Wednesday, 20 January 2016

The EU Referendum and Scotland

I am disturbed by the glibness of the prevailing assumption that if Scotland votes to remain in the European Union and the rest of the UK votes to leave, it will be appropriate to hold a second independence referendum.

Some time ago I pointed to the damage inflicted upon inward investment to Quebec by the determination of defeated separatists to hold a referendum re-run. Political instability deters investment no matter how often the SNP claims otherwise. Since the European polls are evenly balanced and the Scottish polls not much clearer, we now have the worst of all possible worlds.

The fallacy of the assumption that Scottish enthusiasm for the EU will lead to the break-up of the UK lies in the conflation of these two questions. Just because a voter favours remaining in the EU it does not follow that he or she would vote for independence rather than see that wish thwarted.

So far as I am aware, no-one is being asked at the moment whether they would prefer to be in the EU or the UK. Even that would be a fraudulent question, since Scotland is not a current EU member and would not be accepted as such even if the UK withdrew. A breakaway Scotland would still be a new applicant for EU membership, as was repeatedly explained during the independence referendum.

Therefore the actual question should be: Would you like to leave the UK and take a chance that our subsequent application to join the EU would not be vetoed by Spain and other member states anxious to avoid giving encouragement to restless ethnic minorities?

Does it make any sense at all to erect a border against our largest export market, the UK, in order to retain free trade with much smaller markets in the EU?

Is it remotely credible that the UK would leave the EU in a bid to cut immigration and then allow freedom of travel across the border with an EU Scotland?

Bearing in mind the chaos of the currency question during the independence referendum, does anyone seriously believe the UK would exit the EU and allow Scotland to take sterling straight back in?

EU rules require new members to join the Eurozone. How many people really want to join a system that has strangled economic growth, plunged its poorer members into impossible debt and obliged its richer members to bail them out?

Simply to state these issues is to show the foolishness of the assumption noted in my first paragraph. I do worry however that Europhiles will harp upon this refrain until more and more people in Scotland assume that it must be true.