Featured Subscribers' Views

Boris’s blow against SNP’s independence dream

Prime Minister’s speech in Greenwich 3 February 2020
Written by Ed Robertson

Many have wondered why Boris persevered for so long to get an acceptable trade deal with the EU. Perhaps he saw this as a key objective for maintaining the integrity of the Union post Brexit.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

It is hardly surprising that Nicola Sturgeon and the Scottish National Party (SNP) are furious that Boris Johnson has managed to get a last-minute trade deal with the EU. For the last 4.5 years they have weaponised Brexit as their key reason for demanding a 2nd Scottish independence referendum. By achieving this trade deal with the EU, which appears to satisfy both Brexiteers and Remainers, and by forging ahead with multiple other free trade deals around the world, Boris has delivered a significant blow to the SNP’s dream of Scottish independence.
In the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, a significant majority of the Scottish people voted to remain in the UK. In the lead up to the referendum Nicola Sturgeon told us that this was going to be “a once in a lifetime opportunity” for Scottish Independence. We in Scotland thought that the vote to remain in the Union would be the end of this divisive question for the foreseeable future. How wrong we were. Less than 2 years later, after the UK voted to leave the EU in the 2016 EU Referendum, the fact that 62% of Scottish voters wished to remain meant Ms Sturgeon could use this as a reason for demanding a 2nd Scottish independence referendum, claiming that “Scotland was being taken out of the EU against its will”.
Throughout the subsequent Brexit negotiations, the SNP conspired with Remainer MPs in Parliament and EU leaders in Brussels to disrupt, delay and vote against any possibility of a Brexit deal, whilst removing the “no deal” option from the negotiating table. Their aim of course was to kill off Brexit altogether and keep the UK in the EU. However, when Boris Johnson became Prime Minister, he soon made it clear that he was willing to take the UK out of the EU under WTO trade rules if no agreement on a Brexit trade deal could be reached. This allowed Nicola Sturgeon to ramp up her demands for another independence referendum by claiming that leaving the EU under a no deal Brexit would be disastrous for the Scottish economy.
From this, one would assume that Nicola Sturgeon was deeply concerned about the Scottish economy but, in over 6 years as Scotland’s First Minister, she has done little to stimulate the Scottish economy, which now lags further behind the UK average than when she took over. However, bearing in mind that everything Ms Sturgeon does is geared towards achieving independence at any cost, it is hardly surprising that she views it more politically advantageous to let the Scottish economy stagnate whilst blaming it all on Westminster and the Tory Government for a lack of adequate funding.
She claims that Scotland’s best interests are always uppermost in her mind, but by instructing her MPs to vote against the EU-UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement, she has demonstrated that when it comes to a choice between Scottish interests and SNP political interests, the latter takes preference. Surely it is obvious that Scottish businesses would prefer to have tariff-free trade with the EU and with the other 63 countries that have recently signed free trade deals with the UK rather than a no deaL. Yet Nicola Sturgeon chose to dismiss this fact in order to continue her running battle with Boris Johnson and the UK Government by voting against the deal, knowing if others copied her example that this action might have resulted in the UK leaving the EU on 31st December 2020 with no trade deal in place.
Boris Johnson has so far refused all her requests for a 2nd Scottish independence referendum on the basis that the last one was supposed to be “a once in a lifetime” event. He has every justification for doing so because, in spite of what Ms Sturgeon and the SNP would like everyone to believe, they have no mandate for another referendum at present. It’s true that they have a majority of Scottish MPs in Westminster and MSP’s in Holyrood, but the SNP vote has always been less than 50% of the total votes cast which is certainly no justification for another referendum. Even if this changes in next May’s Scottish election the case for another referendum remains weak.
Now that the UK has left the EU with a free trade deal, Brexit poses little or no threat to the Scottish economy. In fact, this deal with the EU, together with the recent free trade deals around the world, gives Scottish businesses and the Scottish Government a platform for revitalising the Scottish economy. However, the prospect of a thriving UK outside of the EU and a re-vitalised Scottish economy under a devolved Scottish Government would undermine Ms Sturgeon’s ongoing quest for independence.
In this political game of chess between Boris and Nicola he has just temporarily placed her in check, so it is little wonder she is angry. Achieving his Brexit deal was a smart move by Boris but, by effectively supporting a “no deal” in Parliament, after years of campaigning against it, Nicola Sturgeon has shown a total disregard for Scottish business interests. This could turn out to be a very costly mistake in the eyes of the Scottish public. However, the contest is far from over. Nicola Sturgeon is still a very dangerous opponent. To win the contest, Boris needs to press home his advantage. Between now and the Scottish Parliament Election in May, she will try every trick in the book to achieve an SNP vote of greater than 50% of the total votes cast. Therefore, Boris must take steps now to prevent this from happening. His target must be those undecided voters who have an open mind on the subject and are presently waiting to be convinced one way or the other. The problem here however, is that main stream media in Scotland is dominated by SNP propaganda with little if any time given to an opposing view.
It really needs Boris to set up a task force, preferably a cross-party one, with the aim of promoting the Union and countering SNP propaganda north of the border. This should be chaired by a proud Scot with a strong belief in the Union. Someone like Michael Gove springs to mind. A head-to-head debate on TV between Michael Gove and Nicola Sturgeon on the subject of independence would surely grab the attention of the Scottish public and the rest of the UK. In the 4 months remaining before the Scottish Parliament Election, the Scottish public needs to hear a strong and well-argued case for Scotland remaining an important part of the UK, whilst explaining the serious consequences of leaving. A knowledge of the facts is more likely to lead to an informed vote on 6th May, rather than an emotional one much favoured by the SNP.
Boris needs to keep Nicola Sturgeon in check until he can deliver some real evidence of economic growth and prosperity in all regions of the UK, including Scotland. At that point even Nicola Sturgeon would have a hard time justifying independence to the Scottish voters.
Then maybe … just maybe … we can look forward to Boris calling “checkmate” on Nicola Sturgeon in the not-too-distant future.
Ed Robertson lives in Scotland and is retired from a career in medicine in Scotland and Hong Kong.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

About the author

Ed Robertson