In less than an hour’s time, the UK (including, alas, Scotland) will leave the EU. Very little will change for the first 11 months, but there won’t be a quick and easy way back any longer – from now on, a proper membership application will be required, and that requires all EU member states to agree.
A lot of people in Scotland are lighting candles tonight, as a way to ask the EU to keep a light on so that this nation can find its way back to the EU. And indeed, currently it’s very clear that a majority of Scots would dearly wish to remain in the EU, and I’ve no doubt it’d be easy to win a new independence referendum during 2020, simply because independence would be a much easier path to normality and stability than remaining within a UK that has lost its senses.
I do worry, however, that this might be a temporary state of affairs. It’s true that the Remainers south of the border are demoralised and fragmented at the moment. Opinion polls show, however, that most people in the UK consider Brexit to be a mistake, so there is huge potential for a progressive anti-Brexit party or movement to arise from the ashes at some point. It might not happen overnight, but it’s entirely possible they will win a Westminster election in 2029, for instance.
If that happens, the attraction of Scottish independence as a way to escape the madhouse will fade away. Of course a lot of people will still support the idea, but for many it might then seem more sensible to support this progressive UK-wide party in order to rejoin the EU first, and put the independence dream on the backburner in the meantime.
Of course it’s possible that the UK will go madder and madder, and that no coherent opposition will ever emerge. I’m just not sure that’s the most likely scenario in the longer term.
Because of this, I think time is of the essence with regard to Scottish independence. Just now it seems like a much safer bet than remaining in the UK (even when taking into account that rejoining the EU won’t be instantaneous), but that advantage might start falling away soon.
Because of that, I was bitterly disappointed at Nicola Sturgeon’s speech today. She’s acting like she’s got all the time in the world, when in reality time is running out.
If she can’t or won’t save Scotland as a matter of priority, somebody might soon step in to save the UK, and then Scottish independence won’t happen for another lifetime.
What she should have said today was that she had failed – that her legalistic/cooperative approach had been a failure against the mad modern Tories – and that she was therefore stepping down to allow the SNP to debate the best way forward and to elect a new leader to take them into the 2021 Holyrood election.
Sadly, it seems that the gradualists are completely in control of the SNP today. Everything has to be gradual, incremental and done with the UK’s blessing, and as a result, Scotland is throwing away the best chance of regaining its independence ever.