#Indyref2: Independent Scotland?

#Indyref2: Independent Scotland?

03/2017  | Reading time: 6 minutes

“Should Scotland be an independent country?” This was the question on the ballot paper on the 19th September 2014. Then, 55% said No, and 44% voted Yes. Now, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon hopes to give the question another go. 

In her speech yesterday (13th March) Sturgeon has confirmed that she will seek the permission to hold another referendum about Scotland’s independence. She said that the ideal time would be between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019, but it definitely should happen before the UK leaves the EU. She claimed that an independent Scotland could create a partnership of real equals with the rest of the UK, instead of the claimed equality that now exists.

Why hold another referendum?

In the Brexit referendum last year Scotland backed Remain by 62% to 38%. Ever since the results came in, Ms Sturgeon has been hinting at a possible referendum, arguing that Scotland should be part of the single market and the European Union.

It is possible that the Scottish First Minister intends to use the possibility of the referendum as a trump card in the dialogue with the UK Government, so that Scotland would get an important part in the upcoming Brexit negotiations and possibly gain more power in the end. Ms Sturgeon has seized the opportunity to try to negotiate with the government when it is weaker and more inclined to agree to Scotland’s terms to avoid fighting a two-front war with the devolved parliaments and Westminster.

But is an independent Scotland likely to happen?

It is possible, but not likely. First of all, the Scottish parliament does not have the authority to stage a vote alone. It must get the approval of Westminster under a section 30 order of the Scotland Act to do so. The Scottish and the UK governments would need to sign another Edinburgh agreement, like they did in 2012 in order for the referendum in 2014.

The UK government has made it clear that it does not support the idea of a second vote, although it has not ruled it out completely. In the recent weeks they argued with the economic difficulties Scotland would face alone. Out of Scotland’s main trading partners the European Union is only the third biggest partner. At present trade with the rest of the UK is worth over two-thirds of Scotland’s output. And while the Scots in 2014 argued that they will use their oil to finance the independence, they highly overcalculated the future price of the oil (the price is currently half of what was predicted), making them cautious to use this argument again.

Scotland’s place in the European Union

is also not guaranteed. Currently, there is no legal way of keeping Scotland in the EU were it to leave the United Kingdom. When asked, the spokesman of the European Commission said that the so called ‘Barroso doctrine’ would apply in Scotland’s case. The doctrine is referring to the position of the former president of the European Council, who in 2012 – at the time regarding the possible independence of Catalonia – said: “For European Union purposes, from a legal point of view, it is certainly a new state. If a country becomes independent it is a new state and has to negotiate with the EU.”

In the upcoming months we shall see if and how Ms Sturgeon might secure the second independence referendum. Although Mrs May, the PM did not out rule the possibility of it, the government may be more inclined to offer a bigger role for Scotland in the upcoming Brexit negotiations – especially now that the UK parliament has passed opened the way to trigger Article 50 – in order to avoid similar calls for independence from Wales and Northern Ireland.

Register and subscribe to access all contents on AJKC Digital!

Are you interested in the latest articles by our researchers? Would you like to be the first to read our analyses? Then submit your registration now!

Do you seek a platform with all the knowledge you need to subscribe to? Where you will find not only deep analyses but content related to exclusive online events? Don’t hesitate then, order now one of our subscription packages available for a reduced price!