Regardless of its convenience in assisting the SNP’s separatist ambitions, if Scotland’s First Minister can get a verifiable green light for Scotland’s continuing membership of the EU, that has to be a game changer for attitudes to voting for Scottish independence.
With England and Wales definitely outside the EU, Scotland’s position would be hugely advantaged in economic terms.
Professor Michael Dougan, Dean of the Law Faculty at Liverpool University, is a long term expert researcher in EU Law and specific matters relevant to membership of that union. He made clear in his lecture to university staff on the Brexit campaign, Project Leave: dishonesty on an industrial scale – that the UK actually has had little means of earning from the common market other than effectively selling access to that market to non-European based businesses who set up in Britain for that purpose alone.
The UK, outside the EU, may no longer have that access to sell – and Scotland has the opportunity to take over the role.
The impact on inward investment, inward migration, jobs and – of necessity, infrastructure and services, could be a powerful positive for the Scottish economy, particularly with the North Sea not again earning for the exchequer as it has done in the past.
This is only one of the major economic benefits to be gained, amongst advantages of many other kinds, for example:
- being beneficiary of a proportion of the financial services sector departure from a City of London outside the EU. This would be of substantial benefit to the Scottish economy and to the wider influence of Scotland. It would never be of the scale of full replacement of the City of London operations that the helplessly inflationary Alex Salmond is now touting [Frankfurt and Paris have a superior case and superior clout from their current positions]; but what could usefully be brought north in this sector would be very worth having;
- continued access to the significant EU funding for collaborative academic research on scientific and environmental topics – from which Argyll’s Scottish Association for Marine Science [SAMS} is a substantial beneficiary;
- relative freedom of movement to work and live across the EU for residents of Scotland;
- the retention of all of the valuable heritage of EU legislation around employment and worker’s right;
- access to European universities for our young folk;
- the continued force of the European Convention on Human Rights;
- European passports – and it may seem trivial, but for all of us the thought of joining the Non-EU queues at passport control on entry points to any EU member state is a daunting nuisance.
In the event of Nicola Sturgeon getting credible, open and verifiable assurances of continuing or fast tracked EU membership for an independent Scotland, we would recommend a Yes vote in any indyref 2.
On the UDI dilemma of an indyref 2
The UK Government is saying that it will not consent to a second independence referendum for Scotland in this generation.
With the power to enable referenda reserved to Westminster as indeed, constitutionally, in a union, it must be – would the issues then become:
- whether the Scottish Parliament might unilaterally go ahead and hold such a referendum without the enabling legal consent of the UK Government?;
- whether such a DIY referendum could be considered legal in the given circumstances?;
- and – a big one – whether a potentially positive conclusion to such a referendum would then have the legal status of a unilateral declaration of independence [UDI]?
In this last instance, if the answer is ‘Yes’ – the economic argument would have to stack up the loss to Scotland of all or many of the ‘share out’ rights that would accrue from a Yes vote achieved in a referendum consented by the UK Government – against the benefits of EU membership, with the attendant risks of that membership, given the less than politically secure position of the EU – and of the less than financially secure position of its currency, the Euro and the Eurozone.
This scenario needs serious work from genuinely independent economists [of which Professor Anton Muscatelli is not one and, for the time being anyway, of which the academic researchers at the Institute of Fiscal Studies remain the gold standard] and constitutional lawyers.
There is no doubt whatsoever that any Scottish membership would have the adoption of the euro as a condition of membership; nor that, for a Scotland outside the umbrella of the UK, using the euro would be its second best sheltered option to using the pound.
The First Minister – as she is exploring – might make compact with Gibraltar and/or with Northern Ireland, as a means of presenting to the EU the potential membership of a larger remnant of the former UK.
While this may seem an attractive ploy in many ways, it has inherent pitfalls, among which would be:
- ensuring the deployment of the Spain veto [and it only takes one] of any proposed Scottish membership of the EU. Spain’s deep concern about the encouragement to the Basque separatists that would ensue from a continuing or fast tracked membership for a newly independent Scotland would be aggravated by the continuing impossibility of taking the territory of Gibraltar. Ms Sturgeon might well try to play a cynical political game with Gibraltar as pawn – offering the Rock Scotland’s support in its current parlous predicament, while trading abandonment of such support with Spain in exchange for an assurance that it would not veto any Scottish application.
- becoming embroiled in ‘the Irish question’ – the reunification issue – of which anyone with any sense would steer well clear.
To us, this picture looks as if the best option for Scotland wold be a solo approach to the EU on the basis of its preparedness to accept an independent Scotland that has been part of a previous membership and has made its wish to remains so an electoral formality.