With Boris Johnson’s departure, the corridor to Scottish independence widens

Nicola Sturgeon waves to Boris Johnson at the Glasgow COP in Scotland.
credit: Flickr

After critical handling of the Covid-19 crisis and a scandal-plagued 2022, Boris Johnson was finally forced to resign as Prime Minister. “BoJo” will therefore leave what he describes as “the best job in the world” to his Scottish rivals, who symbolize Boris Johnson’s hatred of other constituents of the UK and particularly the UK. to Scotland.

A major change in circumstances since the 2014 referendum

If Conservative Party members are to agree to bring a new face to Downing Street, the political ramifications of the Prime Minister’s resignation will extend far beyond the walls of the Palace of Westminster. During last June’s legislative elections, Scots were able to restore confidence in Nicola Sturgeon and her party, the Scottish National Party (SNP), which has proposed a return to the debate on Scottish independence. Because yes, holding a new vote on Scottish self-determination is a political priority First Minister of Scotland [Premier ministre écossais].

Nicola Sturgeon, an activist since the age of 15, who came to power in 2014 after the failure of the first consultation, has brilliantly ensured the survival of the SNP and kept the issue of independence high on the Scots’ agenda. Despite the failure of the 2014 referendum (55% “no”) First Minister From then until the resignation of Alex Salmond, the SNP remained dominant in Holyrood – the Scottish Parliament. In fact, the issue of independence is taking a major turn after the Brexit vote. The Scots, being deeply European, voted en masse. stay (62%) and therefore found themselves isolated within the United Kingdom, with the rest voting overwhelmingly for Brexit.

The SNP is in a strong position

The 2021 election, in which the SNP won 64 out of 129 seats, was interpreted by the SNP leader as a true plebiscite for a new referendum. On the strength of this victory First Minister Taking direct advantage of this, he reaffirmed his desire to organize a new vote on the independence of the Scottish nation. Therefore, the resignation of Boris Johnson is a real turning point, because the Prime Minister of Great Britain has shown strong opposition to the idea of ​​organizing a new appeal to the people of Scotland. The opposition between Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon has confirmed the rift between Scotland and the rest of the UK, especially with England after Brexit. Indeed, the rejection of the Conservative Party, considered too far-right on social, public and institutional issues, united Scots around the issue of self-determination. Despite Boris Johnson’s resignation, the referendum remains uncertain.

If Nicola Sturgeon intends to go all the way and has already checked the October 19, 2023 date for holding the vote, it must be approved by the House of Commons in London. Aware of this trap First Minister has already asked the UK High Court for an opinion on the ability of the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum without the approval of the British Parliament. Failing that, the SNP could hold consultations to put pressure on London. The Catalan precedent has convinced the SNP that unilateral action is not advisable; The strategy is to put more pressure on the central government to get Scotland to agree to leave the United Kingdom by 2026.

A strategy made more relevant by the departure of Boris Johnson could change the cards at the top of the British state. While the Conservative Party is characterized by front-line opposition to Scottish self-determination, David Cameron nevertheless allowed a referendum to be held in 2014. The holding of new legislative elections in 2024 or in the event of an annulment may change. situation. Given the historic result of the Conservative Party in 2019, an early election seems unlikely. The Tories according to the latest YouGov barometer (07/07/2022), it should see its MP contingent shrink in the next election. A situation that could benefit the SNP, which represents the third political force in the House of Commons today with 44 MPs. The SNP may therefore be in a position to name the next government if they do not emerge with a clear majority at the next election. For Labour, in particular, the deciding lever has historically been more open to the issue of Scottish independence.

Independence for political reasons

After a long period of contentment with its position in Great Britain, Scottish society gradually moved towards independence. However, Scottish independence should not be confused with ethnic nationalism. Quite the opposite, in fact, as the SNP veers towards the center-left of the political spectrum, where it has been able to hold its own in this former Labor stronghold. Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment, moreover, was primarily a reaction to the brutal policies of the Thatcher years.

Independence is now being promoted by the SNP as the best way to break away from the British neoliberal prism to move closer to Scandinavian-style social democracy. A clear sign of the growing gap between England and Scotland, but without questioning the cultural affinity of the two British nations. A gap in which the Johnson government’s cynicism has expanded dramatically. Nicola Sturgeon managed to win the first part of the bet by playing an empathetic, caring and benevolent posture, the opposite of what Boris Johnson adopted: to unite Scots around the need for a referendum. Also, low scores The Tories It reinforces Scotland’s sense of being ruled by a “forced” foreign power. Therefore, the desire for secession is explained by political rather than cultural motives.

according to First Minister, the path to a better society is through membership of the European Union (EU). This commitment to the European Union has continued to be proclaimed by the SNP since the Brexit vote six years ago. If Brexiteers saw the ‘leave’ vote as an opportunity to regain control and thus strengthen the British Union and Commonwealth, leaving the EU has had the opposite effect. With ‘Global Britain’ still nowhere to be found, the SNP sees a return to the European Union as a guarantee of Scottish sovereignty.

Implications for independence, is the EU ready to roll out the red carpet in Scotland?

In the event of a Scottish breakaway, it seems unlikely that the European Union’s Nicola Sturgeon will roll out the red carpet for an independent Nova Scotia. Membership will therefore require compliance with the Copenhagen criteria, the structuring of new institutions, and clearly the adoption of the Community acquis. No preferential treatment will be allowed by the Member States, who will have to vote unanimously for Scotland to return to the European Union. A vote that could be difficult because European countries are committed to the principle of inviolability of borders. And if the latter do not fall in love with Scotland at lightning speed, some tensions are expected. Spain, France and Italy are very cautious about the independence of regional territories. These countries have more or less strong independence movements themselves and will not give gifts to a newly independent Scotland. However, a good and proper form of independence from Scotland, especially of a legal and agreed nature with the UK, could alleviate these earlier reservations. Finally, such a scenario could also have economic consequences for Scotland, whose productive, financial and monetary systems are closely linked to the rest of the United Kingdom. We may also fear some difficulties in complying with certain parts of European law, in particular the standards governing the public deficit.

At the same time, Scotland’s departure could simply shatter the UK. The issue of Northern Ireland and Irish union, which is already pressing, would actually be very credible and could make the union envisaged in the Good Friday Agreement of 1998 a reality.

Regardless, it is safe to say that Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP will use all legal and political means to achieve Scottish independence. An approach that could eventually lead to Scotland’s return to the European Union. In any case, this scenario may serve as a precedent and prompt certain Member States to refuse certain concessions related to the autonomy demands of certain European regions.

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