Seven SNP Brexit myths

Seven SNP Brexit myths

by William Ross
article from Wednesday 30, November, 2016

WELL OVER thirty per cent of nationalist voters supported Brexit in the referendum. On St Andrew’s Day one of them has written for ThinkScotland why the SNP should reconsider its position in opposing Brexit.

1. Scotland heavily voted "Remain"?

Yes, this makes sense as a colloquial expression. However, what did the 62% of EU referendum voters in Scotland vote should "Remain" in? The unambiguous answer is the UNITED KINGDOM. Not a single Scottish voter voted for Scotland to "Remain" in the EU as an independent or quasi-independent country, for a very simple reason; they were never asked!

2. Scotland is heavily Europhile, as evidenced by the 23 June vote

Nonsense. In the context of a UK-wide poll 1.6 million Scots voted for the UK to remain, 1.1 million voted for the UK to leave and 1.3 million did not vote at all. Scottish Leavers represented the size of the Leave victory over the UK.

3. The SNP/Yes movement is totally Europhile.

This is certainly true of the hierarchy but not of the broader party and still less of the mass of SNP voters.

Given the power of the impenetrable, enveloping unity/consensus lying like mist over our party, it is not surprising that it is only afterwards that we learn that some 10% of SNP MSPs voted Leave and probably a good number of our MPs. In fact, polls show that nearly 40% of all Scottish Leavers were nationalists and SNP supporters were more likely to vote Leave than the supporters of any other Scottish party (even you unionists)! 

When Jeremy Corbyn lost 37% of his party to Brexit he faced an immediate coup attempt. Nicola lost 36% of her supporters and there was barely a whisper from the Scottish media. On the other hand at least half of Scottish Remainers were unionists.

The big SNP support for Brexit was all the more remarkable given that SNP Leavers had no party leaders, media or grassroots campaign to support them. Remain on the other hand had the support of the entire Scottish establishment, government, opposition and media. The short campaign also favoured Remain. These numbers have profound implications for any proposal to run Indyref 2 on the basis that  "Scotland should remain in the EU".

4. In 2014 Scotland was promised that a "No" vote meant that our place in the EU was guaranteed

Rubbish! The argument made by Better Together (with whom I traded many a blow) was that a Yes vote would endanger our EU membership. On this, but on little else, I agreed with Better Together. A combination of Spain, France and the Remaining United Kingdom (RUK) would never have allowed Scotland to continue in the EU but we could off course have applied for new independent membership and this would have been granted, some time… What was never promised was that the UK, which 55% of Scottish voters ratified, would never reconsider its EU membership.

Cameron's Bloomberg speech was given in 2013. Check out the Wings over Scotland posting for 19 September 2014 and there you can see that the Reverend, after his own fashion, predicts the Tory victory of 2015, the Brexit referendum and even its result. However, the point is that nobody voting "No" in 2014 could possibly have ruled out that one day, the UK would put its membership of the EU to the people in UK-wide referendum.

5. The EU referendum was something nobody wanted, was a failure, or was "selfish"

You can debate the provenance of the EU referendum up and down. Perhaps Cameron did it merely to unite his own party or perhaps he genuinely believed that the issue had to be settled definitively? Who knows? It is not important. What is certain is that the people very much DID want the referendum. Seventeen and a half million people voted to Leave the EU in the most heavily contested political contest in British history. Like the Scottish referendum this was democracy in action and win or lose we should applaud the power of the people. The SNP quite rightly adhere to the proposition that constitutional change must be approved by the people.  Why not apply this doctrine to the EU referendum?

6.Scotland is an "equal partner" in the UK and should therefore be able to veto Brexit?

Nonsense. The UK that was ratified on 18 September 2014 is a unitary state albeit with special provisions safe-guarding ancient Scottish institutions such as our law and church. Very considerable power has been devolved to Scotland since 1998 and more is undoubtedly coming. Perhaps most importantly, it is now accepted by all sides that Scotland has the right to secede from the Union. There is thus a recognition that Scotland is a sovereign nation which for the time being consents to exist in the UK. That position was recently supported by Ruth Davidson and David Mundell. But none of that makes Scotland an "equal partner" in the Union.

The Union is analogous to a joint venture company (unitary state) with four main shareholders, England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. England, by virtue of its huge population has the great majority of the shares; Scotland is the largest minority shareholder with some special shareholder protections and Wales and Northern Ireland are smaller shareholders. Am I happy with this situation? NO! That is why I am a nationalist. I do not want to be a minority shareholder! None of this changes the fact that Scotland is PRESENTLY a minority shareholder in the UK. We need to recognise reality before we can change it. This UK entered the EEC and this UK will exit the EU. If Scotland could veto Brexit we would descend into a Belgium-like morass of uncertainty. The "No" vote of 18 September did not create a confederation.

7. Via Indyref 2 Scotland can be the "remaining" UK state in the EU if we Indyref before Brexit?

This is constitutionally and politically impossible. Scotland is not presently a sovereign state under international law. Scotland's terms for "remaining" would have to be negotiated with the EU and its members. As has been made clear by the Irish, Spanish, French, and Norwegians, Scotland cannot carry out binding international negotiations. But our representatives can drink plenty coffee and take nice photos!

Let's assume that such negotiations are in principle possible (which they are not) Spain and France would veto any "remaining" Scottish deal because of the precedent it would set for their own separatists. Even if that were not true, merely to negotiate such a deal with Scotland would be tantamount to attempting to dissolve the UK, while simultaneously negotiating the Article 50 process with the UK! Beyond all that, such an Indyref would have to be won with the real prospect of a hard border on the River Tweed looming in view.

The SNP needs to work with Westminster to maximise Scottish powers in a new Brexit settlement. 

William Ross, an SNP Leaver, is an oil executive living in Aberdeenshire

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