Scotland, England, and Europe

I have no clear opinion about the upcoming referendum on Scottish independence — on the one hand, as a citizen of another former English colony, I understand the emotional appeal of revolution. On the other hand, as a current resident of England I fear the ensuing chaos, and rationally I really don’t think the negative consequences will necessarily — or even primarily — be felt south of the border. Furthermore, a UK without Scotland will be more conservative (and Conservative) and more xenophobic and anti-Europe.

This last point does suggest, though, a convenient resolution to one of the sticking points of Scottish independence — membership of the EU. The current UK government claims that an independent Scotland would have to negotiate membership like any other new applicant, and so would certainly lose the opt-out from the Euro, and other benefits, if secession-fearing members like Spain don’t block Scottish membership altogether; the Scottish nationalists say they would be negotiating a change of terms from inside the EU. But the Conservatives — who would doubtless attain a majority in a Scotland-free Parliament — have promised a referendum on withdrawal from the EU in the near future. Perhaps these could be coupled, and Scotland could simply inherit the UK seat in the EU. It would save everyone a lot of strife.

But saying that, it makes me wonder about the outcome of the EU referendum. I’d always assumed that Scottish independence would guarantee the UK’s exit from the EU. But would politicians in London really be willing to see their counterparts in Edinburgh and Dublin making European policy, and themselves excluded? It seems hard to imagine.

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