Why coronavirus UK outbreak won’t stop Nicola Sturgeon demanding Scottish independence
Nicola Sturgeon has continued to demand powers from Boris Johnson for a second vote to split from the rest of Britain. The calls from the SNP leader have grown louder following Brexit on January 31 – Scotland voted by a margin of 63 percent to 37 percent to remain part of the European Union in 2016. This came a year after the country also voted against independence by a clear margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.
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Boris Johnson has refused to grant Holyrood the powers to push through a second referendum on independence, insisting he will honour the result from the first vote nearly five years ago.
Scotland’s Constitutional Relations Secretary Mike Russell wrote to Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove to tell him planning for another independence vote has been “paused” to focus on the “unprecedented” impact from coronavirus.
Last week, several political experts told Express.co.uk the coronavirus outbreak has demonstrated perfectly why Ms Sturgeon should scrap her demands for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
They claimed Scotland being able to work effectively with the rest of Britain so far during the pandemic and not having to rely on the EU’s already-stretched budget to bail them out should they become independent means the Union should not be broken up.
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But Eliot Wilson, House of Commons Scottish Affairs Committee clerk in the run up to the Scottish independence referendum in 2015, warned it is “very unlikely” Ms Sturgeon will abandon her calls Scottish independence.
He told Express.co.uk: “The First Minister has been a passionate supporter of separation for years and it is an intellectually respectable position to take, but she must be prepared to withstand scrutiny of her plans in the light of COVID-19 and what it says about the interdependence of the countries we live in, and how we co-exist and co-operate.
“The unrealised ambition of independence has allowed nationalists to avoid a lot of hard questions, by pointing to a fuzzy but warm future, and there is no reason to think Sturgeon or any other leading SNP figure will be persuaded otherwise.
“However you cut the fiscal cake, most economists agree that, per capita, Scotland benefits disproportionately from its membership of the United Kingdom – in the way that most EU member states, excepting the net contributors, do from Europe).
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“But independent countries can co-operate perfectly effectively for public health and national security reasons, and there’s no reason to think that would change between a separate Scotland and UK.
“However, nationalists need to reconcile why they paint membership of the EU positively in generally sober, financial and commercial terms, whereas separation from the UK is depicted as a matter of feeling, sentiment, passion and identity.”
But Mr Wilson admitted an independent Scotland would struggle on its own during the current coronavirus outbreak, as the country would have a “smaller economy with less money, fewer and less effective public services and a lower base of research and technology”.
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Dr Steve McCabe, Associate Professor with the Institute for Design and Economic Acceleration at Birmingham City University, warned Scotland would have to “join the queue” in asking the EU for funds if it had been independent at this time, and would not receive any special favours from Brussels.
He said: “The EU’s funds were already being stretched before the current crisis and whether there will be enough to cope is a moot question, the answer will determine the fate of hundreds of millions of people.
“Money will be dedicated to assist the regions worst affected. If, hypothetically, Scotland were independent and part of the EU, it would have to join the queue of countries.
“Scotland could expect no special favours above any other member of the EU all of which are equal though, of course, some seem more equal than others.”
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Wyn Grant, a political scientist and professor of politics at the University of Warwick, described the EU’s response to the pandemic as “lame”, with member states having to manage on their own – a fate that Scotland could be faced with if it breaks from the UK.
He said: “No doubt the Scottish Government would claim it has taken its own initiatives on coronavirus ahead of the UK, but in practice effective cooperation is essential when there is a busy land border.
“The EU’s response has been lame and largely irrelevant and it has been left to the member states to devise their own policies.
“An independent Scotland would have to manage largely on its own and would find this challenging.”
Published at Thu, 02 Apr 2020 14:14:00 +0000