It’s been a while since my last post, so apologies if you were hoping for a bookish post, but my thoughts on this are too long for Twitter 😉
20 months ago, when Scots had the opportunity to decide whether or not we wanted to remain in the United Kingdom, I voted Yes. 2 days ago, when Brits had the chance to decide if we wanted to remain in the EU, I voted Remain. If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know I lost on both counts, but that the first one’s looking up for grabs again. And, honestly, that leaves me with dread.
It’s not that I don’t stand by how I voted in 2014. If anything, the stark contrast between how Scotland voted (62% Remain) compared to how England voted (53% Leave) only serves to underline the political disparities between the two countries that are at the root of my desire for independence.
It’s also not the case that I don’t agree with Nicola Sturgeon that all avenues for retaining Scotland’s membership in the EU should be explored, because I do. 20 months ago, one of the main reasons I heard from friends and colleagues for voting No was that they wanted to protect Scotland’s position in the EU, and 2 days ago Scots confirmed that desire. And, while I think other options, such as the “Reverse Greenland” situation suggested in this article, which would honour the votes in both referenda, should be explored first, I do also believe that the political landscape has changed enough that Scots’ view of their relationship with England and Europe has changed.
And it’s not that I am not angry at being lied to, because I so am. I’ve been angry for over a year, ever since David Cameron announced this EU referendum less than a year after using EU membership as a cornerstone of the Better Together campaign. I’m angry on behalf of all the No voters I know who voted not so much in favour of UK membership but in favour of EU membership, because we were lied to and now we’re stuck as part of a Union trying to throw itself back into the Dark Ages.
If it comes to a referendum, I will vote Yes once more, and once more hope and pray for victory, because I truly do believe that it is in the best interests of the Scottish people.
But I hope it doesn’t come to that.
For one thing, the EU and the UK face enough political and economic turmoil without adding to that, and I would prefer to wait for a referendum until we have a clearer idea of England’s and Europe’s futures. And I certainly don’t want people voting YES as a protest vote and then regretting it, as several Leave voters have already admitted to.
For another, there is still no guarantee that an independent Scotland would be permitted to join the EU; I considered it likely we would be grandfathered in back in 2014 (though others disagreed), but that was when we were leaving an established EU member state, not a former member state. Perhaps the EU would still welcome us with open arms, knowing our strong desire to remain and eager to find some stability for the thousands of EU citizens in Scotland. But perhaps not.
Alongside EU membership, there are other issues that were never wholly resolved in the 2014 referendum that are even more in question now. An independent Scotland may have been able to share the pound with rUK if both were in the EU, and may have been able to share an uncontrolled border, but those are both going to be off the table regardless of Scotland’s EU membership. So what currency will we use? The Euro is only an option if indeed we are allowed to remain in the EU. And what about the border? Where will people in Dumfries and Galloway go to buy their clothes if Carlisle is now across a passport-controlled border?
I have always, always wanted an independent Scotland to have a close, respectful relationship with England and the rest of the UK. While I think the political differences mean we simply cannot continue with the same political system we have had for over 300 years, that doesn’t change the fact that Scots live in England, English folk live in Scotland, Scottish children are born to English parents, and English children are born to Scottish parents, and after 300 years our countries are closely tied and I had hoped, when I voted Yes, for a relationship similar to Canada’s with the United States: the smaller, northern nation and its larger, southern neighbour sharing a peaceful, respectful border, with many aspects of shared culture and even shared sports leagues.
However, I think a vote to leave the UK in the wake of England and Wales voting to leave the EU would throw that into question, not only for the reasons I’ve outlined above but also because there’s a lot of anger up here right now, and I don’t want that anger to be a driving force in the creation of an independent Scotland.
And it’s going to get ugly. Because for all the No voters I’ve seen and heard saying they regret their choice, there are also many who are more British than European, who stand by their vote in 2014, who will not appreciate the uncertainty and debates happening all over again when they thought things were decided. If we thought insults against the English and accusations of cybernats being hurled around the Internet were bad last time, it will only get worse now, when our once-in-a-generation vote is repeated within the same generation.
Ultimately, I want Scots to choose independence because we believe it to be better than what we’ve had with the UK, not because the UK is circling the drain and we’re trying to get out.