England would be better off without Scotland

England versus Scotland: the beginning of a wonderful feud

Scotland could not remain imprisoned in the United Kingdom against its will, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon let her anger run free in Edinburgh after the general election last week. Your Scottish National Party (SNP) will occupy 80 percent of the Scottish parliamentary seats in distant Westminster, and Boris Johnson's conservatives even lost a few seats in the far north of the island. Sturgeon, who, like her compatriots, voted against Brexit, sees the election as final proof that it is better for Scotland to say "bye" to the United Kingdom today rather than tomorrow. But is that realistic?

The mood

There are no unambiguous numbers, as is now the case with "Los von Westminster" in the land of Lochs and Glens. Proponents of "Indy Ref 2" (a second independence referendum, note) argue that the 45 percent vote gives the SNP a legitimate mandate to lead the country towards independence.

Many SNP voters just want their country to be well represented in London - as part of Great Britain. Johnson shouldn't put too many obstacles in the way of the Scots: the greater the resistance, the better for the separatists, according to their calculations.

Money, money, money

"There is no doubt that an independent Scotland could survive economically," said Ronald MacDonald, a Glasgow professor of macroeconomics. "However, the Scots would face tough austerity long years ago." While the regional government has so far been able to draw on unlimited resources thanks to the London funding, it would have to be perceptibly stingy after independence. Edinburgh is already shouldering a massive deficit.

Prime Minister Sturgeon brushes such concerns off the table. It's all a question of negotiation, she says. After all, London has something to offer besides whiskey and wool: a lot of electricity, for example - or Faslane, the base of the British nuclear submarine fleet.

The question of permission

Tomorrow, Thursday, Holyrood, the Scottish regional parliament, will formally ask the UK government for the right to hold a referendum. In Section 30 of the so-called Scotland Act, in which the political autonomy of Scotland was established in 1998, only London is granted the right to decide whether the "Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England" is or is not. So far, however, this right has never been legally challenged. So it is quite possible that Edinburgh will want to fight the fight in the Supreme Court in the case of Johnson's "nay".

Catalonia threatened

Researchers like Simon Hix, constitutional expert from the London School of Economics (LSE), therefore consider a Catalan scenario to be conceivable in the long term. If not necessarily in the form of unrest, but certainly in a tough constitutional dispute between Edinburgh and London.

The northern Spanish region has always invoked the Scottish model in its demand for a referendum. Because Barcelona held a referendum in Madrid in 2017 even without the placet of the central government, the latter had the police march against voters and arrest the leaders of the separatists.

From London to Brussels

For the time being, the predominantly pro-EU-minded Scotland cannot hope for help from Brussels. In 2014, people were told that only staying with Great Britain would secure Scotland's future in the EU, says Prime Minister Sturgeon. That is one of the reasons why the referendum ended with 55 to 45 percent in favor of staying. Brexit will fundamentally change the situation.

In the event of independence, Sturgeon wants to join the EU within 18 months, even if the former parliamentary president Martin Schulz predicts "a very long and hard debate" about it. Ultimately, Scotland's application would have to be approved by all member states. Spain could make an example of Scotland, not least to deter the Catalans. (Florian Niederndorfer, December 18, 2019)