The Scottish National Party (SNP) led by Nicola Sturgeon seems to have found a sweet spot in Scottish politics where it will benefit whether Britain as a whole decides to stay in the European Union or to leave it. Following the most recent UG general election when the SNP swiped away all opposition in Scotland in a generational realignment of unprecedented proportions and sent to Westminster a block of 54 MPs to represent Scottish interests, the SNP is now poised to win another overwhelming majority in the Scottish Parliament elections to be held in May 2016 - just a few weeks before the Brexit referendum. Nicola Sturgeon is prepared to use a win of the ‘stay in’ the EU option to ensure that the Smith Commission recommendations on devolution of political and financial powers is indeed implemented to the letter and that Scottish autonomy is reinforced to the extent necessary to put in practice the policies the SNP deems suitable and necessary for the people of Scotland.
More importantly Ms. Sturgeon has made it unambiguously clear that an English-votes driven win of the ‘leave’ the EU option combined with a highly likely ‘stay in’ the EU vote in Scotland would represent a “material change in circumstances” that would justify holding a second independence referendum in Scotland in the near future. We have already discussed how Scotland is at the leading edge of UK in implementing a multilevel system of governance at local, national, British, and European levels and how it is determined to ensure that the overwhelmingly English Tory government in London will not thwart it in its legitimate ambitions.
As Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, William Hague, Kenneth Clark, Mike Nesbitt, and Tim Farron have all warned, Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are willing, able, and ready to trigger the end of the 300-year old union between England and Scotland in the event of a win of the ‘leave’ the EU option in the Brexit referendum -combined with an immediate start of negotiations with the European Union to rejoin it as an independent state, with its own seat and voice at the Heads of state and government table of the European Council. In fact many diehard independence supporters in Scotland are willing to play the strategic game of voting against staying in the European Union in the Brexit Referendum in order to ensure a victory for the ‘leave’ option, thus virtually assuring themselves of a win for the Scottish independence side in a second Indyref.
This is the position of Jim Sillars, former deputy leader of the SNP, who claims that remaining in the EU as part of Britain would only reinforce the status quo and damage the SNP's position and aspirations:
“The EU will return to the status quo, the UK’s bluff having been called with no change towards Scotland. For Scotland, that means back in the same trap: our fate in their hands, with their distaste for the breakup of a member state the ruling factor in their attitude to our independence.”
Sillars’ position has also been bolstered by a recent Scottish opinion poll indicating that up to 60% of Scots could be classed as Eurosceptics. However if we examine the data carefully an entirely different perspective emerges: only 17% of Scots truly wish to leave the EU, whilst 43% are in favor of transforming it into a more democratic, more effective, more accountable, more focused institution. In other words, 83% o Scots actually favor a better integration of the EU level of governance in Scotland's ongoing multilevel governance project.
This is also the position of Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon who has recently traveled to London to launch her party’s ‘stay in’ the EU campaign, where she declared:
“For more than 40 years, membership of the European Union has been good for the prosperity and well-being of individuals, families and communities across the country… A vote to leave the EU would be the start, not the end, of a process. It could lead to up to a decade or more of uncertainty.”
She deplored David Cameron’s “miserable, negative, fear-based” campaign, and committed herself and her party to make “positive, constructive case” in favour of EU membership.
After securing a new majority in the Scottish Parliament in the upcoming May 2016 elections Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP would be in an ideal position to push forth with the implementation of a multilevel governance model in Scotland - either as an increasingly autonomous level of governance within the United Kingdom, or as a fully-fledged, sovereign Member State in the European Union. Although both options have advantages and pitfalls, together they seem to ensure that irrespective of the outcome of the Brexit Referendum Scotland's future as a nation rests on firmer ground than at any time in recent history.