Brexit

by our Scottish political correspondent

FOR the past four months First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has been greatly exercised by Britain’s impending departure from the European Union (EU). After frequently jetting off to Europe to plead the case with deputy under assistants from assorted EU foreign ministries to let Scotland do a separate deal with the EU, she finally had some serious talks with a serious figure. On Monday the First Ministers of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland met with the Prime Minister at Downing Street.

Here the message was exactly the same as she had received from the various European governments that she had attempted to plead with: Britain was leaving the EU. Full Stop. As a consolation prize she was given the Prime Minister’s private phone number. Sturgeon knows fine well that there is absolutely no chance of Scotland of getting a separate deal to remain in the EU customs union but she obviously cannot say so without upsetting her flock. It also gives her the chance to moan about the English and to turn a blind eye to pressing issues that are actually the responsibility of the Scottish National Party (SNP). On the same day the Scottish School Teachers Association went on strike over workloads — but who cares about that.

As has been pointed out here before, the EU has at times promoted regionalist secessionist parties in the past in order to pressurise erring national governments, but now it no longer does so because the EU and the Eurozone are in such a fragile state that it cannot risk upsetting any national governments.

Since the 1980s the SNP has been promoting an oxymoron: “Independence in Europe”. At the time of the 1975 Referendum on Europe the SNP were against remaining. Needless to say, SNP voters are more interested in the “Independence” bit than the “in Europe” bit, which they have not given much thought to. Curiously enough, the largest bloc of the minority Leave vote in Scotland was provided by SNP voters, over a third of whom voted against their leader’s instructions to leave. Persuading them to vote for independence that is specifically tied to the hope of remaining in the EU might prove difficult whilst few No voters are so keen on the EU that they would like to break ties with the rest of the UK.

The nationalists are running around like headless chickens about what to do next. At time of writing, former leader Alex Salmond has recently announced his preference for Scotland joining the Euro, but it is possible that by the time this appears in print he will have gone back to saying the that Pound is as much Scotland’s as England’s.

Another former SNP leader, Gordon Wilson, has called for drastic cuts in public expenditure to make Scotland fit for the EU fiscal straitjacket, without actually using such terminology in case it frightens the voters. Instead he said Scotland that needs “get its expenditure trimmed down to the size a small country would want” and until Scotland has done that an independence referendum is “rather a waste of time”.

Former SNP deputy leader, and its most prominent opponent of EU membership, Jim Sillars has correctly warned that what he calls “Hair shirt independence” is not going to win over many voters.