The Supreme Court yesterday, 24 November 2022, denied the Scottish government the right to call a second Independence Referendum. The Scottish government wanted to introduce a bill for another referendum. The UK government refused to allow another section 30 order. The Supreme Court unanimously voted that the Scottish government had no legal right to enact a second referendum.
It is important at this point to consider the historical perspective of the first Independence Referendum in 2014 and the claims made by both pro and anti-independence campaigners at the time. The question asked at the time was “Should Scotland be an Independent country?”.
The 2014 Scottish independence referendum preceded Brexit
The referendum results gave the “No” side 55.3% of the vote and the ‘Yes’ side 44.7’%. This was billed as a “once in a lifetime referendum”. Some of the most persuasive arguments focused on Scotland’s place in Europe. The ‘Vote No’ campaign pushed the argument that to remain as part of the EU Scotland must remain part of the United Kingdom, Scotland’s voters must therefore vote No.
In 2013 David Cameron committed the Conservative Party to a referendum on the UK’s continuing membership of the European Union. On 23 June 2016 the UK voted by 52% to 48% to leave the EU. Scotland voted 62% to 38% to remain in the EU.
In April 2022 the Scottish Government’s Business Minister Ivan McKee has said the UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund failed to deliver promised funding for Scotland following the UK’s exit from the EU. New arrangements will see £32m allocated for Scotland for 2022-2023, £151mn short of the £183mn estimated for the EU Structural Funds had the UK remained in the EU.
“The UK Government’s Shared Prosperity Fund fails to deliver replacement funding which was promised to Scotland, meaning communities across the country will miss out on around £150mn of investment in 2022-23. This demonstrates exactly why levelling up means losing out, as Scotland will receive considerably less funding than before Brexit.”Ivan McKee, Scottish government’s Business Minister commenting on the launch of the UK’s Shared Prosperity Fund
The view from the street was diverse and emotional
Bylines Scotland took to the streets in Highland Perthshire to take the temperature on this debate. The responses are anonymous as this was a guarantee given at the start of the interview. The responses are real and the views expressed are not necessarily those of the author or Bylines Scotland.
All interviewees were simply asked for their response to the ruling of the Supreme Court. Supporters said:
“I think it is the correct ruling. It’s not the right time to be thinking about a Referendum when everything is falling to bits in the country.”
“I am very pleased with the outcome of the Court”
Others were less impressed.
“I think it is unfortunate that Westminster has this sway. I think it should be ignored and that we should hold the referendum anyway.”
A more nuanced opinion said,
“I think there is a big disconnect between a Scottish people being supposed to be sovereign and Scottish people having to ask Westminster whether they can be sovereign.
“I think being doubtful or outrightly against independence is perfectly valid (even though I support Indy, I don’t think it will be all positive), but the denial of self-determination is just unacceptable. If the people of England decided they wanted to vote for a party that would hold a referendum on leaving the Union then it would go ahead as there would be a majority in Westminster. But neither Scotland nor Wales could ever form a majority in Westminster so it doesn’t matter how we vote, we will always be denied the right to choose our future by the English majority in Westminster. It’s unacceptable.”
The question of Independence always keeps some from expressing their opinion in public. One businessman refused to comment live on air but explained to me that he dreads independence for fear of losing access to the English and Welsh markets for his goods. He explained he no longer trades with Northern Ireland because of the complications following Brexit. A hard border with England, on top of an uncertain future in the EU would be too much to contemplate.
The way ahead is deadlocked
The SNP will not change their desire to make Scotland independent of the UK and rejoin the EU. If they win a majority at the next General Election, Scotland may enter a period of stalemate, unable to develop economic independence, and still tied to Westminster. Many people in Scotland do not think that the UK Government holds Scotland’s interests at heart.
The way ahead doesn’t look great. The deadlock needs to be broken. Can Nicola Sturgeon break the logjam and deliver the Green, sustainable future she has promised for so long?
That is the question.