Beset by failure in running Scotland, at the SNP party conference in October leader Nicola Sturgeon was forced to bring forward her plan to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence in 2020.
With all the SNP’s legal moves against Brexit fizzling out or falling on stony ground, it has been forced by the success of Brexit arguments to reveal its more extreme positions – such as breaking up Britain without a referendum, adopting the euro, re-joining the detested Common Fisheries Policy and advocating a hard border between Scotland and England. And all of this while its minority administration in Edinburgh has been presiding over failure in their day job, with educational standards falling, chaos in the NHS and refusal to support workers in threatened industries, citing EU regulations on state aid. Notably the Scottish Trades Union Congress has failed to hold them to account on any of this.
In September, the SNP administration intervened in and supported two legal cases aimed at thwarting the Brexit process. At the Court of Session in Edinburgh their leading MP in Parliament at Westminster, Joanna Cherry, and 75 MPs and members of the House of Lords, brought a case claiming that the suspension of Parliament was unlawful. It was an attempt to stop progress towards a clean break with the EU.
The SNP administration also supported a similar case at the High Court in London by anti-Brexit campaigner Gina Miller. The reasoning for the interventions was voiced by leading MSP, Mike Russell, who said “the democratic wishes of the Scottish people and the Scottish Parliament should not be allowed to be brushed aside as if they did not matter” This thinking does not take into account the fact that more Scots voted for Brexit in the 2016 referendum (over a million) than voted for the SNP in the 2017 general election. And reaction against such thinking from those who favour British unity can be summed up by the words of MSP Jackson Carlaw: “It is the latest in Nicola Sturgeon’s desperate attempt to halt democracy and agitate for independence at the same time. The SNP has been wasteful enough of taxpayer’s cash on legal matters in recent times. Hardworking Scots do not want to fund this charade.”
Failure in political argument seems to tempt the pro-EU lobby to resort to legal means. Yet another anti-Brexit case was brought to the Court of Session in Edinburgh later in October. This one was kicked out, with the presiding judge, Lord Pentland, pointing out that the orders sought “would unquestionably interfere to a major extent with the proposed proceedings in Parliament.” He concluded: “It is a cardinal principle of constitutional law that the courts should not intrude on the legitimate affairs and processes of Parliament.” Despite this we have probably not seen the end of well-funded legal actions against Brexit and progress towards British independence.
It is this very progress that will pull the rug from under the marching feet of the separatist movement (their exaggerations in the numbers marching are well documented). It has been the European Union that has attempted over recent decades to degrade the nation states of Europe and encourage regionalism, federalism and breakaways.
Often this has been achieved by targeted funding combined with high visibility public acknowledgements. So, it has been encouraging to see the government advocating that UK government-funded projects in Scotland will be branded as such and that UK national policies that benefit those living there will be clearly seen as being British ones. Too often the SNP has taken credit for developments for which they have not been responsible.
For too long the administration in Scotland has been running a separate foreign policy with expensive offices in the EU and around the world. These links to the influences of foreign powers should cease with Brexit. After 20 years of devolution – now past its sell-by date – it is worth pointing out that Holyrood is a subsidiary arm of the British state and not its equal. Yet it frequently claims status.
An example of the SNP administration claiming kudos would be the forthcoming United Nations climate conference scheduled for Glasgow next year. The British government is determined that it is seen as a British-flagged event organised by the whole country – preventing the SNP claim that it has succeeded in ‘bringing the world to Scotland’. It is estimated that it will be attended by 30,000 delegates and up to 200 world leaders.
Attempts to make Scotland look better than the rest of Britain have resulted in building up a large annual deficit. That deficit has been estimated to be running at 7 per cent of GDP, while for the UK it runs at 2 per cent. A glance at recent spending in Scotland shows that in 2018–19, public spending was 13.6 per cent higher per head than the UK average. At the same time the revenue collected was 2.6 per cent lower. Only the existence of Britain makes this affordable. But it does not augur well for so-called ‘Scottish independence’.
Around a tenth of Britain’s population is in Scotland, and it has a tenth of its economic growth. But it is responsible for more than half of the increase in total annual government borrowing. So, in the absence of subsidy it receives as part of Britain – about £10 billion annually – how could a separate Scotland possibly sustain such a level of expenditure? It would fail the requirements for euro and Schengen membership that are now a must for new states seeking EU membership. Its annual deficit of 7 per cent of GDP is way above the 3 per cent limit that would trigger the EU’s medicine for excessive deficits. That would mean a severe austerity regime if it actually joined. With two failed banks, both bailed out by the British taxpayer, Scotland would fail to find a central bank, another condition of membership.
Those intending to vote for the SNP or give support to the separatist movement should have a close look at the recent fate of Greece – and its youth unemployment rate of 40 per cent. Far better to turn to a far more noble independence cause, that of building an independent Britain.
This article was first published on the Bruges Group website, and is republished with permission. You may not use, copy, distribute, publish, syndicate, sub-license and transmit the whole or any part of such material in any manner and in any format and/or media without the permission of the original publishers.