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Will there be a second Scottish independence referendum?

Submitted by on 29 Sep 2016 – 09:00

Another Scottish referendum is highly likely if the Government of the United Kingdom fails to protect Scottish interests while exiting the EU. While two-thirds of Scots voted to Remain in the European Union and with a vast majority of Germans, French and Danes favouring a Scottish decision to join the EU, STEPHEN GETHINS MP, member of the Scottish National Party, argues that honouring Scotland’s decision to stay within the EU, whilst providing distinct solutions appropriate to other parts of the UK, becomes Britain’s democratic necessity

Almost two thirds of the Scottish electorate – in every local authority area, including those who voted against joining the EU – voted to Remain in the European Union. Scotland chose to be an open, inclusive and outward-looking society where other EU citizens are welcome to live, work and contribute. We voted to protect the freedom and prosperity that comes with our rights to trade and invest, travel, live, work and study in other European countries. Scotland’s future is in Europe and the overriding objective of the Scottish Government and SNP is to protect Scotland’s place in the European Union.

EU Nationals make a huge contribution to our communities in Scotland. On the morning after the vote, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon displayed our corresponding commitment to EU citizens living in Scotland, saying: “you remain welcome here, Scotland is your home and your contribution is valued.” Soon after, she gained the support of the Scottish Parliament, with only the Conservatives abstaining, to visit and make Scotland’s voice heard in Brussels where she met with Presidents Schulz and Junker as well as leading parliamentarians from around the EU. She described the reception she received as sympathetic and we thank all of those who have shown such goodwill towards Scotland. At home, the First Minister has set up a Standing Council on Europe – comprising distinguished figures with backgrounds in diplomacy, the EU institutions, economics and industry – which will advise the Scottish Government on how it can best secure Scottish interests and our relationship with the rest of the EU going forward.

It is now time for the UK Government to likewise respect the decision made by the people of Scotland and demonstrate rather than assert – against evidence to the contrary – that remaining part of the UK can work for Scotland. This will be particularly important in the negotiations that will precede the invocation of Article 50. We expect a negotiation position allowing different parts of the UK to meet their distinct needs and pursue different outcomes whilst respecting the outcome of the referendum in different parts of the UK.

The Scottish First Minister has outlined five tests for any negotiation outcome: Scotland’s democratic decision must be upheld; we must retain access to the EU’s single market and funding mechanisms; Scotland must continue to benefit from EU social protections; we must be able to work in solidarity with other EU partners to promote security, tackle global challenges and encourage EU sponsored study exchanges; and Scotland must retain influence by being able to shape the rules of the single market.

Whilst the first priority of the Scottish Government and SNP is to ensure these tests are met, it is clear that another Scottish independence referendum is highly likely if the UK Government can’t protect Scottish interests. The manifesto with which the SNP won the Scottish election in May, just 6 weeks before the Referendum, stated: “The Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum…if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out the EU against our will.” In the UK’s parliamentary tradition, it would be unthinkable for the UK Government to refuse a second independence referendum that had the support of the Scottish Parliament and a majority of Members of the UK Parliament with Scottish constituencies. There is now growing public support for Independence from those who voted to stay in the UK in 2014 on the basis of the UK remaining in the EU.

An increasing number of our fellow European citizens appear to agree. A recent YouGov poll questioned several European countries if they would endorse Scotland’s decision to join the EU, 71% of people in Germany, 61% of people in France and 67% of people in Denmark were in favour. We are pleased to hear Irish Taoiseach Enda Kenny affirm that “Scotland should not be dragged out of the European Union having voted to stay.” The endorsement from Gunther Krichbaum, Chair of the German Parliament’s European affairs committee, favouring a Scottish referendum is also highly welcoming.

Honouring Scotland’s decision to stay within the European Union, whilst providing distinct solutions appropriate to other parts of the UK, is in the interests of all the UK’s nations and is a democratic necessity. The sustainability of multinational union-states such as the UK rests on the needs, interests and democratic aspirations of each part being fulfilled. For the EU itself, I can see no greater interest- or purpose – than that of retaining the membership of all nations and peoples committed to working together for peace, prosperity and Europe itself.