The independence movement has for a while been divided into two main groups: the ones who wanted to hold a new independence referendum no later than the autumn of last year in order to prevent Brexit from taking place in Scotland, and the ones who thought that people needed to experience Brexit first because only then would enough of them stop supporting the UK. I have always been in the former camp, but it’s too late for that now, so I guess the latter grouping has won that battle decisively.
So what will happen if Boris Johnson takes the UK out of the EU in a No-Deal, cliff-edge Brexit at Hallowe’en?
It’s likely it will be extremely chaotic for at least some weeks. If three quarters of Scots by 1st November decide that enough is enough, how will that manifest itself? Will they grump, will they block the roads, will they march on Parliament? Whatever they do, will that change the minds of Westminster so that they finally consent to a new independence referendum? I have my doubts – they will all be so busy firefighting that they’ll say that now definitely is not the time.
There’s also a possibility that many Scots will blame the Scottish Government for not saving them when they knew fine well it was going to be a disaster all along.
Anyway, even if we adopt an optimistic view and assume a large majority of Scots will be blaming Westminster and demanding a new independence referendum for months after Brexit, one of two things is likely to happen: Either the Tories will remain in charge and manage to calm down the situation, or a General Election will be called followed by a Remainer government, which will then quickly agree a plan with the EU for the UK to become a member again ASAP. If it’s the former, the shops will be full of products again (probably dearer and worse ones, but the shelves won’t be empty), and they’ll probably be printing money like there’s no tomorrow to keep people calm; if this happens, won’t most Unionist Scots soon start supporting the new status quo, saying that building a hard border across the island is the last thing Scotland needs? And if it’s the latter, won’t most Scots breathe a sigh of relief and decide that independence can wait because the fastest way back into the EU will be by supporting the Remainer government at Westminster?
And even if Westminster agree to a new referendum in November, I guess it won’t actually take place for at least six months, by which time many of the Unionist Scots might have lost their temporary appetite for independence, for the reasons listed above.
As far as I can see, the hopes of the indyref-after-Brexit brigade are based on the assumption that the UK after a No-Deal Brexit will remain in the doldrums for years, and that the normally conformist Scots will finally rebel in a way that will make Westminster grant another referendum. I guess it’s too late to do anything else, though, so I sincerely hope they’re right.