Sturgeon Proposes, May Disposes

With BREXIT so close and Article 50 to be triggered on the 29th of March — the Scots are back at it again. Let us recap; in June 2016, 62% of the Scots voted to stay within the European Union. Scotland’s first Minister and leader of the Scottish Nationalist Party, Nicola Sturgeon, is pushing for yet another referendum — hopefully one which would take place in autumn 2018, before the UK’s exit from the European Union.

Sturgeon is currently trying to negotiate a “Section 30” order which would allow the Scottish parliament to legislate for an independence referendum on its own terms. Meanwhile, UK Prime-minister Theresa May is prohibiting the Scots from doing this and has been quoted saying that “it is not the time”. She instead believes that the focus should be placed on getting the best deal possible for the UK. Speaking ahead of the Holyrood debate, Sturgeon yet again believes that it would be “democratically indefensible” for May to block the Scottish parliament’s wishes.

This brings us to the elephant in the room: should Westminster legislate for the entirety of Scotland? There is not a doubt in mind that May’s refusal of a second Scottish independence referendum is infringing Scottish constitutional rights. Nevertheless, BREXIT is a game-changer for the entirety of the United Kingdom. This is not a case of big-fish-little-fish. The English should not be in control of Scotland’s fate. Back in 2014, when the first independence referendum was held, exit from the United Kingdom was only at a 10% crossroad. Today, with BREXIT and probable inaccessibility to the EU’s Single Market, the Scots might want to rethink the decision to stick to their three-century old union with the UK.

Nevertheless, Sturgeon is to receive backing from the Scottish Greens. The first minister is expected to move forward with her proposal, despite hostility from the Tories, the Labour Party and the Liberal Democrats. Indeed, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, Ruth Davidson, opposes the idea of another referendum. She believes that the SNP doesn’t speak for the whole of Scotland. More so, conservatives have even tabled an amendment calling for Westminster to rule-out a referendum before April 2019 (the UK will supposedly have left the EU by then).

This being said, it is irresponsible of Sturgeon to propose a second independence referendum without consolidating the facts. Once Scotland leaves the UK, negotiations for European Union membership are to be prompted. There are several aspects to EU membership that need to be met — and economic welfare is one of them.

North Sea contributes about £10b to the Scottish economy and oil reserves are dying out. If Scotland was to depend on its own economy post-independence, the downfall of oil industry would simply make their situation worse. There is also no guarantee that companies within its vibrant professional services sector will relocate or remain in Scotland.

In 2014, former European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said that it would be a near impossible conquest for an independent Scotland to join the EU (consider the Spanish not recognising Kosovo as an example). The future for Scotland is just as uncertain as the UK’s.

Emma Sammut

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