“God help England if she had no Scots to think for her.” These are the words depicted by an Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw in his satirical comedy: “The Apple Cart: A Political Extravaganza.” Little did Shaw know that England, at least if we are to believe the plans of the current First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon, might need to start praying. The announcement for commencing consultations with regard to a second independence referendum bill for Scotland was greeted with exultant applause by the Scottish National Party. But how likely is an actual scenario in which England would have to fare without the wits of Scots?
A lot has changed since the 2014 independence referendum. The UK is seemingly departing from the European Union. This decision has had a polarizing effect on both the UK’s and the EU’s internal state of affairs. In the infamous Brexit referendum the majority of Scotland, namely 62%, voted to remain in the EU.
The First Minister of Scotland defended this second independence referendum bill on the basis that it might be necessary to protect Scotland’s interest by separating from the UK. I believe, that it is rather safe to say that this “protection of Scotland’s interest” and possible separation from the United Kingdom, should be interpreted as a willingness to remain an EU member state.
However, if Scotland were to secede from the UK, would it still be able to remain a member of the EU? Would it be obliged to launch a new application to become a member of the EU? As much as all of Europe would have liked to see the UK a member of the EU in the future, there are some states in Europe which contain regions gladly welcoming their own independence referendum too. These states would then not be thrilled about Scotland becoming a member while the rest of the Kingdom leaves the EU. Moreover, the EU is build on the idea of integration, and its support for the independence referendum of the Scotland, leading to further disintegration of the UK, would debatably be paradoxical.
These referendums are taxing socially, economically and culturally, for both Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom. While some crave for independence, the appetite for another referendum will still have to gain momentum in the minds of the Scots. Statistics by the market research firm YouGov indicate that just 37% of Scots are backing another independence referendum, whereas 50% are more comfortable with sipping their whisky under the Union Jack. Arguably, such numbers are to be interpreted meaning that the majority of the Scottish population has not changed their mind. Bear in mind that the first independence referendum of Scotland, which at the time was reportedly supposed to be once in a generation event, was just a little over two years from now.
It is only possible to speculate whether Brexit and the two years between the first referendum and the recently announced consultations have actually impacted the Scots in a way that would manifest itself in a change in their voting in this second independence referendum. Whatever the result of the consultations for the second independence referendum of Scotland might be, the Scottish government should only resort to secession from the UK as a last resort, whether their will for it is furthered by Brexit or not. Unpremeditated decisions by the Scottish government may quickly the internal politics of the UK into a Bernard Shawish satirical comedy.
By Julian Lagus, Student in International and European Law at the University of Groningen in The Netherlands, on exchange at the University of Edinburgh, EST Ambassador to Scotland. Feel free to contact Julian at firstname.lastname@example.org.