One fact that seems to be overlooked by many commentators is that when the UK leaves the EU, all EU citizens living in Scotland will get disenfranchised overnight because it’s an EU rule that gives us the right to vote in local elections, and independence referendums use the same franchise. So when Brexit happens, we’ll suddenly have no special status and will be treated the same as Americans or Argentinians, which means we won’t be able to vote.
Because voting Yes to Scottish independence this time is a complete no-brainer to any EU citizen living in Scotland (differently from last time, when many thought continued EU membership was secured better by voting No), it means we will lose up to 173,000 safe Yes votes by holding the referendum after the UK has left.
You’d need to feel extremely confident about the result of Indyref2 to discard these safe Yes votes just because you don’t really like the timeframe it imposes on you.
However, there are many other good reasons to hold the referendum before Brexit happens, as explored well by Wings over Scotland today.
It’s an excellent article, and I agree with most of he writes. However, I think he’s wrong in thinking that it’ll happen in May 2019:
So if we assume it must happen by next May, that makes May 2019 the logical cut-off point for Brexit. It’s coincidentally also the date the next European election is due – an event which of course remains on the UK political calendar, precisely because we haven’t even begun the process of Brexit yet.
It would be farcical for the UK to still be an EU member at that point – because we’d still have to hold those elections if there was no clear exit date in place – but in the current UK political climate, something being farcical is no barrier to it happening.
Nevertheless, let’s take it as the closest thing that we’ve got to a rationally plausible outcome. It would make sense to hold a second indyref at the same time. It would massively reduce the costs and admin, and it’s infinitely preferable from everyone’s point of view – Scotland’s, the EU’s and the rUK’s – for Scotland to STAY in the EU rather than to be dragged out then try to JOIN at a later date.
(Honestly, it’s simply not possible to overstate how much that’s the case. For about a thousand mainly pretty obvious reasons the technicalities of the latter scenario, for all three entities, would by comparison be absolutely insanely complex and costly. It’d be a lot less trouble just to go to war with Russia.)
I totally agree that it’d be barking mad to be dragged out only to rejoin a couple of years later, but I just can’t see how it can technically be done in time to ensure continued EU membership if we don’t vote till May 2019. Two years ago we argued that we needed about 18 months to set up an independent state. I always thought it could be done quicker, but the six months it took Czechia and Slovakia to separate is probably the gold standard. I would therefore say that the autumn of 2018 is the latest realistical time for the referendum to ensure Scotland remains within the EU without spending some time outside the door. (Unless, of course, we pre-negotiate everything, but I doubt Westminster will agree to doing that.)
One last note: At the rally on Glasgow Green yesterday, Robin McAlpine seemed to argue that we had to wait till at least 2020 before holding Indyref2 because Westminster won’t let us hold a new referendum before 2019 because they’re too busy with Brexit to allow themselves to get distracted by other matters. Surely that’s an excellent reason to hold it sooner rather than later – it can only help us if Westminster are too busy to interfere, and as somebody who believes in the sovereignty of the people of Scotland I don’t think Westminster can morally or politically block it anyway.