Can Brexit be a game-changer for Sturgeon to secure Scottish independence?


Nicola Sturgeon got off to a relatively low-key start with her newfound fondness for Scottish independence.

This month, Scotland’s First Minister launched what she hopes will be a successful push by her ruling Scottish National Party to get the country out of the UK, saying: ‘Once the campaign begins, and today today is the starting point, people’s minds are starting to focus.”

The focus will be on Sturgeon in the Scottish parliament on Tuesday when she is expected to outline a roadmap towards an independence referendum the SNP wants to hold by the end of 2023.

She is likely to face tough questions from opposition parties over how she plans to secure a legal referendum given that Boris Johnson’s Conservative government in Westminster refuses to allow one.

His cause is not helped by opinion polls indicating that the opinions of Scots have not changed decisively since the independence referendum of 2014, when people rejected the departure of the United Kingdom of 55 % to 45%.

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It has prompted Sturgeon’s biggest critics, including former Labor Chancellor Alistair Darling – the face of the ‘No’ campaign in 2014 – to argue that she doesn’t really want another referendum, but rather seeks to fabricate a fight with London to appease his impatient supporters. .

Analysts said the criticism could be simplistic, adding that any future referendum vote would be close – based on current polls.

Brexit, which removed Scotland from the EU‘s single market in 2021 despite the country’s vote to remain in the bloc, could be a game-changer for Sturgeon. The anti-Brexit SNP wants to bring an independent Scotland back into the EU.

Analysts say some Scots who rejected independence in 2014 but favored staying in the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum are now more likely to support Scotland leaving the UK.

This means that there is a close alignment between supporters of independence and EU membership that did not exist in 2014. These people should easily outnumber those who support Brexit and oppose Brexit. Scottish independence.

“There has been a bit of realignment on who supports independence. . . and it seems to be directly related to Brexit,” said Nicola McEwen, professor of territorial politics at the University of Edinburgh.

“Brexit and everything that has happened since has given a source of dissatisfaction that did not exist.”

The UK’s Brexit-related economic underperformance means it could be harder to make the case for Scotland maintaining its 315-year union with England in a future referendum.

Sturgeon noted this month that Northern Ireland, by remaining in the single market for goods under Johnson’s Brexit deal with the EU, had gained “significant economic benefits”.

Northern Ireland was the only region in the UK apart from London where gross domestic product was above pre-pandemic levels in the first quarter of this year, official data showed.

Sturgeon’s cause could also be helped by Johnson’s unpopularity in Scotland and the political chaos in Westminster, where 41% of Tory MPs voted to oust the British prime minister this month.

John Curtice, professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde and a leading pollster, said that while support for independence had declined since 2020 and early 2021 – when Sturgeon’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis earned him applause – an average of 52% to 48% cent split in favor of staying in the UK meant ‘neither side can be sure of winning’ a referendum.

He added that the Scots’ calculations did not necessarily match the assumption that, having seen the economic and political cost of Brexit for the UK, they would conclude that breaking up an older, more integrated union would be disastrous. They might conclude that Brexit was worse than independence.

Curtice said Sturgeon’s challenge would be to convince Scots that their country’s long-term interests would be better served by independence, despite major questions over contentious issues – from the choice of currency to a potential border with the rest of the UK.

Scotland’s first minister released a document this month saying the country could thrive outside the UK. Other communications are planned on the currency, the border and EU membership.

Two polls conducted since early May have given the No side a 2 percentage point margin of victory, while a third achieved a similar result in the 2014 referendum, according to What Scotland Thinks, a social research agency.

Sturgeon signaled this month that she was happy to begin her new campaign for independence with public opinion roughly evenly divided for and against.

But Sturgeon must first secure a referendum: Johnson does not want to repeat how then Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron authorized the Scottish government to hold the 2014 referendum.

Alister Jack, the Scottish secretary, toed the Johnson government line last week, telling MPs a referendum was not “where people’s priorities are at the moment”.

It sets the stage for a legal battle between Sturgeon and Johnson over Scotland’s right to hold a referendum that could go all the way to the UK Supreme Court.

It could be a victory for Sturgeon’s cause in the long run, even if she loses the case, according to Ciaran Martin, a former civil servant who led the Cameron government’s negotiating team before the 2014 referendum.

“You can see the political value of such a judgment for the Scottish nationalist movement,” Martin said, adding that it could bolster support for independence on the grounds that Scotland’s right to self-determination does not was not respected.


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