Will Brexit Trigger Scottish Independence?
By Chris Smith via Glasgow (SCT)
On Friday the 24th of June, the United Kingdom woke up to the biggest economic and political upheaval since the Second World War. Contrary to the opinion polls, 51.9% votes went in favour of leaving the European Union. The global markets reacted badly to this unexpected result with the Pound tumbling to its lowest value since 1985, and the British economy slipping from being the world’s 5th largest economy to the 6th, behind major EU proponent, France.
The Friday morning was a frantic one amongst the UK press as analysts and commentators struggled to make sense of the implications of what the public had voted for. By 9 o’clock, Prime Minister David Cameron had announced his resignation, and we had a picture of how the country had voted. The graphics being spun onto the news networks painted a picture of a country divided in political opinion. Aside from London, and a couple of areas in the across the South, the ‘Leave’ vote was spread across the majority of the English Midlands, the English North, East Anglia, Wales, and the South West.
The biggest implication to a change in the British geo-political landscape comes from the fact that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to ‘Remain’. In some areas of Scotland, the message was clear. The city of Stirling voted 67.6% in favour of remain, in East Dunbartonshire 71.4% agreed, and in Edinburgh City 74.4% were in favour of sticking with the EU. This swing to remain has now reignited the Scottish National Party’s drive for independence as they believe this result highlights the level of political disconnect between Scotland and England.
Scots were polled online Friday June 26th, asking if they were now in favor of Scotland separating from Great Britain, 59% of them said yes, they are now in favor of Scottish Independence. In short, a solid majority of Scots seem to be choosing the EU over the UK. (Unclear if the hashtag #Scotix will catch on Twitter or not…)
Over the course of the weekend, and at the time of writing the very landscape of British politics has begun to shift. As mentioned earlier, David Cameron has announced his resignation leaving an opening for a new leader of the Conservative Party to be chosen at the party’s conference in October, and ultimately a new Prime Minister. The main candidate for this position is the former London Mayor, and former Eton classmate of Cameron, Boris Johnson.
A great degree of political speculation has raged in the UK press over the weekend around Johnson’s possible appointment as the leader of the Conservative Party. Being the new leader of the country it would be his duty to invoke Article 50, a bureaucratic hot potato that would involve reshaping the political and economic relationships of the 27 other EU member states that have been in place for the last four decades. The ‘leave’ campaign has hit back stating that it is the responsibility of the government to have a contingency plan in place in the event of Brexit.
Meanwhile, the divisive leader of the UK Independence Party and proponent of Britain leaving the EU, Nigel Farage has appeared in the press to go back on promises made by the campaign. One such example concerns the potential money that could be saved, were Britain not contributing to the EU. The leave campaign emblazoned the slogan “We send the EU £350 million a week. Let’s fund our NHS instead” on billboards and on the side of a campaign bus. Just hours after the result was made official, Farage appeared on national television to say that this was quite simply a fabrication.
Across the political divide, the left-leaning Labour party has all but imploded over the weekend. 12 shadow cabinet ministers resigned over the weekend, in protest of the current leader Jeremy Corbyn. The Labour leader is now struggling to form an opposition from a party that is divided, and refuses to rally behind him.
The only place where any real political leadership has been seen throughout this crisis is from the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Her belief is that the difference in political opinion between Scotland and the rest of the UK is a sufficient mandate to allow a second referendum on Scottish independence. She has argued that the right road for Scotland is one that is built on retaining a close relationship with the EU, as this is how Scotland voted overwhelmingly in the referendum.
The questions that will now be asked of Sturgeon will surround the state of the Scottish Oil industry, which has suffered difficulty in the last few years and whether or not it will it be able to sustain an independent Scotland. The strength of house prices will be another major question mark. Scotland’s banks make up for a significant proportion of her economy and questions about mortgage rates will be raised. This, as well as answers to how an independent Scotland will deal with EU contributions and immigration, will be getting hammered out in the back rooms of Holyrood over the coming weeks. The referendum may be over, but the real political change in the UK is only just beginning.