09 Mar 2017

Scotland: Freedom 2.0?

Scotland will be ready for another Independence referendum in about a year’s time, according to its first minister Nicola Sturgeon. In an interview, she pointed out that the autumn of 2018 will be “the commonsense time” and she is “not ruling anything out”. The rumours about a second referendum started to spread soon after it became clear that the 62% of the Scots opposed to the UK leaving the EU. In the months that followed Brexit, the Scottish leaders prepared a proposal to the UK government in which they insisted on getting permission for Scotland to stay a member of the EU single market and to have delegated immigration powers. “We’re still in the position of trying to persuade the UK government to accept this compromise position in relation to the EU negotiation,” Stewart Hosie, an SNP MP, said. In an interview on BBC, he also said that: “Should that fail it does make a second referendum more likely.”  Previously Downing Street 10 stated that is considering the Scottish government’s request although, without much enthusiasm, because a special deal for Scotland will require changes in the whole UK constitution and the British relationship with the EU single market.

Currently the Scots are divided on the topic of independence. In a poll done by Ipsos MORI, 51% of the surveyed are in favour of staying in the UK, and 49% are for leaving. Despite that, 52% are certain there should be a referendum after the Brexit deal is signed with another 36% – strongly agreeing and 16% – tending to agree with the idea. It is interesting also that quite a lot of the participants – 48% – think that if Scotland becomes an independent country, it should remain a full member of the EU, while 27% are taking the position of non-EU membership but want full access to the EU single market. Only 17% opt for full independency without joining EU in any way.

By far the actions of the Scottish government meet the approval of the Scottish with more than 50%  in support of Nicola Sturgeon stance in terms of Brexit, and only 24% are convinced that Theresa May is doing a “good job representing Scotland’s interests” in the whole process of activating Article 50.

Will the Scottish continue to feel this way, now that the UK government is in the final stages of the Brexit bill? According to Mark Diffley, Ipsos MORI’s director, it’s hard to predict, but the results of a poll “suggest some modest movement back towards independence.”

On the other side, some Scottish politicians within the SNP (the Scottish National Party), believe that now is not the right time to talk about a new independence referendum. One of them is Jim Sillars, former deputy leader of the SNP.  “I cannot conceive of the yes movement winning in 2018 in the middle of [Brexit] negotiations. We would be subject to the cry from Westminster: ‘Why don’t you wait to see what the deal is?’”, he said.