Illustration by Hannah Robinson
In the wake of Nicola Sturgeon’s official announcement that the Scottish government will ask for permission to hold another independence referendum, I find myself filled with a strange sense of dread. Something about it feels different from last time, more rushed, more frantic.
The thing is, I’m not convinced that, in real terms, much has changed since the 2014 referendum. The conditions under which we agreed to stay have certainly shifted, but the guarantees (or lack thereof) of what would happen to us as an independent country have not, and the speed that the Scottish government is moving to pull us out of the Union fills me with fear of another Brexit-type scenario.
You see, the last time we voted on independence, it was a decision taken after years of debate. There were hundreds of public and television debates, plenty of time to consider both sides of the equation, and as a result everything occurred with a remarkable transparency. We, as a country, were able to make a decision based on the fullest amount of information that could be provided.
My concern is that, this time around, with the drama surrounding Brexit, we will be swept up into an anti-Union fervour in a desperate attempt to rejoin the EU, and what then?
The last time Scotland debated independence, the Yes campaign based their arguments on the affordability of independence around the untapped reserves of North Sea oil. In the midst of the world’s climate emergency, this cannot possibly be what we rely upon as an independent country, and yet there has been no indication of which export could replace this as our main source of revenue, as an independent nation. Our exports of food, drink, and tourism would simply not be enough to sustain us.
Further to this, the Yes campaign couldn’t even guarantee a place for us in the EU whilst the UK was due to remain in it. Do we think the EU will now just welcome us back into the fold, no questions asked? And then we return to the issues of currency and sovereignty, and how we continue to trade with the UK, and everything becomes muddled twice over. Consider also that it would introduce questions surrounding the Anglo-Scottish border that would quickly become as intractable as the question of the Irish backstop in the Brexit debate.
It’s well known that the SNP’s primary goal is Scottish independence; it’s what brought them to power in the first place. Yet, it is still not clear what that independent Scotland would look like. The SNP have been in power in Scotland for over ten years, with devolved power over our healthcare system, our schools and local governments, and now our taxes. To what end? How can we guarantee that they have our best interests in mind if they’ve failed to use their devolved powers to benefit us in the many years they’ve been in power? With this in mind, the idea of an independent Scotland contains as much uncertainty as the idea of the UK outside of the EU does, and this doesn’t seem likely to change any time soon.
The road to Scottish independence hasn’t become any clearer in the years since the referendum. As a whole, the SNP’s move to officially put Scottish independence back on the table feels like an insidious action, like they are taking advantage of the chaos and panic surrounding Brexit to push their agenda forward. An independent Scotland should not be voted for out of fear, and I think we should all be very concerned at the direction this debate is beginning to take.