Scottish independence ‘is a myth’ says Patrick Christys
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Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to hold a new referendum on Scottish independence after her Scottish National Party (SNP) won a fourth consecutive term at the Scottish parliamentary elections in May. The SNP leader has said a public vote will be held by 2023 if the COVID-19 pandemic has sufficiently abated. Scots rejected seceding from the UK at the 2014 referendum on independence.
Mrs Sturgeon faces major opposition to another vote – often dubbed ‘indyref2’ – from Boris Johnson’s Westminster Government, which remains firmly against a Scottish breakaway.
Earlier this month Ms Sturgeon defended the SNP’s independence bid and its economic objectives during an interview with the Financial Times.
The SNP wants Scotland to initially continue to use the UK Pound sterling in the event of independence.
However, critics have pointed out that this would cede monetary and fiscal control to Westminster.
Dr Nick Ritchie, a senior lecturer in international security in the Department of Politics at the University of York, was among those to highlight flaws in the SNP’s plans.
Speaking to Express.co.uk, he said that the Scottish people may worry that Westminster would retain too much power over an independent Scotland, especially in economic terms.
He said: “I expect there’ll be lots of concern around the economic viability of an independent Scotland.
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He added: “It will come down to economics and the economic relationship between an independent Scotland and the rest of the UK.
“Because, to a certain extent it might be a bit of biting your nose off to spite your face.
“But I think London can make life economically very difficult if it wanted to for an independent Scotland in terms of that process of attaining independence.
“Or it could make it as smooth as possible and I think that that will be the bargaining position.”
He argued that Westminster may demand a sovereign base in Scotland to host Trident in return for giving the UK what they want on “a whole range of economic issues” such as using Sterling for a period of time.
While the SNP have said they would want to keep the pound, Dr Ritchie warned: “The de facto control of an independent-based currency would not lie with that state.
“It would lie with another state, which would be the UK and the Bank of England.
“So that will be the pivot of the negotiation, I think it will be the economics and the politics of the transition to independence versus what to do about Trident.”
However, he also acknowledged that some assessments of an independent Scotland’s economic viability have shown positive signs.
He said: “There’s a variety of assessments that have been done on that, that question it and that are fully supportive of the proposition that only an independent Scotland could be economically viable.”
In her FT interview Mrs sturgeon framed the economic debate around an independent Scotland in terms of Brexit.
She said that by not being part of the EU, Scotland missed out on the bloc’s freedom of movement of its citizens.
She told the paper: “We’ve just had freedom of movement taken away from us.
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“Immigration rules are tighter. So, our ability to bring people into the country is severely constrained and that is going to be an absolute stranglehold on the ability of the Scottish economy to grow.”
Dr Ritchie, who is an expert in nuclear weapons, also spoke about the SNP’s pledge to remove the UK’s Trident nuclear deterrent in the event of Scottish independence.
The SNP has promised that if Scots voted to leave the UK, the Scottish Government would no longer allow the UK’s fleet of nuclear-armed submarines to be based on Scotland’s River Clyde.
Dr Ritchie was sceptical of the SNP’s motives behind its anti-nuclear policy.
The expert said he thinks that some SNP politicians could be using the party’s anti-nuclear stance in a tactical way.
He said: “I’m sure there are some in the SNP who are thinking that way, who see that they can use the current location of Trident as leverage.
“To secure the maximum economic benefits and beneficial agreements, post-independence.”
Conversely, he warned that the SNP could face a backlash from voters if it allowed Trident to remain in Scotland post-independence in a bid to negotiate better economic terms from Westminster.
He added: “I think given the length of time that senior members of the SNP, including [Alex] Salmond and Sturgeon, have routinely framed in their narrative that an independent Scotland will be nuclear weapons-free, it will be politically very difficult to row back on that.
“And we know from the polling that support for repatriating Trident south of the border extends beyond SNP support and extends beyond support for independence.
“So, it’s a widespread sentiment across the Scottish Greens, across Scottish Labour, across the SNP.
“But then you don’t know to what extent in public opinion in terms of the hierarchy of priorities for independence where being nuclear-free would fit in with that.”
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