There has been considerable consternation in the independence movement over when, not if there should be a Scottish Independence referendum.
In my view, the Scottish Independence Referendum must be held in September 2018, or else incalculable yet avoidable economic and constitutional damage will be wrought, and the opportunity to hold another one will be forever lost.
It is increasingly likely, arguably even probable, that the UK will crash out of the EU with no deal. There were three principal questions to be resolved before negotiating the future relationship could begin; the Irish border, citizens rights, and the ‘divorce bill’. In March, they announced tentative agreements over the three, with details to be filled in. This last week, the first two have been seriously undermined.
- UK proposals for dealing with the Irish border were summarily dismissed, and Michel Barnier clearly indicated that talks could well fail.
- The Windrush atrocity has clearly eroded trust in the UK even further, especially the Home Office. The UK is literally deporting its own citizens. How much confidence can the EU have in the UK government to protect the rights of its citizens post-Brexit? Zero.
There is also the question of Gibraltar. Spain has made it a condition that the application of transition period to Gibraltar is contingent on the UK negotiating its future status with Spain before UK withdrawal, and has the backing of the other member states. This hasn’t even come up yet.
According to the planned sequencing of the withdrawal negotiations, by this time, the UK and the EU were supposed to be negotiating their future relationship, so that a withdrawal agreement could be signed by September, leaving several months for all the 27 remaining member state parliaments, the EU Parliament, and the UK Parliament to ratify (note the Scottish Parliament is not included). But that can’t start until the Irish border question is solved, and some trust is restored in the UK government. What are the chances of that occurring in the next four months? Again, zero.
No withdrawal agreement means no transition deal. No transition deal means all treaties, 58 free trade agreements with 69 countries, some 750 bilateral agreements, and 37 EU regulatory agencies, cease to have effect on the UK, and therefore Scotland. These are but a few of the many consequences after March 29, 2019 if there is no transition deal:
- Airplanes will not be able to legally take off and land at UK airports.
- Food and water safety standards will evaporate.
- Worker and consumer protections will disappear.
Now unrestrained by the EU, Westminster Tories will be free to:
- Tear up the devolution settlement, even abolish the Scottish Parliament
- Make free trade deals with the US, imposing much weaker food safety standards, bringing in chlorinated chickens.
- Sell off the Scotch Whisky brand to the Americans and/or Peruvians.
And many other consequences too monumental and damaging to contemplate.
Scotland must call and hold a referendum by next September, to have any chance of avoiding being forever shackled to a post-Brexit UK.
I’ve read Pete Wishart’s arguments about waiting until after Brexit, for ‘optimal conditions‘ to be fulfilled before holding a referendum, focusing mostly on public opinion issues. He doesn’t seem to grasp the impending urgency of getting out before its too late. Given the Brexit trainwreck that is rapidly approaching, conditions will never be more ‘optimal’ to change constitutional course before Brexit. After will be too late. Public opinion will be irrelevant when Scotland is firmly under corporate oligarchic control, as it definitely will be after Brexit.
There is still the question of Scotland’s relationship with the EU post-Brexit, and there are ‘yes’ voters who voted to leave the EU. However, nearly 2/3 of Scots voted to remain in the EU: a higher percentage than voted to remain in the UK.
Therefore, Scotland must seek assurance from the EU during the campaign that it can remain in the Single Market and Customs Union, if Scots vote ‘yes’ to independence in September 2018. Given that they are already making these arrangements for Northern Ireland, there is no question that they would.
After independence is voted, during the constituent process of creating a new state and constitution, crucially still in the Customs Union and Single Market, Scots will have the time and space to collectively weigh the pros and cons of becoming an EU member state, or perhaps becoming a member of the European Free Trade Association. The EU and EFTA can make their offers and cases, and Scots can decide on their own terms.
The case for independence has never been stronger nor existential.