Post Brexit, who will be left to fight for Union?
In February 2015, Nick Clegg was to utter the words:
As night follows day if the UK pulls out of the EU, Scotland, in my view within a heartbeat, will pull out of the UK
Since then many high profile political figures including Tony Blair, John Major, Alan Johnson and the Prime Minister (via a spokesperson) have professed similar warnings. The main reason they are doing so is not caused by anxiety over losing Scotland, although that is a strong possibility. No, these proclamations form part of a fear campaign designed to sow uncertainty in the minds of those who are about to vote. A tactic being used as it is widely accepted that fear is the best method of persuasion.
However, unlike the Scottish referendum, where one side was putting forward a mainly positive message, the EU referendum is marked by negativity in both camps. And it is this dual barrel of fear pointed in the face of the public that may play into the hands of those of us within the Scottish Independence movement. For although fear is definitely persuasive in the short term, we can see from the Scottish example that those who disseminate it are often harshly punished in the long run. Most of the big beasts who campaigned to keep Scotland in the union are no longer relevant. The parties they represent have been decimated at the ballot box. Not only does this beg the question, “who will campaign to keep Scotland in the union next time?”, we also have to ask, “will those who do so be tarnished by a divisive and negative campaign in the EU debate?”.
Picture the scene if there was to be a Brexit vote in England and a remain vote in Scotland: the PM would most likely have to step down, so we would probably have a Tory government led by Euro-sceptic Boris Johnson, a man less popular in Scotland than bubonic plague. The only pro-union Scottish MPs left are pretty much loathed by the majority of Scotland. The pro-union MSPs have low profiles and little gravitas. They may be able to bring back some of the old guard but everyone available to campaign for a No vote would be tainted by their negativity in the previous debates and the public will be ready to punish them. Many of them would have been on opposing sides during the EU debate and will struggle to come together due to the bad blood created by the fearmongering.
Whereas, the broad Scottish Independence movement who have been consistent and positive about the prospects of going it alone within the EU will present a massive contrast.
Also, one of the key selling points of Better Together that we argued against at the time will be dead in the water. That is the idea that a No vote was a vote for certainty. This was an easy selling point in 2014 as it seams intrinsically true, afterall Independence was a massive change to what people consider normal. However, it only takes a brief look at history to realise that uncertainty is one of the few certain things in life. If there was to be an Indyref2 sparked by Brexit, those jaded No campaigners could not argue for the certainty of Union like they did in 2014. They can no longer argue that remaining in the UK is the only way to stay in the EU. Just like they can no longer say it is the only way to save oil jobs or to protect the standard of UK pensions.
A second referendum caused by Brexit will be a case of uncertainty versus uncertainty. Those trying to persuade us to stay in the UK will be a bickering, negative, mistrusted and mostly low profile rabble who won’t even have the surety and stability of the union to hide behind, a group who have spent years frightening us to the extent that most of us will have ceased to listen.
This is probably why polls are showing that a majority of Scots would vote for Independence in the case of Brexit taking us out of the EU against our will. This majority is still pretty small and maybe it will remain too small for Sturgeon to take the gamble, but I would wager that those who will deliver the pro-union arguments next time will be so weakened that this percentage will surely rise. There will be no legitimate trusted voices left to fight for the union.
From our point of view, we need to tighten up our arguments. Especially around currency(we need our own) and the long term economic plan(we need to clear our deficit). However, thanks to the inevitable state of the No campaign in a post Brexit world, a harsher more realistic vision of independence will be more marketable. Thankfully, our political enemies are sorting out the other main flaw in our previous campaign for us: the question of our place in the EU.
Below is a video of last night’s EU debate where the spectre of a second indyref came up.
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For anyone watching back the debate begins at 21:23.