And so, in a week in which we have seen a humiliating about turn on fiscal policy from Conservative Chancellor Phillip Hammond, on the fringes of British politics we have witnessed another volte face, this time from Nicola Sturgeon of the Scottish National Party (SNP).
She has declared that an independent Scotland will not be seeking to join the EU in its own right. This is in response to a poll that suggests that the majority of Scottish voters do not want this, and so to pursue that matter would jeopordise her main platform, which is a call for a second referendum on Scottish independence ( a call which is based solely on the fact that the majority of Scots voted against Brexit in last June’s referendum).
This may also be a doomed policy, as a survey on Wednesday (March 15th) suggested that 53% of Scots would vote to remain in the UK in a future referendum.
Ms. Sturgeon, who appears to have no other policies beyond than those mentioned above, may well be considering her political future this weekend.
The SNP’s arguments in favour of independence, in the context of the party’s desire for the wee country to remain in the EU, however, have always been flawed and misleading.
Alex Salmond, SNP leader at the time of the first referendum, appeared to be somewhat confused about an Independent Scotland’s future relationship with the EU.
He denied the fact that if applying for future membership under the present terms, Scotland would have been obliged to make preparations for the single currency, something that the famously canny Scots would be highly unlikely to accept.
Mr Salmond then presented a strange and unrealistic scenario whereby Scotland would continue to use Sterling. “Therefore, for example, the cast-iron position is that an independent Scotland will continue to use the pound.” He said in February 2012.
“There’s no prospect of them being members of the euro and currently and for the foreseeable future there’s no prospect of Scotland, an independent Scotland, being a member of the euro,” he went on to tell the BBC in January 2014.
Finance Secretary John Swinney had claimed at the time that the SNP had been in talks with the Bank of England over a currency union. He was caught out after a tacit denial from the bank, and had to make a humiliating climbdown, saying: “If by any chance I have given the impression there were discussions about a currency union after independence, that was not my intention.”
South of the border, then Chanceller George Osborne stated, in February 2014 Mr Osborne said: “The pound isn’t an asset to be divided up between two countries after a break-up like a CD collection.
“If Scotland walks away from the UK, it walks away from the UK pound.”
Also, the aspiring EU member state, like any other, would have been compelled to enter into the Schengen agreement, meaning that they would have to unconditionally open their borders to all who happen to be passing through the EU on a Schengen visa.
Scotland already has a disproportionately high welfare bill, some 6% higher than the averagefor the rest of the UK, and when pensions are taken into account, twice as high as the revenue from North Sea oil. Membership of Schengen would exascerbate the situation, and the electorate would be unlikely to take to that one (assuming they were told, of course).
Also, it would have meant that England would almost certainly have to close its border with Scotland, which would make life difficult for the many thousands of Scots who commute to England each day - they would very likely require work permits.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie MSP is on record as saying: “Passport controls between England and Scotland would have a significant impact on the ease of travel between our two nations. This would have an impact on business and personal relations.”
If the EU were to impose tarifs on post-Brexit UK, Westminster would reciprocate, thus damaging the vital English market for Scotch Whisky, which is a main contributor to the Scottish economy.
Travel between Scotland and Northern Ireland or the Irish Republic, both of which would remain outside of Schengen, would also become less comfortable.
None of this was properly debated in the run-up to the September 2014 referendum: a referendum that could have led to the collapse of a union that has lasted since 1707. Each of the 64 million citizens of the union would have been affected in some way: families would be divided, businesses affected and livliehoods lost.
In an interesting twist, this week Alex Salmond has suggested that an independent Scotland would “consider” abandoning the currency union with the UK that he has already been told he cannot have, and that Scotland could introduce its own currency, possibly using Sterling as a de facto currency in the short term, in much the same way that economic basket-case Zimbabwe uses the US Dollar.
But Scotland is not an isolated case. Across Europe there is a growing trend for referenda, and obfuscation now seems to be the campaign tool of choice for many of the political actors.
Follow EU Today on Social media: