What Scotland thinks will shape the EU referendum

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In or Out? Scotland’s vote is crucial. Photo: The Scotsman.

The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will today provide a keynote speech in London, urging UK and Scottish voters to support staying in the EU.

Prior to today’s speech, polling suggests Scotland to be the most pro-EU region of the UK, with 60% of respondents supporting the Remain campaign.

As is being said amongst academics and commentators who have been involved in the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, many Scots will feel a little sense of deja-vu about the EU referendum.

During the 18 month-long independence campaign, Scottish voters were hammered with notions of being chucked out of the 28 member union, and having to adopt the Euro should they wish to reapply for membership.

For that reason, it is perhaps unsurprising some Scottish voters might feel less-than-enthusiastic about the recent debate.

However, despite the polls suggesting Scotland would vote to remain in the EU – perhaps triggering a second independence referendum if the UK votes otherwise – Sturgeon should not be complacent in her speech today.

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Deja vu? Photo: Polandball

There are two (perhaps) concerning scenarios which may come into play following the referendum on June 23.

Scenario A could be Scotland opting to remain in the EU, but the rUK voting to leave.

If this did happen, and Scotland had voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU, it is probable an independence referendum could come about, resulting in the cessation of a union with the UK, and instead (depending on the negotiating terms) reapplying as a member of the EU.

Speaking to the European and External Relations Committee on February 25, the Scottish government’s Europe and International Development minister Humza Yousaf spoke of concerns of UK cessations from the EU in Ireland.

Mr Yousaf claimed there were concerns in the Republic of the UK leaving, meaning a psychical border would be resurrected between itself and its Northern counterpart.

This could be damaging for peace talks, Mr Yousaf claimed, and for trading relations.

If one applies this theory to Scotland, it could result in Scenario A creating a physical border between Scotland and England, as that would be the diving line between EU and non-EU territory.

This is severely damaging to the nationalist message during the independence campaign that no border would be erected between Scotland and England, in an attempt to stem concerns over friend and family relations south of the border if Scotland had voted Yes.

Scenario B is the unpredicted but yet very possible situation of Scotland opting to leave the EU too.

This would be a shock to the Scottish government, as polls suggest this is unlikely to happen, but we are still months away from the actual vote.

Already some on the left and on the side of the SNP have said they have issues with the EU, and would rather leave it.

Jim Sillars, for instance, took issue with the EU in his book In Place of Failure: Making It Yes Next Time.

In it, Sillars writes about having (as we have heard many times in recent weeks) a similar relationship wth the EU as Norway.

Norway is an EFTA member, and so has the benefits of having access to the single-market. Much of the criticism of this opinion is in the idea Norway has “no say” in laws that might affect its trade agreement.

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Would a border be established between Scotland and the UK? Photo: Alamy.

However, Sillars writes on EFTA: “Note those words ‘simply wrong’ and ‘lose all ability to influence the laws and regulations to which they would be subject.’

“They are more eloquent rejections of EEA membership that the usual arguments that EFTA countries like Norway and Iceland, because they do not have a vote with the EU, get sent directives and regulations by fax with which they must comply.

“But the Scottish government’s words are just as misleading, more akin to sophisticated propaganda.”

He goes on to cite the EEA Agreement: Agreement on the European Economic Area, which states in Article 99 that EFTA states are consulted when matters relating to legislation change in an EFTA-related area.

Therefore, the case is there for a different option to full cessation from the parliament in Brussels, but one that might relieve some of the pressures and injustices many feel form part of the EU.

If this idea were tabled, it is possible some Scots would opt for such an approach, and choose to leave the full membership of the EU.

I have found to be torn on the issue myself: as I read deeper into the UK’s relationship with the EU, I start to get a feeling there are a number of injustices and added costs to being a full members.

For instance, the unfair distribution of farming subsidies, which is failing to go to those farmers who need it most, and on the disputed high-costs of being a full members.

It is a difficult question to ask: do we stay or go?

My one hang-up about voting to leave the EU is the idea of having to rely solely on the UK government over trade renegotiation, largely unchallenged.

This is perhaps a dystopian view, but the thought of being out of the EU, crucial foreign policy issues being centralised in Westminster, and also having scuppered the chance of a possible independence referendum would be damaging for any nationalist.

If Scenario B plays out, we would end up being seen to have consented to Westminster, and surrendered the chance of another independence referendum. However, some may vote Leave because that is precisely what they want: to remain in the UK, out of the EU.

All of this remains to be seen. For now, though, both scenarios leave some crucial questions in foreign relations. Or, in a perfect world, the whole of the UK votes to remain, and we renegotiate our terms.

If polls are to be believed, though, it will be a close thing, and one would imagine high levels of euroscepticism are exactly what the Conservative government do not need.

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There are 2 comments

  1. astute angle

    I’ve never understood why Scottish ‘nationalists’ support the EU. What is the point of moving what little sovereignty is left in Westminster to Holyrood? Scotland has only about one per cent of the EU’s population and as with the ‘independent’ part of Ireland, an ‘independent’ Scotland would find its influence on the EU to be negligible.

    Like

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