UNITED STATES (OBSERVATORY NEWS) — Will the United Kingdom break up? If the Scottish National Party (SNP) succeeds, so be it. The collapse of the Union was its main task, goal, the meaning of existence, and now it is closer to success than ever in its 85-year history.
In October, Nicola Sturgeon, the party’s leader, said she would ask for a second independence referendum within a few days after the December 12 vote was announced. Prime Minister Boris Johnson says he will refuse permission: but in October Sturgeon said at a meeting of her party that “Westminster’s refusal is not substantiated … They know that there should be a referendum.” She mentioned a lawsuit that would help push this issue forward.
Nationalists with a slight margin vote for Brexit (51.9% for exit) throughout the UK, and in Scotland, most vote for staying (62%), which indicates two completely different political cultures that require a separate, independent statehood. The instability of Westminster’s policies over the past three and a half years, coupled with a low Scottish opinion of Johnson, has allowed nationalists to raise their independence question relatively openly and to regret the rule of the English elite.
They expect the election to go well. Scottish conservatives thwarted the hegemony of nationalists in the 2017 elections, increasing their presence in Westminster from one to 13 seats. But in August, they lost their popular leader when Ruth Davidson resigned – she could not keep up with Brexit and Johnson, and she was also waiting for a replenishment. It is believed that neither the Labor Party nor the Liberal Democrats pose a great threat in Scotland to the SNP. “The fact that they will occupy about 40-50 places (out of 59 Scots in Westminster),” said the sociologist John Curtice in an interview with the Financial Times, “seems very likely at the moment.”
The independence of Scotland would mean the end of Great Britain – the Union formed between England, Wales and Scotland in 1707 – and without Great Britain the United Kingdom would cease to exist in the current sense, although it could well be the “United Kingdom of England, Wales and Northern Ireland”, whereas this province would maintain ties with London.
Nationalists are convinced that 50 percent plus one vote is all they need to gain “freedom” by destroying the nation state. Nevertheless, since the stakes are so high, the future claims of the nationalists must meet a tougher rebuff from the Union than a sentimental request to stay. “We ask on behalf of all of us, please vote to stay together” – this request was voiced by Prime Minister David Cameron before agreeing with Alex Salmond, then leader of the ShNP, to hold a referendum in 2014 year.
The Union is far from being only monetary issues, but it is on the field of finance that the fight will be fought in the first place. Before the 2014 referendum, a 650-page document came out titled “The Future of Scotland.” The Scots were confident that everything — including economics, education, democracy, healthcare, civil society, transportation, the environment, culture, social services and relationships with neighbors — would improve significantly. When the oil comes under the control of the Scots, this compensates them for the loss of the annual subsidy from the UK Treasury. As the Scots voted, oil prices began to fall.
SNP sent the project “The Future of Scotland”, the fantastic character of which was everywhere ridiculed, on a dusty shelf. Now, as a plan for their future economies, they rely on the 2018 report of the Commission on Sustainable Growth, chaired by Andrew Wilson, a former member of the Scottish Parliament from SNP, who now leads Charlotte Street Partners, a communications consulting agency.
Wilson’s report is less pretentious than The Future of Scotland, but economists give him a low rating because of the constant departure from reality. The Institute for Fiscal Studies, of which Wilson is an employee, noted that the “austerity regime”, which the SNP constantly opposes, considering it imposed by the British, after gaining independence, will become, according to the Commission’s own forecast, deeper than under Westminster .
John McClaren, an independent economist who contributed to the Commission’s report, says the report focuses too little on sharply rising spending on health, social assistance, and education. He believes that “it lacks an analysis of the negative consequences of the destruction of the UK free trade zone.”
Warwick Lightfoot, a former adviser to the conservative government, writes that “the loss of the treasury subsidy will make the country a difficult choice of financing decisions: either significantly reduce costs or significantly increase taxes.” And there are many more such arguments.
The economic reasons for secession were the central point of campaigning during the 2014 campaign. Then, when former Chancellor Alistair Darling, restrained in his remarks, struggled with seething energy by First Minister Alex Salmond, and when the nationalist campaign “For” seemed to everyone more professional and energetic than a calm “Against,” the victory unexpectedly remained for that calm . In a world where the level of uncertainty is higher than five years ago, the situation may repeat itself.
There is a potential danger that a small economy with a low productivity and, as a rule, lower growth rates than in the UK as a whole, and a currency – either the pound or a currency tied to sterling – that it cannot control, will be launched onto the market.
Nevertheless, until it reached the next stage of the struggle, the Union must be supported. Those who want it to continue to exist should criticize the “democratic” point of view that a marginal advantage with such a vote should lead to the collapse of the UK. In the 2019 Reader Readings, former Supreme Court judge Jonathan Sumption said that a democratic state “cannot act on the basis that a small majority takes one hundred percent of the trophies.” This observation deserves to rely on him in his actions.
If 50 percent of voters vote in favor of secession, this will lead to unrest in Scotland and beyond. There is no way to quickly and painlessly separate two so closely intertwined countries – in economic, industrial, legal relations, in the field of employment, family and friendly ties, and joint projects. The world of business and finance will be more concerned about this decision than the City of London decision on Brexit, and may be inclined to move its headquarters and operations to England. If Lightfoot’s forecast is confirmed, tax increases will only increase the number of people who leave the country, and reductions in the service sector are likely to entail even greater tax increases.
The collapse of the UK is a decision that Scotland cannot make alone. The branch will affect every citizen of Britain, since it will fundamentally change the structure of the state.
The Scottish nationalist position – that only those who live in Scotland at the time of the referendum – vote means that a recent immigrant who knows little or nothing about what is at stake will gain an advantage over Scots living in other places in the UK , and in front of all other British voters. An immigrant, if he intends to reside permanently in the country, must have the right to vote, but also the first-generation Scots living outside Scotland must also have the right to vote, and British citizens in general should be granted this right. This right should be granted to them by the British government, whose duties include checking the depth and strength of the intention to secede.
There is a ready-made example of how this can be done: the Canadian Clarity Act [Canadian Clarity Act], adopted shortly after the government of the French-speaking province of Quebec practically succeeded – 49.4% versus 50.6% – get the majority of the votes for independence in 1995.
This law leaves the federal government with a decision on clarity or lack thereof in the matter raised by citizens in a referendum, and the right to cancel the result of a referendum if it was decided that it was held in violation of this law.
This law establishes that there should be only one question – for or against separation – and should not contain additional semantic load; that consensus must be reached before secession negotiations begin; and that all other provinces should participate in the negotiations.
Thus, two problems can be solved: to reduce the likelihood that a potentially independent state will begin to exist with a deeply divided population, and to recognize that the nation-state as a whole has the right to take part in decision-making. The law is vague in some respects, but since the desire for secession in Quebec has diminished significantly, the law has never been put into practice.
A similar law needs to be adapted for the UK. The majority in a referendum on Scottish independence should be at least 60%. Such, or a more serious advantage, if it were achieved, would speak of a serious public mood, even its thirst for change. To this should be added the obligation to hold consultations and debates in parliament and throughout the country: and at least 60% should remain the necessary threshold for a possible transition to a completely different state of affairs.
Even then, some period must pass before an agreement is reached between representatives of both parties to the referendum. The UK government may be forced to acknowledge a strong desire for independence, but it will be responsible for ensuring that the transition is as coordinated and free as possible so that partners in the rest of what was Britain suffer damage.
If and when any next referendum is allowed, the current notions of 50% plus one should be radically revised. Referenda, as we now know well, are a brute force of democracy.
The separation of Scotland, if it sincerely wants it and understands the consequences well, is ultimately impossible to prevent. But it is necessary to realize the enormous importance of this decision, and it must be checked, investigated, discussed until, as far as possible, it will be proved – or refuted – that this separation is a deliberate expression of the will of the Scots; and until it is reached, as far as possible, the recognition on the part of former fellow citizens that it is so. Now we are still far from this.
This article is written and prepared by our foreign editors writing for OBSERVATORY NEWS from different countries around the world – material edited and published by OBSERVATORY staff in our newsroom.
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