Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has commented on several occasions in recent weeks on the subject of a second Scottish independence referendum. She first warned that she was not “bluffing” about calling another referendum, should the United Kingdom also leave the European single market. She then ruled out holding such a vote in 2017, effectively holding the threat of it over the British government as it moves ahead with Brexit.
There’s nothing wrong with many in Scotland, as in other European regions like Catalonia, wishing for independence. Indeed, notions of sovereignty, identity, and more representative democracy were all integral to Britain’s vote to leave the European Union (EU). Where such movements lose coherence, however, is in their insistence on remaining in the EU.
Many, many laws pertaining to the UK, including Scotland, originate in Brussels. Though the exact proportion of British laws stemming from the EU is hotly contested, it is likely quite large, with some estimates ranging up to 62%. What is more important, however, is how significant some of the EU’s competencies are. An “independent” Scotland within the EU would face the same quotas on its fisheries, abide by the same agricultural policy, honour the same trade deals signed devised in Brussels, and have absolutely no control over its borders. Its government also intends to continue using the British pound as its currency. In this sense, the stated intention of being “in the driving seat of [Scotland’s] own destiny and to shape [its] own future” loses its meaning. Without full control over essential areas like borders and monetary policy, a nation is not independent.
Moreover, the EU has always made clear that to secede from a member state is to secede from the Union. As such, Scotland deciding to leave the UK in order to retain its EU membership is not only impossible, but dangerously misleading to Scots.
Beyond the glaring incoherence of the Scottish government’s position, Scots have already decided on the matter of independence, and it is irresponsible for the Scottish government to use the threat of a future referendum as a political shuttlecock. It is common practice to hold referenda once in a generation, especially if their results are as decisive as the last time Scots were consulted, in 2014 (55% in favour of remaining in the UK). Sturgeon’s postponed threat of another Scottish vote depending on how “hard” Brexit ends up being is more of a bargaining chip than a true expression of Scotland’s will. This cynical approach to politics serves no one. Scots wishing to remain in the UK are under constant threat of a second referendum, while Scots wishing for independence are being manipulated for narrow political gains.
The desire for independence is unambiguously good. All willing nations deserve to gain their sovereignty, including most recently the United Kingdom. The Scottish government’s position rejecting Westminster while embracing Brussels does not reflect a genuine yearning for independence. Rather, it smacks of political opportunism. The people of Scotland –both for and against independence– deserve better.