Edinburgh (AP) – Brexit and the Corona crisis are giving supporters of Scottish independence more hope than ever for the separation from Britain. A majority of Scots have been in polls for independence for months.
“The nationalist movement is closer than ever to the realization of its project,” said political professor John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow of the German news agency.
The main driver is Brexit. In the 2016 referendum, a clear majority of Scots voted against leaving the EU. “Now only independence can create the possibility of EU membership, which is desired by the vast majority of Scots,” emphasizes Fabian Zuleeg, head of the European Policy Center in Brussels. Kirsty Hughes, director of the Scottish Council on European Relations think tank in Edinburgh, points out that advocates have demographics on their side. “For people under 35, 70 or 80 percent is for independence and for the EU,” she told the DPA.
This approval was partly prompted by crisis management in the corona pandemic. Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon is classified as much more capable than British Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Curtice said. “It is known that the Prime Minister does not care too much about the details. Sturgeon, on the other hand, sounds like the chief medical officer, like a top scientist, ”said the expert. “There is no doubt that Boris Johnson has involuntarily become the best recruit for the national movement in Scotland,” Curtice said.
In a referendum in 2014, a narrow majority voted against independence. Johnson rejects a new referendum, stressing that the question has been cleared up for this generation. But proponents point out that circumstances have changed after leaving the EU. Scotland will elect a new parliament on May 6, and Prime Minister Sturgeon’s ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) is hoping for an absolute majority.
Former SNP Vice President Angus Robertson announced that the goal was a new referendum within the next term. He warned Johnson to prevent the vote. His stance is anti-democratic, Robertson said of the DPA. When asked whether the UK government is fit for the 21st century, the correct answer is not to ban voting. “This doesn’t reflect the ideas of the 21st century, rather it reflects the 18th or 19th century.”
The Scottish economy has recently benefited from the free movement of people in the EU. “This is the largest single market in the world, and we want to be part of it,” said Robertson, who was the SNP group leader in the UK Parliament for many years and now heads a think tank for independence. Experts certainly see the chances that an independent Scotland with its approximately 5.5 million inhabitants could survive economically, point to North Sea oil and rich fish stocks and tourism. “The border with England is certainly a major drawback,” said Hughes. “On the other hand, there is freedom of movement again and you could attract more private investment.”
Referendum, independence, accession to the EU – Prime Minister Sturgeon repeatedly announces this process. A re-entry into the EU is quite conceivable, said expert Zuleeg in Brussels. In the 2014 independence referendum, the EU made its rejection very clear. And even now, there are members like Spain who are critical of their own country’s independence efforts. “But the base tenor has changed, also because Britain has destroyed a lot of confidence with its Brexit policy,” said Zuleeg.
One thing is clear: the experts are sure that the independence of the north of the country will have serious consequences. The UK will disintegrate, said DPA’s constitutional lawyer Robert Hazell of University College London. “There are already strong signs of growing support for a referendum in Northern Ireland on reunification with Ireland.” And the call for independence gained popularity in Wales as well. “Johnson’s promise of a ‘Global Britain’ strong and free because of Brexit would turn out to be false,” Hazell said.
The German historian Holger Nehring has taught at the Scottish University of Stirling for years. “The idea of independence is indispensable,” said Nehring. The UK is in a state crisis – “and a huge one”.