I. Why Scotland Might Hold a New Independence Referendum – and When.
Controversy has arisen over the timing of a potential new independence referendum. Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants it to be held before the Brexit process is complete (probably in 2019). But British Prime Minister Theresa May refuses to allow that, claiming that an independence referendum would be a dangerous distraction from the Brexit process. Legally, a new Scottish independence referendum requires approval by the UK government, as was done for the 2014 vote. But it may be politically dangerous for the UK to deny Scotland permission to hold a referendum at a time of the latter’s choosing.
II. What Independence Might Mean for Scotland’s Relations with the UK and the European Union.
If a referendum does happen, and does result in a pro-independence vote, the newly independent nation would likely seek to rejoin the European Union. The EU hasn’t exactly had a good run these last few years, and it would behoove them to welcome with open arms a nation that wants to stay with them so badly they are willing to break up a 300 year old union with England to do so. But matters may not be so simple. All of the EU member states would have to consent to Scotland’s membership, and some may refuse in order to discourage secession movements within their own territory. For example, Spain may make things difficult for Scotland in order to send a message to Catalonian secessionists.
If the Scottish referendum happens before the Brexit process is complete, the EU could potentially circumvent rules requiring new members to join the Eurozone by ruling that Scotland never left the EU in the first place. That appears to be Nicola Sturgeon’s strategy. It might well, however, be opposed by Spain and other EU members who fear emboldening their own secessionists.
III. Would an Independent Scotland Build a Bigger Welfare State or Become Another Slovakia?
The United States, too, is likely to be affected by a new Scottish referendum. Britain is America’s closest ally on the world stage. If the UK is caught up in the simultaneous crises of Brexit and a renewed drive for Scottish independence, it may not be able to assist the US on security and other issues as much as is usually the case.
The one certainty is that the combination of Brexit and a potential new Scottish independence referendum will raise a whole host of difficult issues for Scotland, the rest of Britain, and the EU. It will be an interesting time for experts on federalism, nationalism and secession – but a potentially difficult one for many ordinary citizens in all three polities.
UPDATE: I have made a few minor additions to this post.