If The SNP Hold A Post-Independence EU Referendum, They Could Easily Lose.

By Oliver James Pike

Nicola sturgeon has been wanting a return to the question of Scottish independence ever since her side lost in 2014. The latest calls come on the back of the 2016 Brexit vote. The narrative is that England voted to leave and Scotland voted to stay and therefore a rerun of 2014 is required.

There are multiple problems with this argument. While the map of constituency results in 2016 show a broad preference for remain, analysis of each constituency turns up a substantial vote for leave. board 38% of Scottish voters wanted to leave the EU in 2016 and it should be noted that many of these people also voted for independence in 2014. Scotland, like the rest of the country, was divided on the question of EU membership (The difference being a preference for remain).

The Second issue with this narrative is the fact that the SNP knew Brexit was a possibility during the 2014 referendum and made this known to the electorate in an attempt to swing opinion. Evidence of their knowledge can be found in their white paper on independence. The overall picture is that the 2016 Brexit vote was a UK-wide vote and Scotland voted to stay in the UK with knowledge of a potential break up with the EU in mind.

The real problem with the SNP's use of Brexit to call for a second independence referendum is that it could result in 2 divisive and uncertain referendums in Scotland's future. Nicola Sturgeon has suggested that a referendum would not be required for Scotland's membership because of the results of the 2016 referendum in Scotland however others SNP politicians and EU leaders have indicated that such a thing ought to be put to the people.

If Nicola Sturgeon wins an independence referendum and takes Scotland into the EU without a separate vote, a substantial portion of independence and SNP supporters who are considered Eurosceptic will feel betrayed. Furthermore this should be considered wholly undemocratic. If Nicola can claim the 2016 vote as "a change in circumstances" sufficient enough to hold another indy ref then surely the 38% of Scots who voted leave could easily claim the splitting up of the united kingdom satisfies this requirement and the 2016 results are now thrown into doubt.

This will also be the likely argument of the UK government, post independence, and unionists more broadly who will catch on to the fact that a now independent Scotland would be choosing its "Closest friends" without the people having an explicit say. Many unionists even Europhilles will prefer Rump UK over the EU if this theoretical choice is put before them and they like the ardent Scottish nationalists eurosceptics will denounce any attempt to rejoin the EU without a vote.

This is a huge blind spot for the SNP as they forge their plans is the huge potential for them to lose this referendum on the EU post-independence. If Scotland votes to leave the UK, unionist voters will have a choice before them during the SNP's second referendum on joining the EU. If Scotland is out of the UK and in the EU a hard border is highly likely between England and Scotland. Unionists (even Remianers) could vote to stay out of the EU to avoid what would essentially be a hard Scexit from the UK rather than an ongoing close relationship which would represent the soft Scexit model.

There is then the other side. Large proportions of independence supporters also supported Brexit. The SNP may find it hard to sell EU membership to those celebrating their hard-fought freedom. What true Scottish nationalist would want a supposedly independent country to hand vast control to Brussels?

The existence of these "pure independence" supporters and the existence of europhiles who want to stay in the UK makes the SNPs argument a stringy one. Ironically Brexit (the purported justification for a second referendum) may not ultimately be "corrected" by Nicola's long-term constitutional roadmap.

If a referendum is held on the question of Scotland's EU membership uncertainty and division are once again thrust onto the population. During both potential future referendums, the currency of Scotland would be in question, the nature of a theoretical border with England (Scotland's biggest trade partner) could emerge as an unsolvable dilemma and social division would reach new heights. The amount of uncertainty produced would be unimaginable (bear in mind that no clear answers to such questions were supplied during the 2014 debate). Investors, entrepreneurs and businesses would flee or avoid Scotland like the plague at a time where such investment would be crucial to forging a newly independent Scotland.

This is uncharted water that Nicola wishes to sail Scotland into at a time where the SNP appears to systematically fail at dealing with the severe problems that have worsened under the SNPs 14 year hegemony. Referendums are serious undertakings and the insatiable appetite in Scotland for as many as are needed threatens to entrap politics in a state of endless constitutional wrangling to no one's benefit.