13 March 2017

Cogito Ergo Non Serviam

Scotland to Seek Second Independence Referendum ahead of Brexit

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said that her nationalist government will seek a second referendum on independence ahead of the UK's formal exit from the European Union. This comes as no shock to anyone who has followed Scottish, British and European politics for the last year or so. This journal believes that a second referendum is inevitable if that corner of Europe is going to continue as a democratic realm. The only doubts here is the First Minister's timing. Independence would be more likely six months or so after Brexit, when everyone can start to feel the pain.

The problem stems from a few very simple facts. Scotland voted in the EU referendum 62-38 to remain in the EU. The UK as a whole voted to leave, 52-48. Thus, the Scottish nation, one of the four in the UK (English, Irish, Welsh being the others), will have to leave the EU against the wishes of 62% of its people on the strength of English and Welsh votes (Northern Ireland voted to remain as well). Scotland is recognized as a distinct nation with legal and educational systems different from the rest of the country, with its own parliament of limited power, with a separate healthcare operation. It has, in short, all the characteristics of a separate nation, and under international law, it has the same right to self-determination as the Nigerians, the Hondurans and the Malaysians.

Ms. Sturgeon's prepared statement said as much, "What Scotland deserves, in the light of the material change of circumstances brought about by the Brexit vote, is the chance to decide our future in a fair, free and democratic way -- and at a time when we are equipped with the facts we need. Whatever path we take, it should be one decided by us, not for us."

Opponents of IndyRef2, as the second independence referendum has been dubbed on Twitter and elsewhere, argue that the matter was settled in the first referendum on independence which was shot down 55-44%. This journal would agree except that the union to which the Scots were affirming their preference was itself part of the EU. Since that is no longer going to be the case, a second consultation with people is in order. In international law, the term that applies is rebus sic stantibus. The situation has changed so much that the Union with England may no longer be applicable.

Ms. Sturgeon's government, supported by Scotland's Green Party, will ask Westminster for a Section 30 order to permit a legal referendum on the issue. While it would be legally permissible for London to deny that request, it would be political folly. Indeed, it could give the SNP grounds to call a snap election on the question of independence, and a unilateral declaration of the end of the Union when the votes are counted.

The date of the referendum is a crucial matter. Ms. Sturgeon has expressed a preference for autumn 2018 through spring of 2019. When Article 50 of the EU treaty is triggered by the end of this month, the clock will start a two-year count-down for the UK's departure. That means that by April 2019, the UK won't be part of the EU any longer. Whitehall has said that Brexit itself will take up far too much time to organize and deal with a referendum as well. A referendum some time after Brexit would work better according to those making this case.

Ms. Sturgeon should yield on this one point to ensure that she comes across as the level-headed, intelligence politician she is. There is little reason to believe that the months after the UK leaves the EU things are going to be champagne and caviar in Britain. To be honest, this journal believes the whole process will be messy and that the costs will hit almost immediately. Give that a few months to percolate, a summer of discontent. Under those circumstances, the vote will probably be 55-45 again, but this time, Scots will vote to be part of Europe rather than an appendage of England outside the EU.

© Copyright 2017 by The Kensington Review, Jeff Myhre, PhD, Editor. No part of this publication may be reproduced without written consent. Produced using Ubuntu Linux.

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