Mark Casci: The last thing Britain needs now is another referendum

Brexit could coincide with a second vote on Scottish independence.
Brexit could coincide with a second vote on Scottish independence.
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The announcement from Nicola Sturgeon that the Scottish National Party she leads wishes to hold another referendum will not have surprised many.

Ever since the United Kingdom voted for Brexit last year she and her party will have been looking at how to put a fresh poll in front of Scots.

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, gives a speech at Bute House (official residence of the Frist Minister) outlining her plans to trigger article 30 - requesting a new Scottish independence Referendum.

bute house, Edinburgh 13-03-17

First Minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, gives a speech at Bute House (official residence of the Frist Minister) outlining her plans to trigger article 30 - requesting a new Scottish independence Referendum. bute house, Edinburgh 13-03-17

It is less than three years since the last Scottish independence referendum, billed at the time by the SNP as “a once in a lifetime opportunity”, which resulted in a decisive vote to remain part of the UK.

However, Ms Sturgeon argues that the decision for Brexit completely changes things and that Scots should this time be able to “choose between a hard Brexit or becoming an independent nation”.

It is hard not to have sympathy with a country which overwhelmingly voted to stay in the European Union but yet which finds itself in a situation this week where it will formally see divorce papers handed to Brussels in the shape of Article 50. In last year’s shock poll 62 per cent of Scots voted in favour of remain while the UK as a whole voted to leave by 52 per cent.

Ms Sturgeon will be able to tap into the deep-seated resentment held among many Scots regarding their future being dictated by the will of Westminster politicians.

File photo dated 05/08/14 of the flag of St George, the  Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a new independence referendum should be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday March 13, 2017. See PA story POLITICS Brexit Scotland. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

File photo dated 05/08/14 of the flag of St George, the Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said a new independence referendum should be held between autumn 2018 and spring 2019. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday March 13, 2017. See PA story POLITICS Brexit Scotland. Photo credit should read: Owen Humphreys/PA Wire

However, it is vital that all parties scrutinise this proposition very closely.

Ms Sturgeon’s suggestion that an independent Scotland would be able to garner admission to the European Union is as flimsy in places as Scotland’s defence was this weekend against the English at Twickenham.

For a start there is Scotland’s deficit, which currently runs to around 7-8 per cent of its GDP, a state of affairs brought about in part due to the devolved government’s sky high levels of public spending. On a strict interpretation of the Maastricht Treaty, this would mean it would not qualify for admission into the Euro.

Secondly there is the time frame. Assuming there is a hard Brexit in 24 months time it would still take several years for Scotland to be granted admission. Part of this process would involve a two-to-three year post-Brexit period in which Scotland would be required to stay within EU policies, all of which will be taking place in an environment in which the UK at large will be diverging away from EU practices.

Further to this is the appetite at large from the wider EU. Will nations like Spain, with their own difficulties with separatist movements, really wish to encourage such behaviour? Doubtful.

Many business people, both north and south of the border, regard Scottish independence as being a greater risk than Brexit.

One leading economist told me this month that breaking up the UK would be “another level of complexity” when compared with Brexit, and look at how challenging that has proven already. We voted to leave in June and we are only just about to serve Article 50.

If we are to have any chance at all of pulling off this most important chapter in our history we cannot afford any more uncertainty and distraction.

Surely a more conciliatory approach, given the deep valleys of division that the EU referendum has driven, is for the SNP-led devolved Scottish government to work with Theresa May and the national Government to establish a deal that works for Scotland, and meets at least some of the concerns it has in a post Brexit era?

At some point we as a nation need to start fixing things rather than resorting to a rip it up and start again approach to our problems.

I am a proud Scot who has lived in England my entire life. I would like to think that we can offer something more for our children then more division.

We can make a success of the next few years together as a nation and Scotland must be a part of this. This opportunistic attempt at another independence referendum must be avoided.