Saturday 9 July 2022

How to make the SNP turn down independence


There doesn’t appear to be any escape from the SNP. With 45% of the vote, it is going to win nearly all of the seats in Scotland at a General Election and will win a majority of seats at Holyrood if not an absolute majority. It’s hard to see what could change that.

The SNP will continue to ask for an independence referendum and will continue to try to put pressure on the British Government either by means of an unofficial referendum or a de facto referendum during a General Election. In the short term these ruses may not succeed, but Scotland will forever be in campaign mode. We never get to relax, because the SNP will always be campaigning for independence. Is there a way to stop this?

It would be perfectly legal and democratic for a British Government to repeal the Scotland Act on the grounds that the Scottish Parliament is being misused because it is continually acting outside its remit. Alternatively, the Scotland Act could be amended to make it illegal for the Scottish Government to attempt to deal with reserved matters with appropriate sanctions if it disobeyed.  

But a British Government is unlikely to have the courage to abolish devolution and if it did there might be demonstrations in Scotland and support for the SNP might increase. It is vital that the UK does not push Scotland into rebellion because rebellion is likely to succeed unless you are willing to crush it and there is not the will in the UK to do that. English people would prefer Scotland to leave.

The British Government could pass a bill making secession illegal, which would make campaigning for it illegal with financial sanctions if the law was broken. Again, it is unlikely that a British Government would do this. Too many people throughout the UK think that the UK is a union of four nations each with the right to independence if the majority in that part wish it. European countries that have forbidden secession, either don’t think in this way or like Spain are willing to do whatever is necessary to keep their country intact.

The fundamental problem with the situation we are in now is that it involves the SNP asking for a democratic referendum and the British Government continually saying No. But eventually if support for independence increases to 60% it will feel the need to say Yes. At that point the future of the UK will depend on at best a coin toss, but more likely going into an indyref campaign twenty points behind.

But there is actually a way to stop this quite easily, not by forbidding an independence referendum, but instead by telling the SNP it can have independence whenever it wants it.

The whole problem with the situation at the moment is that it involves Pro UK people either saying you must wait or you shouldn’t have a referendum at all. It makes us look weak as if we won’t give a referendum, because we think we would lose it. But it’s possible to make the SNP look weak instead.

What we should say to the Scottish Government is that you can have independence any time you want it. You don’t need to win a referendum. You don’t even have to pass a bill in the Scottish Parliament. A phone call will be enough. But you can only have it on the following conditions:

1 Independence begins on the day you ask for it.

2 UK Treasury funding ceases instantly on independence.

3 There is no transition period.

4 There are no negotiations.

5. Everyone resident in Scotland must choose either to remain a British citizen or become a Scottish citizen. There will be no dual nationality. Scottish citizens will need a visa to travel to the former UK.

6. Scottish citizens will not be allowed to live or work in the former UK and will have no free access to public services and receive no pensions. If British citizens living in the former UK choose to be Scottish citizens, they must leave.

7 The former UK will neither hinder nor help Scotland in any way.

8 There will be no currency union and the former UK will not help Scotland to use the pound unofficially.

9. There will initially be no trade deal between the former UK, nor cooperation on anything else.

10. Scotland must accept a population share of the national debt.


That’s the deal. You can have it any time you want it.

If Scotland is really a cash cow, that raises huge amounts of tax and sends it south of the border, then Scotland would have no problem with this arrangement. If on the other hand Scotland is making a loss and our public services depend on the UK Treasury keeping them going, then we might find that Scottish schools and hospitals might have to close and we might find that we could no longer afford free prescriptions and free university tuition.

I think that Scottish nationalism depends on the idea that Scots can hate the English, but the English will give us a great deal if we ever choose to leave. The answer to that is to explain carefully that if you choose to leave you will be treated no better nor worse than any other country in the world. Relations will be neither friendly nor unfriendly, but there will be neither cooperation nor conflict either.

Would the SNP be prepared to accept independence on those terms? It would be completely mad to do so. The new Scottish state would face immediate economic collapse.

It might or might not be possible to decide to come back to the UK if Nicola Sturgeon chose to obtain her visa, and come to London dressed in sackcloth and ashes rather than in red.

If a British Government ever clearly and distinctly explained what Scottish independence would really involve, then we would be able to break free from the impasse that prevents Scotland moving either forwards or back.

Of course, the British Government will do no such thing. The EU can try to take revenge on us because of Brexit and make life as hard as possible for the UK, but we couldn’t possibly do the same to the SNP.

But it would be amusing indeed to watch Nicola Sturgeon turn down the offer of independence and there would be no longer any need to deal with Scottish nationalist plots involving pretendyrefs or indeed anything else.