Following Scotland’s independence referendum in 2014, there were a large group of people still determined to campaign for Scottish independence, and rightly so. A smaller group of people were determined that in the aftermath of the strong, but not majority, Yes vote, that Scotland should itself declare its own independence unilaterally, as many countries had done before it.
I understand this, and i join them in wishing Scotland could and would declare itself independent. A central tenet of the UDI advocates is the following six minute speech, made in the Scottish parliament by SNP MSP Christine Grahame. She is a very precise and thorough person, and an upstanding representative, and this speech is fascinating and very informative, and it includes reference to the legal document by which Scotland could apparently declare itself independent without showing majority support through a democratic referendum:
Sadly, that’s where my positive remarks end. I am not a legal expert, or a politician, but i can see that if a minority were to successfully declare Scotland’s independence, this would result in considerable turmoil within the country. Pretty much any other country that has done this has shown this to some extent to be the case. And if a relatively tame issue like whether we get to use the UK pound is enough to swing the polls one way or the other i think we can safely say civil war and rationing would make independence very unpopular. The Republic of Ireland is probably one good example of this. A small group declared independence in 1916 when the majority wanted Home Rule (which the UK had denied and postponed repeatedly, thus forcing the UDI and a certain amount of fighting and sanctions).
Having said that the first use of the term UDI actually referred to Rhodesia declaring independence from the UK. The results of that were a very tough time economically for Rhodesia as it was sanctioned and ostracised from the international community, who did not want to recognise a country that had achieved independence from the UK without any cooperation with the UK at all.
If a majority of Scots did want independence though, not only would the country have a far lower chance of problems in the changeover period, but it would also pretty much qualify for independence under the UK’s own internal arrangements anyway. Support for independence stands fairly consistently at 52% now according to polls. I don’t see how that’s going to go down and i can’t see why it shouldn’t be increased once the Yes camp can realistically analyse what groups didn’t get a balanced set of arguments during the referendum last time.
And that’s why i support another referendum, when the time is right. Let the UK try to deliver better devolution (my personal opinion is, the SNP are doing a reasonable job of running Scotland, however overall the actual concept of devolution is far too fiddly to work in practice without wasting a load of money and being a constant series of often meaningless compromises), let the UK try to drag us all out of the EU (despite the fact that many Scots have very legitimate concerns about EU membership, this is perhaps a clear ideological distinction within the UK, England may prefer to leave the EU, while Scotland almost certainly has a majority that would prefer to stay. This may have something to do with the fact that England is overpopulated, while Scotland has an ageing population and needs immigrants to assist with a growth economy), and let the UK keep sending us into illegal wars that result in terrorist revenge attacks, all the while lying to us from the ivory towers of a long out of date “democratic” system.
All of this will strengthen the case for Scottish independence, purely because Scottish independence is the right decision for Scotland, and possibly for the whole UK, going forward. Once everything else has been tried and not been very successful, more and more people will inevitably say “well, the only real solution we haven’t tried is Scottish independence”. By that time they will no doubt have had plenty of opportunity to have their various fears of independence clarified and hopefully exorcised.
Which brings me back to UDI. “Why wait?” The UDI bunch shout, “you heard Christine Grahame! There’s an old legal document somewhere that says we just have to say we’re mad as hell and we’re not going to take it anymore! Let’s just rise up and take what’s ours! FREEDUM!”
Wel, perhaps i’m misrepresenting them a bit, but i must say the UDI groups i have joined on that ubiquitous networking website Facebook have banned me, blocked me and the like, without warning, for expressing nothing more than the views in this article. That’s the sort of thing i was used to from “Better Together” and it is very unusual behaviour from the Yes supporters. Nevertheless it’s not a one off. Time and again i am confronted with angry UDI supporters, uninterested in hearing my views or even in trying to talk me round to their own point of view.
Personally i think declaring UDI will lose Scotland an awful lot of investor confidence, thus meaning we start with a very weak currency, at a time when we need a strong one. I also think that declaring UDI will almost certainly remove Scotland from the EU, or at least put us in some sort of quarantine status, and the EU will not look favourably on us either, since this will certainly encourage other EU regions to fragment from their parent states. On the other hand independence by a democratic referendum will mean calmness from investors, and from the EU, as well as sending the message to other parts of the EU that independence is a complicated process that must be arrived at peacefully and by consensus. The EU will be keen on that. We’ll probably get to keep our EU membership, eventually, and it’s likely we’d get to keep it until the EU decides what to do about it anyway, which is only possible once very ten years, since it is decided at the sitting of a specific EU committee. Whether Scotland should stay in the EU is irrelevant to this (since i know many UDIers will also be tearing up their EU passports on independence day as well) because the majority of Scots support EU membership now, and the EU will be a good organisation to belong to for reason of defence, and that investor confidence i mentioned before, as well as smoothing out relations with our primary trading partner, England, which is also (for now!) an EU member. I suppose even if England/rUK leaves the EU the freedom of movement agreement between Scotland and England would still remain in place, like it does between Ireland and Northern Ireland, but everything’s up for negotiation i suppose.
So in short you can see that while i would dearly love Scots to march into the streets waving their pitchforks and playing their bagpipes, declaring independence and being acknowledged by the international community with a welcome wave of positivity i think the reality would be some anarchy, possibly some civil “unrest”, economic problems, international and possibly defence problems, and general problems with selling the idea of the newly independent state to the wider inhabitants of Scotland. I fully believe support for independence would drop dramatically following a UDI and parts of Scotland would apply to the rUK for membership in their own right, leaving a much reduced Scotland containing all the slums and none of the oilfields.
By contrast i think we all know what the benefits are for a democratically achieved independent Scotland, basically everything a real country would have: an EEZ containing 90% of the oil that the UK currently collects revenue on, a rich and diverse economy with room to grow, and an enlivened and positive population ready to go forward into the future on a new and self determined constitutional platform.
So until the UDI supporters can stop being crabbed and insular and start campaigning properly for a genuine positive vision of the future, i still side with the SNP on this issue, and firmly prefer a democratic independent Scotland, where a clear majority of the population support it.