Cocky Brexiters casually threw our 300-year union up in air

by Hugo Dixon | 13.03.2017

During the referendum, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove blithely dismissed the risk that Brexit could lead to Scottish independence. Now as the government charges towards a hard, destructive Brexit, we are ill prepared to stop it.

To the Leave camp, the possibility that the Scottish Nationalists would use Brexit as an excuse to break up the United Kingdom, which has been a pillar of our greatness for over three centuries, was just another aspect of Project Fear. Watch this video from February last year when Johnson said the Scottish independence referendum of 2014 was a “once in a generation vote, there was no doubt at all about the result, and I think that will abide”.

If anything, Gove, a Scot, was even more careless. Not only did he wrongly predict on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show last May that most Scots would vote to quit the EU (62% voted Remain), he went on to say: “When we vote to leave it will be clear that having voted to leave one union the last thing the people of Scotland will want to do is to break up another.”

Now just because Nicola Sturgeon wants another Scottish independence referendum doesn’t mean she’ll get one, let alone that the Scottish first minister will win it. But one can’t be sure. Last week, there was an opinion poll showing the Scots were evenly divided on the question, and betting odds are showing independence has a slight lead if there is another plebiscite.

Theresa May will rightly argue that the Scots would be economically foolish to quit the UK. It’s unclear what currency an independent Scotland would use, it relies on subsidies from England and North Sea oil is well past its peak. What’s more, the UK single market is four times as valuable for Scotland as the EU single market is – and it’s likely anyway that Scotland would have to quit the EU before being allowed back in.

But Sturgeon is already using much of the Brexiters’ old playbook. Accusing Westminster of Project Fear. Saying what matters is that Scotland is in “control” of its own destiny. Dismissing the notion that there could be border controls between Scotland and England in the same way that Brexiters dismiss the risk of border controls between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland. Saying Scotland doesn’t have to choose between the UK and the EU – effectively that it can have its cake and eat it.

So, yes, it would be crazy for Scotland to quit the UK. But Brexiters should know better than anybody that the mere fact that something is crazy doesn’t mean people won’t vote for it. What havoc they have unleashed.

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    Edited by Luke Lythgoe

    5 Responses to “Cocky Brexiters casually threw our 300-year union up in air”

    • Theresa May argues that the Scots would be economically foolish to quit the UK. Isn’t that the argument she is totally ignoring when it comes to the EU? These irresponsible, reckless and stupid politicians are digging the country into a deeper and deeper mess.

    • Absolutely agree. But Brexit is founded on a myth- the “will of the people “- an ideology – sovereignty- and the interests of the Tory party as opposed to those of the country. Nothing will now deter the UK government from its suicidal dash for the cliff edge.

    • Oh dear, I suspect you should lose the FACTS part of your name. What a terrible ill-informed piece for British nationalism, sorry unionism. It is economically foolish to remain with a Brexit fixated UK. Cross border? Scotland is a lot more important to English export than the other way round, but maybe British nationalism is as stupid as this article. As for currency, there is nothing to stop the pound being used, ore any other currency, even creating a new one. the rump UK denying the pound would be very handy, freed from all the current debt as well.

      This has been one of the least informed articles I have read for a long time, are you sure you have not been taking lessons from the Brexit camp. I mean how much baseless fear mongering can you include?

    • ”What goes around, comes around”. Brexit campaigners and leave voters should heed this old saying. For it is coming round to bite them on the backside!

      Should Scots vote to leave the UK and become poorer in the process, they will only be doing what England and Wales did in June, 2016. Surely it will the ‘will of the people’ North of the border should it happen.

    • The Tories have caused this whole mess including the lead up to the request for indyref2 by pandering to their far right and worries over UKIP influence. The vote was for brexit where did it say hard brexit on the ballot? It was ill conceived and based on lies by charlatans who have their own agenda. Mrs May is telling the SCOTTISH government this is not a game. Mrs May should practice what she preaches and listen rather than close her ears off to those who have genuine concerns about hard brexit and where it will lead us. The Scottish Government has a mandate for another indie vote that was made in their manifesto and they received more votes that the Scottish Tories and labour put together nearly 50% of those who voted. There is a majority in the parliament for independence with the Scottish Greens taking them over the threshold for a majority in this vote. Also I wish people would stop peddling this myth that Scotland is subsidised and too small to stand on its own feet. What’s wrong with self determination many other countries in the commonwealth much smaller than Scotland are standing on their own two feet. Scotland is naturally left of centre in politics and does not have the stomach for decades of right wing Tory rule over the whole uk just because labour uk won’t support any motions from SNP in Westminster but hate the SNP because of the damage they have done to their support in Scotland. However, Labour are too arrogant to realise it was their inept governance and contempt of garanteed Scots support that they got lazy. The SNP would never have got where they are if the Scots had thought they were getting a fair hearing at Westminster but they never will with only 9% of uk population. They are not anti-English apart from a very very small minority in fact many were born in England now living in Scotland supporting independence. The Scottish electorate who vote for independence just want to do things differently surely there is nothing wrong in that! Just as Mrs May said we will still be the best of neighbours with Europe then why can’t an independent Scotland be the same to England! From a Scot who is a converted unionist, seeking an independent outward looking country with left of centre politics.