Campaigner Andrew Smith says Yessers must think carefully about the impact of Brexit on No voters and avoid making hopeful assumptions
THE case for another Scottish independence referendum is obvious. Scotland is about to be dragged out of the EU against the wishes of Scottish people, a move which directly undermines the promises of the Better Together campaign in 2014.
Since the EU referendum, more and more people have been calling for another vote on the Scottish question, but would it succeed?
I want to be clear from the start. I support Scottish independence. I want to see Scotland as a self-governing nation. I believe it will be the best thing for those in my home country and for social justice. That is why I don’t want to see another referendum lost, which would almost definitely kill the issue for a generation.
The last Scottish referendum wasn’t lost for any lack of anger towards Westminster, or any shortage of unaccountable Tory governments. It was largely lost on economics and currency.
In many ways the fate of Scottish independence is inextricably linked to that of Theresa May, Boris Johnson and their negotiations with Brussels. If Merkel, Hollande and co play hardball, and if the stories of economic punishment are proven to be true, then Scotland is likely to be weathering the same economic storm as those of us down south.
Surely if that’s the case then it would cause those that voted No in 2014 to reconsider and demand change? Maybe. Except we were warned about it. There was no shortage of commentators/rating agencies/multinationals/business consortiums and government ministers taking to the airwaves to tell us how badly everything would go.
These same voices will no doubt be on hand to warn Scots of the further perils that the break up of Britain would cause on top of that. It’ll be Project Fear all over again, only this time they’ll have a track record.
If they are proven to be correct about the EU (still a big if) then why would people automatically assume they’re lying this time? 'Last time we broke away from a major political/economic union the results were as catastrophic as all of the experts warned. I don’t like them, but maybe they’re not bluffing when they say Scottish independence could make things even worse.'
At the same time, if the scare stories are proven to be unfounded nonsense, and if Brexit goes without a hitch, then what impact would that have? What would be the need for change?
Yes, the democratic deficit will still be there, but then it has always been there, and those that see it as a particular priority already voted Yes in 2014. If Brexit was proven to be a good idea, and if normality resumes in record timing, then why would those that voted to maintain the United Kingdom less than two years ago change their minds now?
Of course, the likelihood of Brexit is that it won’t all be doom and gloom or milk and honey, it’ll be somewhere in between, but how far it lies from these extremes could be crucial to economic wellbeing. And that will be the important part.
The last Scottish referendum wasn’t lost for any lack of anger towards Westminster, or any shortage of unaccountable Tory governments. It was largely lost on economics and currency. These are the issues that need to be addressed if the people who voted No the last time are to be turned around.
Some polls suggested a short term bounce in support for Scottish independence post-Brexit, but it obviously remains to be seen if this will be a short-term reaction to a democratic injustice or a sign of real change.
Brexit doesn’t necessarily do anything to answer these questions. If anything, the currency issue has become a lot more complicated rather than less, and middle class financial insecurity and low oil prices are unlikely to be answered by greater political instability.
On the currency point, the noises coming from Holyrood seem to imply that a new Scottish currency is a real possibility. Selling that won’t be easy and would require major groundwork that can’t be rushed.
There is the argument that a Yes vote can only be won by mobilising even more of working class Scotland, but will they really turn out in even greater numbers than in 2014 if they are called on to ensure that Scotland remains in the EU? Is there any reason to think it was working class Scots that turned out en masse to vote Remain?
Anecdotally, there have been some signs of change from some pro-union voters. The immediate aftermath of June’s vote saw J.K Rowling appearing to soften on Scottish independence, and the same went for the Daily Record.
There was another spike in SNP membership and my Twitter feed filled up with Scots claiming that their friends who voted No in 2014 had now seen the error of their ways.
However, no amount of anecdote can replace data. Some polls suggested a short term bounce in support for Scottish independence, but it obviously remains to be seen if this will be a short-term reaction to a democratic injustice or a sign of real change.
Obviously, we won’t have any real idea of how big, or how deep, any shifts in opinion are until Brexit negotiations get underway. Either way, if the European referendum has shown anything it’s that polling isn’t quite the gold standard, and public opinion is never static.
At the same time, even those who disagree with her would have to concede that Nicola Sturgeon is an excellent politician, and has been quick off the mark to set the agenda. She’s certainly clocked-up the air miles and had lots of photo sessions with European figureheads, but it’s too early to say if these will offer anything of substance.
I have no doubt that many Yes supporters in Scotland are feeling even more adamantly pro-independence than they were a few months ago. And in many ways I am too. But it is not our opinions that matter.
If there is the political will, and if a deal is coordinated, then Scotland may be sheltered from some of the worst long-term consequences of Brexit (should they arise), which could well work to win over 'middle Scotland'.
However, one danger of the current approach is that she risks talking and acting her way into calling for another referendum before it is winnable. It is hard to row back from saying that another referendum is 'highly likely' because of Brexit.
I have no doubt that many Yes supporters in Scotland are feeling even more adamantly pro-independence than they were a few months ago. And in many ways I am too. But it is not our opinions that matter. It is the 55 per cent of Scots than voted No last time.
Will they change their minds? I sincerely hope so. But there’s a long way to go.
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