Scottish independence was roped into the effects of Brexit from the day after the EU referendum took place. It was said by many, myself included, that one of the reasons that the Scottish people had voted no in 2014 was because by leaving they couldn’t be assured of getting into the EU as a new, independent country and so the one way to ensure EU membership was to remain in the UK. Also, that Scotland having voted to Remain by 62% while England voted to Leave showed ever more how separate the politics of the two largest nations in the Union had become. Scotland was going to become independent because of Brexit went this logic – it was only a matter of time.
I think Brexit made Scottish independence much more likely for a simpler reason. The arguments Leavers made to convince us that leaving the EU was the right thing to do also worked unconsciously in the Scottish Nationalists’ favour in a massive way.
Think back to the 2014 Scottish referendum. “Better Together”, the No campaign, had these main messages: Scotland leaving the Union will make it an economically poorer place. Independence also comes with a lot of massive practical complications that Yes campaigners haven’t explained away. Countries are better off when they maintain close ties with their nearest neighbours. Massive change without any idea of what it will look like is inherently a bad idea.
One of the ways in which the Leave campaign won in 2016 while the Yes campaign lost in 2014 was because the Leave campaign was able to negate the negatives of Brexit while accentuating the imagined positives. Brexit won’t make us poorer – we will be richer. Or at the very least, the people who will be poorer won’t be you but someone else. Brexit won’t be complicated because we hold all the cards and the EU will give us whatever we ask for out of fear of losing our trade. We won’t leave until we have the deal we need in place anyhow. Yes, countries are better off when they work closely with their neighbours – which is why we are going to leave the EU to do that more effectively.
It doesn’t matter that those lines became almost their exact opposites over time. Brexit will make us poorer now, but who cares, at least we have our freedom. Instead of us holding all the cards against a quivering EU, we are facing an all-powerful European Union is about to shaft us by not giving us a deal we rightly deserve, throwing us into a poverty that has a supposed dignity about it. We don’t need a deal now anyhow, since trading on WTO terms will be perfectly fine, despite this going completely against the entire logic of desperately wanting a deal with the US. Working closely with our neighbours? Not as important as having our freedom.
What the 2016 EU referendum taught the Scottish Nationalists is that emotion beats logic, so long as you can sideline people’s logical concerns. Worried about whether an independent Scotland will be able to rejoin the EU? Of course we will! Are you suggesting that Scotland isn’t strong enough to do this? Are you an enemy of the Scottish people for even thinking this way? If you’re worried about what the currency, don’t be – we had ways of trading with each other long before we were cowed into a union with the English and we’ll be fine after we win our freedom. Don’t you want to be free?
Brexit made Scottish independence more likely for the simple reason that the arguments for Brexit follow the same logic as the arguments for Scottish independence. National sovereignty is more important than anything else and no amount of economic pain can alter that. Becoming independent doesn’t mean we’ll cut ourselves off from our neighbours – if anything, our relationship will improve once we are our own people again, free to make our own decisions. They’ll respect us more.
If you doubt what I’m saying, I’ll challenge you to do the following: what would you base a No to independence campaign on now? What would your messages be? If you tried the 2014 stuff again, it would fail, but I genuinely don’t know what you’d replace it with. Brexit has shown us the extent to which an emotionally pitched nationalist argument can win out over any logic put in its way. Watching the same people who created this problem try and reverse it may be the only entertaining thing we’ll get out of watching the Union disappear.
I have a book out now called “Politics is Murder”. It follows the tale of a woman named Charlotte working at a failing think tank who has got ahead in her career in a novel way – she is a serial killer. One day, the police turn up at her door and tell her she is a suspect in a murder – only thing is, it is one she had nothing to do with. There is also a plot against the Foreign Secretary and some gangsters thrown into the mix while Charlotte tries to find out who is trying to frame her for a murder she didn’t commit.
Also: there is a subplot around the government trying to built a stupid bridge, which now seems a charming echo of a more innocent time!
How Brexit fuelled Scottish nationalism in a much more simple way than is usually discussed
Um, it’s discussed all the time.
If you doubt what I’m saying, I’ll challenge you to do the following: what would you base a No to independence campaign on now?
An emotional appeal to pride in the Union and in British history and Britain’s future.
The phoenix says
A Homeless man is free
With the same dire consequences
The argument is “Look at Brexit. Fancy doing it all again, except worse?”
And the disadvantages cut both way – Scottish nationalists won’t be able to throw around ‘Project Fear’ with the reckless abandon of 2014 Alex Salmond.