by Tom-Henry Jones
Since the SNP’s success in the December General Election, there have been renewed calls for another referendum on Scottish independence. Former President of the EU Council, Donald Tusk, boosted Nicola Sturgeon’s hopes for a second independence referendum by saying there would be widespread enthusiasm in the EU if Scotland re-joined. Tusk said he had great sympathy with the desire of many Scots to rejoin the EU after Brexit.
Tusk, speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr show, said that he “sometimes feels he is Scottish now, especially after Brexit.” Scotland voted 62% in favour of remaining in the 2016 EU Referendum; leading many SNP MPs, including Ian Blackford, to believe that Scotland is being “dragged out of the EU against its will.”
With the SNP winning 48 out of 59 seats in Scotland during the 2019 General Election, there has been mounting pressure on the Government from across the Scottish border to allow for a second referendum in 2021, 7 years after the last one in 2014, which resulted in a 55% win for the ‘No’ Campaign.
The SNPs success in Scotland in December means those advocating for a second independence referendum believe that they have secured a mandate for it. The SNP’s election campaign was also based on the slogan ‘Stop Brexit’, and the party has stood firm on its pro-European stance since 2016.
Boris Johnson and his majority Government, however, are intent on shutting down further calls for an independence referendum. Although, the challenge in refusing another may become increasingly harder to stop in the coming months. A recent YouGov poll put the backing of independence at 51% of the population, the first time in many years that the independence camp has come out on top. Nicola Sturgeon is hoping to boost support for a fresh vote with a number of policy announcements this summer setting out the case for independence.
Sturgeon and the SNP have set their sights on the Scottish, Holyrood elections next year as a chance to further promote and secure their case for another vote. The SNP hope that another majority in the Scottish Parliament will prove Scotland wants another chance to vote on its future in the Union. However, for as long as Johnson is in Number 10 the chances of Sturgeon’s wishes coming true are very slim.
The last independence referendum campaign in 2014 was largely centred on the issue of currency and whether Scotland would be able to keep the Great British Pound. However, this time it looks seemingly likely that the next referendum will instead centre on whether Scotland, if it votes to be independent, can re-join the EU. Therefore, Tusk’s comments last week, suggesting that Scotland would be welcomed back, have certainly been helpful to Sturgeon’s case.
The battle for Scottish independence has been long, and with the backdrop of Brexit, the battle is set to continue. The challenge that lies ahead for Sturgeon will be to actively prove that the Scottish people want another say. Yet by the end of 2020, the conclusion of the stalemate may have been broken. Ultimately Scotland’s future is at stake but if that future will be within the United Kingdom or the European Union is yet to be seen. The only thing for certain is that Johnson and Sturgeon have many an argument ahead of them.