Amid all the hilarious Scottish Nationalist strutting about since the Supreme Court ruled this week that Holyrood does not have the right to veto Brexit, voted for by the UK of which Scotland is a part, there has been some speculation about whether or not it will prompt the SNP to hold another referendum on independence.
It is technically Westminster’s decision, what with it being a reserved matter and the Scots having voted in 2014 by a clear margin (55-45) to stay part of the UK.
There is a school of thought though that if the Scottish Parliament demanded it in a vote (SNP plus the deeply dotty Greens makes a majority) then it would carry a moral force and Theresa May would feel compelled to grant the SNP’s wish. Sounds plausible.
I have an open mind on this subject, and find the endless grievance hunting of the Nats by turns amusing, wearying and embarrassing to the land of my birth, a country that had no need to complain in the 19th century because it was too busy running a disproportionate amount of the show. But I am increasingly struck by the prevalence of two contrasting but connected firmly held views in contemporary post-referendum England.
The first can be characterised as follows, expressed by a chap I sat next to at an excellent Burns supper in London the other night:
“Scotland is like a stroppy teenager who needs to be told no.”
Good luck with that, I responded.
The other robust view is that there is quite enough going on in the world with Trump and the rise of Russia, and Brexit and technological upheaval, and the fragility of the EU, without having to divert attention to listening to even more SNP whining. Scots should have their referendum and close the door if that is what they want, runs the theory.
When I explain that this would mean the end of the UK and epic economic disaster for Scotland I get only blank looks and shrugs in reply.
The English are slow to anger. There was under-reported bafflement and a little hurt at the enthusiasm and sheer relish on display from those wanting to leave the UK behind in 2014. The Scottish smug floating voter panel chosen by Radio 4 news, pontificating during the 2014 referendum on the airwaves, was so annoying it almost made me wish for Scottish independence just to get some peace.
One thing is certain. England must not be allowed a vote on this subject. Its citizens would vote to tell the SNP and the Scots, which to Scotland’s detriment are increasingly intermingled and confused in the public imagination, to hop off.
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That would be a tragedy. The UK post-Brexit will be in a potentially superb position when it navigates its way through Brexit. It has extraordinary strengths in technology, finance, services, retail, food, bio-tech, the creative industries and tourism. To say nothing of its defence (more needs spent) and intelligence, listening and security capabilities.
The SNP pitch is to break that successful union apart, leaving Scotland with a giant deficit, while establishing a new currency separate from Sterling and negotiating its way into the burning building that is the EU. And £49.8bn of Scottish exports go to the Rest of the UK as opposed to £16.4bn to the Rest of the World and £12.3bn to the EU, as it was confirmed this week by the Scottish government’s own figures.
A vote for independence would also be a vote for unilateral nuclear disarmament, with the SNP dedicated to expelling UK submarines and missiles from Scotland. That’s a bold policy with Russia on the prowl.
Is that package attractive to a majority of Scots? Perhaps. But I’d be surprised and disappointed if the answer is Yes.