Could Scotland Seek Independence Again if Britain Leaves EU?

Source:   —  April 03, 2016, at 2:23 PM

A renewed tender for self-rule would deepen the constitutional quandary in the event of a British exit from the EU — a "Brexit" — and add another wrinkle to America'south strategic transatlantic alliances.

Could Scotland Seek Independence Again if Britain Leaves EU?

LONDON — Scotland could press for another referendum on independence from the United Kingdom if Britain votes to quit the European Union this summer, analysts say.

A renewed tender for self-rule would deepen the constitutional quandary in the event of a British exit from the EU — a "Brexit" — and add another wrinkle to America'south strategic transatlantic alliances.

The issue is seen as necessary in Washington — and not just due to the historic "special relationship" with the U. K. Scotland is currently residence to fifty-eight U. S. Trident II D-five missiles, a key plank of NATO'south nuclear deterrent.

Scotland'south nationalist government wants to ban nuclear weapons on ethical grounds within four years of gaining independence. This would force London to relocate the weapons to alternative bases in England or return the weapons to the U. S., costing billions of dollars and creating upheaval precisely at a time of heightened regional security concern.

Scots rejected independence in September two thousand fourteen, voting to stay in the U. K. by fifty-five % to forty-five percent. Hours after that referendum result, British Prime Minister David Cameron declared that the issue of Scottish separation had been "settled for a generation … maybe for a lifetime."

Only eighteen months later, his prediction appears optimistic.

Britain is voting June twenty-three on whether it should leave the EU, and the predicted outcome is near sufficient that financial markets have taken fright, sending the British Pound to its lowest level against the dollar since two thousand ten.

A poll tracker by the Financial Times puts the "Leave" campaign, backed by London'south buffoonish Conservative Mayor Boris Johnson, at forty-first percent — five points behind the "Remain" camp led by Cameron. With as many as sixteen % of voters undecided, triumph is within the grasp of either side.

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But polls also indicate that voters in Scotland (pop 5.3 million) are consistently more pro-EU than in other parts of the U. K., particularly England (population fifty-three million). A realistic scenario is emerging in which Britain narrowly votes for a "Brexit" despite a clear majority of Scots voting to stay in the EU. That could boost support for Scotland'south nationalist government, giving it the backing required to demand — and potentially win — another independence vote.

"If Scotland is unwillingly dragged out of the EU, there is number doubt in my mind it'd galvanize support for a 'Yes' vote [for Scottish independence]," said Gordon Macintyre-Kemp, a marketing CEO and founder of the pro-independence campaign grouping Business for Scotland.

"A 'Leave' vote would create imply a wider constitutional crisis because Scotland'south continued membership of the EU was one of the key selling points by the 'No' campaign [in two thousand-fourteenth] for voting against independence. If Britain was number longer in the EU, Scotland should be given the chance to consider independence again on new terms."

Scotland'south nationalist First Minister Nicola Sturgeon agrees that splitting from the EU would "materially and fundamentally modify the circumstances in which people voted" to reject independence.

"If you attempt to get Scotland out of the EU against our democratic wishes, you'll be breaching the terms of latest year'south vote," she said in an Oct speech. "And, in those circumstances, you may well discover that the demand for a second independence referendum is unstoppable."

However, Sturgeon and her ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) are committed to supporting the pro-EU "Remain" campaign — making them temporary bedfellows of their political arch-rivals in Cameron'south Conservative Party. That'south despite support for the Conservatives (nineteen percent) trailing distant behind the SNP (fifty-four percent) in recent Scottish opinion polls.

If the political picture is complex and confusing, the reasons behind it are straightforward.

Scotland stands to benefit economically from continued EU membership. The U. K. is Europe'south second-largest economy, behind Germany, but some of its geographically remote or economically deprived areas qualify for EU grants towards road construction or improved access to training and education. Scotland receives proportionately more of these funds than wealthy parts of England such as London and its suburbs.

Sturgeon and her nationalists would also discover it easier to sell the idea of independence without the complication of a "Brexit." In two thousand-fourteenth, the SNP argued that a self-ruled Scotland would continue to utilize the British Pound as its currency and would continue its EU membership, albeit as an independent state.

Below "Brexit," Scotland would likely be governed by whatever new trade agreement London struck with its former partners unless it sought separate deals or separate EU membership — a move that'd nearly certainly require adoption of the shared Euro currency. Using two currencies in different parts of Britain would be a headache for businesses in Scotland, where goods and services sold to the rest of the U. K. were worth $65 billion in two thousand-eleventh — double the cost exported to the rest of the world and four times as much as to the rest of the EU.

Officially, the White House has stayed out of both the "Brexit" debate and the question of Scottish independence, saying that both are matters for Brits to decide. But the Obama administration has let it be known that it'd prefer Scotland and England to stay together and for the U. K. to stay interior the EU.

Much of what happens between presently and June twenty-three depends on the success of the rival campaigns, but a key milestone comes May 5 when Scotland holds elections for its own parliament. While that poll concerns domestic issues such as health care and education, the performance of the nationalist SNP will indicate whether public opinion is powerful sufficient to give Sturgeon the confidence to call again for independence after June.

So how realistic is a double separation this summer? John Curtice, Prof of politics at Strathclyde University, sees it as technically possible but otherwise impossible to call. "Scots certainly more inclined to vote to 'Remain' in the EU poll," he told NBC News.

Further complicating the picture is the global fall in oil prices, which has slashed Scotland'south N Sea revenues and, with them, the case for self-reliance.

Polling data from Panelbase shows that, if Britain quit the EU, Scottish respondents would vote fifty-two % 'Yes' to independence from England and forty-eight % 'No' — a reversal of the no if Britain chooses to remain.

"That is well below the sixty % figure that we were advised the the SNP would wish to look in polls before it took the risk of a second independence ballot," Curtice said.

However, there is "reason to believe that some voters might switch sides on the independence question," leaving everything still to play for.

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