January 31, 2020 marks the day that the United Kingdom left the European Union (EU), however post-Brexit UK might not include Scotland anymore.
As the political order of the UK transforms, Scotland moves closer to the EU. Amid the finalization of Brexit, Scotland is set to a new future that includes the EU but not as a part of the United Kingdom.
With the parliamentary election on the way, and the prospect of the Scottish National Party (SNP) remaining in power, a second independence referendum is on the horizon.
A new Scottish parliament is set to be elected in May 2021 and according to the latest polls, the SNP is estimated to remain in power with the greatest results in history.
Scottish-EU Relations; First Stop Brexit
In 2016, the people of Scotland voted to remain within the European Union, and the idea that EU membership is what’s best for the Scottish people are now stronger than ever. With the UK Government’s poor response to coronavirus and their intention of breaking all ties with the EU, Scotland is picking another lane.
According to the Scottish Government, Scottish ministers have highlighted that the UK Government has fallen short in engaging with the Government of Scotland on Brexit, as compromise options put forth by the Scottish Government was denied by the UK Government.
Brexit has given cause to the Scots to seek solidarity with the EU only as an independent state.
The Scottish path to EU membership is deeply attached to the creation of a Scottish state. The SNP is seeking to ensure a second independence referendum to lay the foundations to join the EU before the destructive waves of Brexit hits Scotland worse than it already has.
The SNP could utilize a good strategy to first secure a second referendum as it has promised, and second, persuade EU member states to support Scotland’s accession to the bloc.
SNP Marching Toward Independence
SNP alongside the Greens, which share the same views on independence and EU membership, will as a majority vote for a second referendum. This time it is expected that the Scots will choose the EU over the UK and leave the Kingdom for the greater good.
Although SNP advocates an independent Scotland as an EU member state but the UK Government is expected to deny Scots a second referendum. In 2014, Scots voted to remain as a part of the UK, but now things have changed although the UK Government does not seem to be willing to give its consent.
“I don’t think a generation has elapsed since 2014 from my understanding of human biology.” Prime Minister Boris Johnson told a Westminster committee of MPs in 2019.
Johnson has ruled out the possibility of a second referendum for the Scottish people and is leading a multi-million-dollar campaign that is planning to keep Scots within the union of the United Kingdom.
As sure as the refusal is, the SNP is keen on paving the way for a second referendum that is also legally accepted by the UK Government.
Scotland-UK Relations; A History of Feebleness
Scotland holds 8.4 percent of the UK population and has almost always witnessed the political power in the UK to be chosen in England’s favour rather than its own as Scots often do not get the UK Government they vote for.
The Scots have felt hopeless toward the UK elections for so long. For decades what the population of England have chosen was forced on Scots giving them a sense of having their lives decided by others.
And this time, the decision that Scots did not make is Brexit. Brexit was not a choice that Scotland made and the ruling party in Scotland, the SNP, refuses to live by its repercussions.
“If Scotland is independent our position always has been, as long as I’ve been in the SNP and continues to be, that we want Scotland to be a full member of the European Union,” First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said. In February 2020, the Scottish First Minister considered a non-binding referendum to prove a mandate for independence which could draw legal challenges within the UK.
During the course of the Brexit, Scots have time and again shown that they are drawn to a more pro-EU approach in their foreign policy toward the European states as well as in international relations. The Scottish Government has distanced itself from the new post-Brexit UK foreign policy and is on a path of voicing its own foreign policy.
Over Johnson’s refusal to agree to a second independence vote, First Minister Sturgeon has stated that UK Prime Minister “fears the verdict and the will of the Scottish people,”
Nicola Sturgeon seeks a legal referendum introducing an 11-point roadmap on Scottish independence.
The result of a legal referendum cannot be opposed by the UK and is in a broader sense a means of legitimacy which produces a certain level of acceptance inside and outside of Scotland.
The road map reassures that a second “legal referendum” will be held after the pandemic provided the SNP winning a majority in May’s election.
Mike Russell, the Scottish government’s Constitution Secretary said “The referendum should be held after the pandemic, at a time to be decided by the democratically elected Scottish Parliament. The SNP believes that should be in the early part of the new term.”
Despite the SNP announcing that should a referendum be held it will be after the pandemic, opposition parties accused the SNP of putting independence ahead of a response to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to the document, any attempt by the UK Government to challenge the legality of the referendum in court will be “vigorously opposed”.
Holyrood is allowed to enforce a Section 30 order- part of the Scotland Act 1998 to pass laws normally reserved to Westminster. This was granted by the UK Government prior to the 2014 independence referendum.
Mike Russell says the UK Government could choose to either agree that Holyrood has the power to hold a second referendum or agree to a Section 30 order. This, as Russell says, is “beyond any doubt” in terms of legality.
“I firmly believe that Scotland’s referendum must be beyond legal challenge to ensure legitimacy and acceptance at home and abroad.” Said Russell.
“This is the surest way by far to becoming an independent country.” He added.
“But what is absolutely not for discussion is the fact that if Scotland votes for a legal referendum on May 6 this year, that is what it will get. “The SNP Scottish Government will deliver such a referendum if re-elected and the proposals I am putting forward make that very clear.” All eyes are set on May’s election.
If the SNP wins like the polls say it will, Scotland would still have a long road to run toward the EU membership. As Scotland should, like any other candidate, meet the criteria set by the European Union in terms of trade, fisheries, undoing every divergence from the EU law, democratic institutions, attaining strong public consensus, good faith toward the EU and other political and economic requirements.