I’ve been receiving a steady stream emails from constituents incensed by press reports that the government intends to assuage the thirst for independence in Scotland through ever more generous spending there. Rather more worrying from my point of view, is the government’s ambition to spend so much more throughout the UK: there will be consequences for inflation and interest rates.
Let’s, for the present however, stick with the Scottish question.
The Scotland Act 1998 reserves the constitutional status of Scotland to the exclusive jurisdiction of Parliament at Westminster. Accordingly, the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence was held with the consent of Westminster. The agreement to hold it was made on the clear understanding by all parties that it was to settle the question for a generation.
The precipitate demand for a further plebiscite is advanced by the argument that the whole nature of the question is now changed by Brexit, notwithstanding a majority of Scotland’s votes being for Remain in the 2016 EU referendum.
I do not accept this as a ‘game-changer’: any Scot voting on independence in 2014 would have factored into their decision the uncertainty of what might happen in the 2016 referendum on the EU, after all, the issue was highlighted throughout the independence referendum campaign.
Following its re-election this month, the Scottish Government has made it clear that it will legislate to hold a second referendum on independence. The Prime Minister has made it equally clear that Westminster will not grant the powers to allow such a referendum to lawfully proceed.
Consequently, the matter will come before the courts. The judges will look to interpret the Scotland Act 1998 which reserves the question of independence to Westminster: end of story?
I rather doubt it.
The Scottish Government will frame its referendum question to give the Judges sufficient wriggle room to thwart Westminster. A straight referendum question on independence would fall foul of the 1998 Act, but how about a question asking voters to approve their Government in Edinburgh entering into negotiations with Westminster on the terms by which a future separation might be had.
How would the Supreme Court justices respond to that?
I fear that we need to prepare actively and urgently for another independence referendum.
There are a number of English Nationalists who are inclined to say ‘good riddance’. I profoundly disagree. Scotland’s departure from the Union will have an enormous impact on the other member nations.
The cornerstone of our nuclear deterrent is built on deep water access through the Firth of Clyde.
The Scottish Government’s very different appetite for immigration and for re-joining the EU would necessitate a hard border between us which would make our current difficulties with the Northern Ireland Protocol look like a picnic. The economic damage would rebound on both of our economies.
Given that the UK of Great Britain and Northern Ireland would have ceased to exist, the question would undoubtedly arise as to whether we, as the remnant, should retain the UK’s permanent seat at the UN Security Council. We would be much diminished.
We need to develop a winning strategy, but I’m far from convinced that spending more money is it.