The result of the EU referendum identified one clear problem: the country is divided. Two bitter campaigns meant people could focus their anger and distrust towards politicians and Westminster on one topic, with disastrous consequences. Divisions in the country are not new, nobody realistically expected unity between metropolitan cities and small rural villages, but I doubt anybody anticipated this high level of division and anger. Although the country certainly needs unity and peace in a period of political uncertainty and confusion, there are consequences that need to be addressed. Scotland voted to remain, and the question is obvious: should it stay in the UK or stay in the EU?
The 2014 Scottish referendum was certainly a turning point for Scotland and Scottish politics. A voter turnout of almost 85 per cent – the highest since the introduction of universal suffrage – demonstrated just how deeply the Scottish referendum affected Scotland and that people were willing to become engaged and hoped to change their future. Regardless what you think of the result of the Scottish referendum, it is undeniable that the temptation of staying in the EU as part of the UK was a persuasive argument for the ‘No’ campaign. This goes some way to explaining the anger and frustration of the Scottish people in the aftermath of the EU referendum; many Scots feel that the result of the EU referendum has undermined their independence referendum, causing further disengagement from English politics.
Scotland has always been detached from the Euroscepticism of England, with all polls suggesting a vote for remain – as was proven. Perhaps this explains why Scottish turnout was only at 67 per cent, 5 per cent down from the English and 4 per cent down from the Welsh turnout. Perhaps Scotland was disinterested in the referendum, perhaps it knew that it would vote remain, so less people voted or perhaps the result and perhaps consequences of their independence referendum deterred many voters.
Scotland – a previous electoral stronghold for Labour, now firmly belongs to the SNP, led by first minister Nicola Sturgeon. This shift in politics signals a time of change for Scotland: strong support for the SNP indicates a movement towards an independent Scotland. Sturgeon’s admittance that a second Scottish referendum is ‘highly likely’ coupled with the strong support for remaining part of the European Union also points to an unlikely continuation of unity for the UK.
It is also unsurprising that Scottish voters are turning to the SNP – the current leadership crisis of the Labour party is causing even more uncertainty and confusion. Without a strong party supporting him, it is extremely difficult for Corbyn to gain votes in Scotland, particularly at a time when Sturgeon is flourishing and demonstrating her leadership capabilities.
Perhaps what is most striking about the Scottish independence issue is that it’s not just a Scottish issue – Nigel Farage’s declaration of an ‘Independence Day’ and his surrounding cheers aptly demonstrated that national sovereignty is something many people feel passionately about. Although Scottish independence and support for Ukip varies ideologically, the mere fact that independence has become such a big argument in British politics is certainly worth talking about.
Moving forward there are many problems that need to be resolved. However, before this happens, there are many questions that first need to be addressed. Namely, does the United Kingdom need to go back to its pre-Brexit status? While I think there are many benefits to remaining united, Scotland and Northern Ireland primarily voted to remain in the EU and their governments should prioritise that. As many people that voted to leave voted based on notions of sovereignty, it’s only logical that the question of Scottish independence should be revisited.
Image: Robert J Heath