Threat of UK/Scotland trade barriers improve the case for independence | Autonomy Scotland

Threat of UK/Scotland trade barriers improve the case for independence

Has anyone seen this UKGOV facebook video on Scotland/UK trade?

The aim of the video is to reinforce the perception that leaving the UK would be a bad idea as it would jeopardise the rUK/Scotland trade relationship.

It is common sense that rUK and Scotland have a substantial and very important trading relationship.

Yet the video doesn’t mention that this relationship would continue after Scottish independence. Not least because the EU is the UK’s biggest market accounting for 45 percent of exports. If an independent Scotland were in the EU then that figure would be at least 10 percent higher. Incidentally, I find it strange that the UK exports 45 percent to the EU but we are told Scotland’s exports to the EU only tally up to 15 percent. If this figure is correct then Scotland’s economy is being seriously mismanaged. 

At the same time that the UK has been threatening Scotland, it has been telling Ireland their trading relationship might improve post Brexit.

May’s letter to Ireland

However lets think about the situation the video wants us to fear. There is a small chance that serious trade barriers could come between an independent Scotland and rUK if the UK fails to negotiate a post Brexit free trade deal with the EU.

In my mind that situation is one where there is a stronger case for Scottish independence.

Firstly, in this hard Brexit situation, Scotland would be able to attract a substantial amount of business from the UK as businesses want access to the single EU market. You don’t need to take my word for it. Oxford economist Simon Wren Lewis, who in 2014 advised us to vote No, also makes this case.

The economic cost to the UK of leaving the EU could be as high as a reduction of 10 per cent in average incomes by 2030. If Scotland, by becoming independent, can avoid that long-term fate then you have the prospect of eventual economic gain right there. But it is more than that. If Scotland can remain in the single market it could be the destination of the foreign investment that once came to the UK as a gateway into the EU. By accepting free movement, it could benefit from the immigration that has improved the UK public finances over the last decade.

More importantly, this unlikely doomsday scenario is one that Scotland has little control over. If it happens it will have been caused by a massive UK blunder.

We voted to stay in the EU and we don’t have the power to shape the type of Brexit that will occur. The logic of the trade argument in the video is that we should stay with the cause of our current problems because the alternative option, of making our own decisions, can never be better. The video is saying a UK decision may well have made things bad for Scotland but Scotland will always be better off as a passenger not a partner.

I can’t imagine many situations this argument would be acceptable in other areas of life.

You probably wouldn’t stay on a sinking ship because the drunk captain who drove you into the rocks warned you might get eaten by a shark. You would be unlikely to stay with your abusive partner because they warned you that the world can be a violent place for a singleton.

You probably wouldn’t,  so why would you want to stay in a union that is causing the trade barriers that they are telling you to fear? Especially if those barriers are unlikely and pro union economists are telling you a hard Brexit improves the economic case for Scottish independence.


The video also states things as facts which are categorically not facts.

It is wrong to say without caveat that Scotland trades four times as much with the UK as with the EU.

The source of this material is the Global Connections Survey 2015. It is a voluntary survey and, in the year that the data in the video was collected, only 26 percent of the companies that received the form actually filled it in. So we have a relatively small data set. The survey is not very accurate. You don’t need to believe me on that either.

The survey itself contains the following disclaimer.

Exports to the rest of the UK relate to trade from Scotland to either England, Wales or Northern Ireland. These estimates should be treated with some caution. It is more difficult to ascertain the final destination of sales within the UK as companies have no statutory requirement to collate financial information below UK level. Furthermore, particular sectors face challenges in determining what constitutes an ‘export’. In an intra-UK situation, this is particularly the case in the service sector where output is more difficult to quantify and the residence of the final consumer may be less clear.

David Bell, Professor of Economics at Stirling University has stated in the past that these figures shouldn’t be used for political gain:

David Bell’s Opinion

So, what we have is a video that uses dodgy data in order to make Scots think twice about leaving the UK. However, the exact unlikely situation the video wants you to fear would actually be representative of a scenario in which Scotland would have a stronger moral and economic case for independence.

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Charles Patrick O'Brienautonomyscotlandnick smith Recent comment authors

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nick smith
nick smith

Interesting that you say there is only a small chance of a hard brexit. The Scot Gov have used the inevitable tory hard brexit as the justification for indyref2.


I think the Scottish government were using the EU referendum as a way to leverage an independence referendum way before we knew the shape of brexit. Although, the Tory rhetoric surrounding a hard Brexit has certainly helped them.

A hard Brexit is really in nobodies interest but maybe it isn’t as unlikely as I made it sound. I will still be hard to strike a deal when negotiating with 27 other states. Can’t say it’s not interesting to observe.

nick smith
nick smith

So then, we are being lead to a second referendum on a false prospectus.


I would say there is a mandate for a referendum in that the SNP had a manifesto commitment to have one in a material change of circumstances. They mentioned leaving the EU as an example of the change in circumstances. There is a pro independence majority. The parliament is far more representative the the one at Westminster. That parliament voted to hold another referendum. I can understand why some people might not like that but I think it is pretty democratic. Much more democratic than a Tory party that only got about 30 percent of the UK vote holding an… Read more »

nick smith
nick smith

Ok, let me rephrase that. The SNP are misleading the public on the likely outcome of brexit in order to garner more support.


I think that the outcome of the Brexit negotiations will be known by the time an independence referendum takes place which is the important thing. Obviously, it is in the SNP’s interest to point out that the Brexit process could be massively detrimental to Scotland. All political parties spin things to suit their goals. However, I wouldn’t say much of their rhetoric has been particularly misleading. Just normal political discourse in my opinion. Political discourse from all sides is something i’m finding quite depressing but that’s the world we live in.

Charles Patrick O'Brien

I don’t think the SNP are misleading the public at all.Leaving the EU is one of the reasons for another referendum and that is keeping to the manifesto promise.I know that might seem unusual but in Scotland we can fulfill a manifesto promise the Tories don’t at Westminster and that is one reason why people don’t trust politicians,and tar them all with the same brush.The Brexit wont be good for the UK and honestly can you see countries Commonwealth countries saying ah hello boss glad your back your seat is still warm,I cant see them being so forgiving and whispers… Read more »

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