The Scottish National Party has warned Theresa May that she should not try to block plans for a second Scottish referendum.
Well, as I recall, the vote in the last referendum was to remain within the UK and even Alex Salmond said that there wouldn’t be another referendum for many years to come, but now Nicola Sturgeon is calling for another just a couple of years after the last.
“The goalposts have changed,” she said, referring to the Brexit vote. But in life and politics, goalposts always change.
Deputy leader Angus Robertson said he did not want to “sit in the back of the Tory Brexit bus… and see the prime minister drive us off a Brexit cliff”.
But has anyone ever asked the rest of the UK if they actually want Scotland to remain in the Union?
At the time of the Scottish referendum, the SNP estimated that the North Sea oil industry brought in somewhere in the region of £8 billion per annum. However, since then, oil revenues have crashed and are now 99% lower, at just £60 million – largely due to US oil fracking. This hasn’t hurt the UK economy as much as one might think, as the stimulus from cheaper oil more or less balances out lower North Sea receipts. A country of 65 million can absorb such shocks. A separate Scotland simply could not.
Recently, the Scottish government published figures for its national finances. They have determined that the Scottish government spends £127 for every £100 it raises in tax and is dependent on financial support from England. For every £100 spent per English person, £120 is spent on a Scottish one.
Scotland’s deficit, at 10.1% of GDP, is now twice as big as the massively underperforming Japan.
No independent country can afford to run a deficit as big as that of Scotland.
To borrow on world markets, you need fiscal solidity.
Even to join the EU, Scotland’s deficit would need to be less than 3%, so how this fits in with Ms Sturgeon’s plans is hard to fathom.
The SNP’s case for separation from the UK has always rested on three assumptions:
- A) That North Sea oil would transform the economy
- B) That Scotland’s priorities are completely and irreconcilably different from those of England’s
- C) That, somehow, Scottish government means better government
- A) The North Sea dream is over – the price of oil has collapsed
- B) The British Social Attitudes survey shows that Scots are growing ever closer to the English in their outlook on politics, culture and society
- C) The NHS in Scotland is NOT better than in England. A Scottish teenager is now half as likely to get into university as a poor English one and the merger of regional police services into Police Scotland has been a disaster.
It is sometimes argued that the EU referendum has made Scotland more likely to vote for independence, but now that Brexit is going ahead, simple questions need to be answered.
Questions like how could a financially week Scotland support itself and, if it were to join the EU (which it wouldn’t be able or allowed to do), what currency would it use? The Euro?
So, isn’t it about time that the rest of the UK had a vote as to whether we want the Scots as part of the union in any case?