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Scots have not shifted to Yes over Brexit. It’s the UK, come what may.

Union: Scots still prefer UK over EU, if polls are to be believed.

Union: Scots still prefer UK over EU, if polls are to be believed.


Immediately after the UK voted to leave the EU while Scotland voted to stay in an opinion poll was conducted.

It produced the figure that 59% of Scots would support independence in a second referendum.

This was catnip to the SNP. The number was close to the magic figure of 60% which they believe is the threshold for a second referendum that would be won.

Cue the Sturgeon campaign — jetting to Europe, holding photo ops, making speeches — all intended to solidify this emotional reaction to Brexit into the certainty of a victory in a second independence referendum.

Well, it hasn’t worked.

A YouGov poll taken a month after the EU referendum shows that the top line numbers on independence have barely shifted — 53% of Scots would vote against and 47% for.

Opposition to independence strengthens when the EU is introduced into the equation.

Fifty-five per cent of Scots say that they would rather live in a Scotland that was still part of the UK post-Brexit, against 45% who would rather live in an independent Scotland that remained in the EU.

There should be no real surprise in these figures.

The risk of change was rejected in the referendum nearly two years ago. What Brexit adds to the picture is even more uncertainty, which strengthens Scots’ desire to stay in the UK.

After all, when the seas get rough who wants to leave a tanker — however old — for a tugboat?

But it is more than uncertainty — it is actually the certainty that voters now have about independence that has sealed the fate of any ‘indyref2’.

Consider. The referendum result turned essentially on two issues — the oil price and the currency. The former has been pretty decisively dealt with by the market. The collapse in prices from nearly $110 a barrel — the basis for the independence White Paper’s optimistic assumptions about Scotland’s wealth — to around $40 has dealt a visible blow to oil revenues which have fallen from nearly £10bn a year to £130m.

The latest issue of GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland) later this month will reinforce that stark fact.

The latter has been dealt an even more devastating blow. For Scotland to join the EU once the UK has left will mean accepting the acquis — which includes the euro.

That is probably not a prospect that will raise a resounding cheer in Dundee or Glasgow any more than it does in Liverpool or Newcastle. Yet what is the alternative? Not the pound — that would be a non-EU currency. Anyway the fate of Greece shows you what happens to the smaller country in a currency union — they have to do whatever the big countries say.

Nor the ‘poond’ either — a new currency supported by a currency board would require reserves equivalent to 100% of currency issued. That is a lot of money to be produced by tax increases or spending cuts.

So, it’s ‘Vote Yes for the euro!’ — I would love to see the polling on that.

Even then the problems aren’t over for independence campaigners. Put simply, leaving the UK for the EU would mean Scotland leaving a fiscal union for a customs union.

What’s the difference? Straightforward really. A fiscal union redistributes resources according to accepted needs, a customs union doesn’t. The most recent GERS showed the difference between public spending in Scotland and taxes raised here as £15bn. Of course, some of that is borrowed, so say that the transfer is currently £10bn. That is a lot of spending to cut — some 7% of GDP, which is the equivalent of what was lost in the Great Recession.

The alternative of a tax hike is just not realistic — increasing the basic rate by 50% to 30p would only raise £5bn. And this, and the currency board, would not be the only pressures on the Scottish budget. There would be a need to pay into the EU. Scotland’s share of the UK contribution — without the vanished rebate — would be £1-1.5bn or 2-3p on income tax.

There you have it. The campaign for indyref2 is: ‘Vote Yes for £10bn of cuts, a 3p hike in taxes — and all to get the euro.’

No wonder voters are clear. It’s the UK, come what may.

Comment by John McTernan, a writer, thinker, and political strategist. He has advised world leaders including Tony Blair and Australian prime minister Julia Gillard. You can follow him on Twitter at @johnmcternan.

http://stv.tv/news/politics/1362975-scots-have-not-shifted-to-yes-over-brexit-it-s-the-uk-come-what-may/

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