joining Schengen, thus ensuring not just a customs border with England but passport controls too?

The EU might welcome the propaganda benefits of allowing Scotland to join—a kick in the balls (sorry, teeth) for the rest of the UK (well Bollocks to Brexit [5] is OK apparently so why apologise?) Since it is famous for its ingenuity in applying rules to best suit its agenda the EU may find a way of squaring this with the Treaties [6].

Nevertheless, independence seemingly implies separation without sovereignty.

[1] Quickies-1

[2] Brexit Means … Nothing Actually

[3] Shorties-15 (Border Line or Red Line?)

[4] Themes-10: Breaking EU Rules

[5] EU Parliament Elections

[6] Paved With Good Intentions (Conclusion) OR Not Our ‘Ode to Joy’

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