The SNP constitution secretary Angus Robertson has suggested that a vote for Scottish independence should also count as a vote for Scotland to rejoin the European Union and that a second vote on EU membership would therefore not be required. He said that in a future vote the independence case would be “for Scottish independence within the European Union as a member state.”
This is, to put it bluntly, a terrible idea. For starters it’s a bad idea because the European Union has until now preferred to accept new members after the people of that country have clearly and unequivocally voted in favour of EU membership in a referendum which is specifically and unambiguously about joining the EU. That said, there is no absolute requirement for a referendum. Neither Bulgaria or Cyprus held an EU membership referendum, they applied to join the EU after general elections won by parties campaigning for EU membership. However it is certainly considered to be good democratic practice for countries to hold a referendum on EU membership.
By linking EU membership to an entirely separate issue, that of Scottish independence, the will of the people of Scotland to be a part of the European Union would remain open to question. The EU has already had its fingers burned with Brexit, it’s going to look with great suspicion on a former part of a state which left the EU seeking to rejoin when there remains any room for argument about whether its people clearly and without the slightest doubt wish to be a part of the European project. Bulgaria and Cyprus were both already independent countries. No country has ever sought independence on the basis of linking it to EU membership.
Scotland, as we learned during the first independence referendum campaign, found itself subject to a massive amount of scaremongering from opponents of independence who were eager to tell us that Scotland would not be allowed to join the EU. We were told that Spain or Belgium would veto Scottish membership, that Scotland was too poor, and despite the fact that none of these scare stories were true they gained massive traction in a British media which is overwhelmingly opposed to Scottish independence, their rebuttals struggled to get an airing.
We will see the exact same thing the second time around so it is therefore a huge tactical error to insist that Scotland could join the EU through an entirely novel and unprecedented process. It presents an enormous open goal for opponents of independence on a par with the sterling currency union the first time round, and the British nationalists and their allies will be queueing up to rubbish it. Indeed they have already started. Scotland in Union’s Pamela Nash has been quick to give some dismissive quotes to the Herald.
Indeed the proposal smacks of British exceptionalism, the very thing that Scottish independence seeks to escape from. Proposing that Scotland could have a unique and special route to EU membership is unlikely to endear the cause of Scottish independence to other European countries, the very countries whose support Scotland is going to need in order to put pressure on Westminster to negotiate independence following a victory for independence at the ballot box.
Personally I am keen for an independent Scotland to be a part of the EU, like millions of others in Scotland my European citizenship was stripped away without our consent or consultation by right wing English nationalists and I want it back. Most polls show that a clear majority of voters in Scotland support EU membership and believe that Brexit was a mistake. Incidentally, Scottish independence will categorically not strip British citizenship from those Scots who currently possess it and who wish to retain it. It is a false equivalence to equate Scottish independence with Brexit for this and for many other reasons.
However there are other things that I’d also like to see in an independent Scotland, for example I’d like an independent Scotland to divest itself of the anachronistic and anti-democratic clown show that is the Windsor dynasty and become a republic. But like membership of the EU, this is a question to be debated and decided by the people of Scotland once the fact of Scottish independence and an independent Scottish state has been established. Otherwise we run the risk of alienating voters who are open to the idea of Scottish independence but who quite like the idea of a Scottish monarch – after all Scotland was a monarchy throughout its centuries long existence as an independent state – or those who would prefer an independent Scotland to remain outwith the European Union but perhaps with a closer trading relationship than that offered by the Brextremist zealots of the Conservative party of Keir Starmer’s Labour.
Such voters could well be put off from voting in favour of independence if they thought that their vote for independence was also going to be tied to something that they opposed. Although recent polls point to a pro-independence majority they do not suggest that there is a large enough margin of support for independence that we can afford to do without any pro-independence constituency, no matter how small it may be. Frankly it is sheer idiocy not to try and maximise the pro-independence vote, Angus Robertson’s proposal makes a vote for independence simultaneously a vote for something else entirely. This not only risks paring away potential independence supporters, it also prevents Scotland from having a clear and unambiguous debate about joining the European Union, something which is vital in the interests of democracy.
It is absolutely not a terrible idea for the Scottish Government to state that one of the primary purposes of independence is to reopen the possibility of EU membership for Scotland, that door into a real union is firmly closed as long as Scotland remains a part of this British lie-union. But the decision that the people of Scotland are going to make cannot be preempted. The first General Election following Scottish independence can be fought on the basis of giving the Scottish government a mandate to open accession negotiations with Brussels, and in that vote I will strongly advocate EU membership because in my view it is unquestionably the right thing for Scotland. However there is no need to jump the gun and in the process potentially damage our chances of securing independence, without which we will never be able to rejoin the EU.
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