Monday , June 17 2024

Destroying the SNP’s dream

The SNP’s failure to win an overall majority in Holyrood was a setback for them and their cause. It will be very hard indeed for Scottish nationalists to push for a second independence referendum in the next five years. Importantly, in the present context, this is the case even if the UK as a whole decides to vote to leave the EU. If that happened there is no question that the SNP would complain and kick up a fuss. But there would be very little that they could do. They just don’t have the numbers. Too few Scots support independence at the moment and the Scottish economy is too dependent on subsidy from the UK.

Despite all the scare stories it remains the case that leaving the EU would be relatively straightforward for the UK. All we would have to do is revert to the norm. Most nation states in the world are like Australia, Japan, Iceland and Switzerland. These countries trade freely with the rest of the world, but their own parliaments are supreme. The laws these parliaments make are not subordinate to the laws made by unelected bureaucrats. They don’t allow countries they trade with to tell them what to do. Fundamentally, Brexit supporters are simply saying that the UK can become once more what we had been for centuries until we joined the then Common Market.  The scare stories from our opponents amount to the claim that the UK cannot revert to being a country like Australia. In the end what’s scary about being like Australia? Nothing at all.

The thing that makes Brexit relatively straightforward is that the UK already is a nation state. The arguments that were used in the Scottish independence referendum against Scottish nationalism simply do not apply. Guess what if the UK leaves the EU we get to keep the pound.

No-one knows anything about economics in the short term. Almost no-one predicted the 2008 economic crisis. We cannot predict what will happen to the UK economy in the next twelve months let alone the next twenty years. The future has not happened yet. What happens depends on things we cannot control, but also to an extent on the choices that we make. There will be a recession some time relatively soon if we leave the EU. But there will also be a recession if we stay. We know this because recessions are cyclical. All you can do is make sound economic decisions for the long term.

The core EU countries share a single currency. In the next few years they will face a choice. Either the Eurozone will become something like a single nation state or it will break up. Currency union requires political union and fiscal union. Money has to be transferred from the richer parts of the union to the poorer parts. At the moment the Eurozone simply isn’tworking. Countries like Italy have had to endure long term recession with no hope of finding growth. The idea that leaving the EU causes recession is preposterous. The EU itself is a recession machine.

In order to work properly the Eurozone will have to come much closer together and gain a federal structure. Alternatively it could break up. No-one knows which of these two options will happen. My guess is that the Eurozone will become something like a single federal nation state. Breaking up would be too traumatic. We learned that last summer. If Grexit were going to happen, it would have already happened.

The Eurozone is going to have to make some tough decisions in any event. German tax payers are going to have to pay for Italian debts. Naturally they don’t want to. They would far rather that the UK had to pay too. It is for this reason that staying in the EU is a long term threat to the UK. There are benefits of sharing a single currency, but we don’t share them, yet even so we will end up paying the cost of Eurozone unification.

The only way the Eurozone countries can gain political union is if the majority can overrule the minority. The idea that the UK can remain in the EU while not sharing the costs of political union is to misunderstand the nature of the EU. Whatever guarantees are made turn out to be worthless a few years down the line. What’s more there will be nothing we can do, because we will be outvoted. If we choose to remain in the EU, we choose to make our laws and our parliament subordinate.

Likewise we don’t share the benefits of being in the Schengen zone. Recently we have been discovering that there are costs too. The EU cannot control its external borders. If at some point in the future the EU decides that everyone has to take their share of those who take advantage of the EU’s open border policy, what will we be able to do to stop this? Nothing at all. By choosing to remain in the EU we choose in the end to be outvoted on anything and everything. That’s what political union means.

The EU is one crisis away from moving decisively towards political union. That crisis may come with the next global recession, which cannot be far off now. The reason for all the scare stories by the global establishment is that they fear that Brexit would give an example to countries like Italy and Spain. What they fear is that the UK shows that there is life outside the EU and indeed that it is better.

But Brexit might also be of huge benefit to the EU. In the next few years while they try to come closer together, what is going to be their stumbling block? It will be the UK. It’s hard to imagine a UK government being pleased at being outvoted. It’s equally hard to imagine the British people being grateful that we have to do things we don’t want to do for the sake of European unity. But if we were not there, if we were not always a hindrance, it is possible to imagine the European project succeeding.

Once you understand what the EU is going to become, then the result of last week’s Scottish parliament election becomes ever more important. The crucial thing is that there is no longer a threat that Scotland will try to leave the UK if we vote to leave the EU. Pro UK Scots can then vote for Brexit knowing that the SNP can do nothing about it.

But won’t this just store up a grievance for the future? Well it’s not as if the SNP will cease having a grievance in any event. But it’s vital to realise that leaving the EU makes Scottish independence must harder to realise. If you don’t believe me then perhaps you will believe this from the site Wings over Scotland.

It’s not accidental that the SNP has for a long time supported the EU. The reason fundamentally is that it makes independence more palatable and less of a shock. The whole SNP argument is that independence would be a relatively minor change. All of the things that we like about the UK would continue, but Scotland would be independent. This can be described as independence light. If on the other hand it turns out that we would be voting for independence heavy, the likelihood of the SNP winning the argument becomes much smaller. If the UK leaves the EU Scottish independence becomes very heavy indeed.

I have made this point on a number of occasions, but it’s worth reiterating. Imagine five years from now. The UK has left the EU. Things are going fairly well. The Scottish nationalists still want independence and they want to join the EU. Well the EU five years from now will most probably be still more integrated. Moreover the condition for joining the EU is that you promise to join the Euro and Schengen. There is zero chance that new members will be given any sort of rebate on their subscription. Will Scots really prefer to join a United States of Europe, where they will actually have no more independence than Texas? The Scottish parliament in those circumstances would lose power rather than gain it.

At present 64% of Scottish trade is with the rest of the UK and only 14% is with the EU. Would Scottish voters really want to leave the trading block (the UK) with which we do most of our trade in order to join another with which we hardly trade at all? That would be senseless.

There could be no question whatsoever of Scotland keeping the pound under those circumstances. The idea of a currency union between a country that’s in the EU with one that isn’t is preposterous. Anyway we just learned the lesson of the Euro that currency union requires political union. So in order to join the EU Scotland would first have to set up its own currency and then join the Euro. Would Scottish voters really go for that? It would be like first changing your money into dollars and then into Yen. That’s a really good way of losing money.

If Scotland were in Schengen, while the UK was outside the EU, it’s hard to imagine that we could maintain an open border. If there were an open border between Gretna and Berwick then anyone who got into the EU would immediately be able to go to London. But it would be precisely to stop this that the UK left the EU in the first place.

The failure last week of the SNP to win a majority in the Scottish parliament gives us a chance to kick Scottish nationalism in the teeth. They have had a setback we can turn it into a rout. The main reason why I support Brexit is that it makes Scottish independence so heavy that it becomes a dead issue. We will face challenges if we vote to leave the EU, but we will face them together and that will unite our country as such challenges always have. It may be the only thing that will bring back our unity.

The alternative is that we vote to stay in the EU. Five years from now perhaps the SNP will be ready for another push for independence. Who is to say they won’t have a majority then? Who is to say that the UK government will not feel compelled to give them another referendum? Who is to say they won’t win next time? Now the SNP are at their weakest. The Scottish economy is in trouble and dependent on UK subsidy. The condition for the possibility of Scottish independence is UK membership of the EU. Destroy the Scottish nationalist dream before it turns into our nightmare.

This post was originally published by the author 14 May 2016.

About Effie Deans

Effie Deans is a pro UK blogger. She spent many years living in Russia and the Soviet Union, but came home to Scotland so as to enjoy living in a multi-party democracy! When not occupied with Scottish politics she writes fiction and thinks about theology, philosophy and Russian literature.

Check Also

The War on the Moon

There was a time when the HG Wells story ‘War of the Worlds’, made into …