Scots Tories have no choice but to get behind Brexit, deal or no deal – John McLellan

You would have to have been in a cave beyond all communication this week to miss the headlines about a new poll showing Prime Minister Boris Johnson and a No Deal Brexit have persuaded more Scots to back independence.

Thursday, 8th August 2019, 6:00 am
Updated Thursday, 8th August 2019, 7:00 am
Could Boris Johnson's premiership be the spark that lights the independence fuse? Picture: AP

Of those people who expressed a preference, 52 per cent said they would vote yes in a second independence referendum and being conducted for Conservative peer Lord Ashcroft lent weight to its credibility and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was quick to call the result “phenomenal”. Understandably, she declared there was “growing urgency” for Scotland to become independent because it faced being “dragged down a political path we don’t want to go”.

Cue much licking of SNP lips at thoughts of a No Deal disaster, sweeping gains at a General Election as Scottish Labour’s tailspin turns into a screaming dive, victory in a second independence vote next year and, if the last prospectus was anything to go by, the 2021 Scottish parliament elections to be for the first independent Scottish legislature.

But some pro-independence commentators have begun to question the assumption that Boris Johnson is a gift and a No Deal departure will be the best precursor to separation.

It is unquestionably true that the SNP does not want a No Deal exit, but then neither does the UK government, but is a soft Brexit like that agreed by ex-Prime Minister Theresa May really a path Ms Sturgeon doesn’t want to do down?

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For the SNP, it could be the best of both worlds: it would still be Brexit, so Scotland will have been “dragged out the EU against its will” but with customs and regulations aligned the UK would have to play by EU rules over which it had no control. Under those circumstances the SNP would argue an independent Scotland back in the EU would give Scotland a say and with no adverse effect on rUK trade.

No Deal is the reverse, where an independent Scotland going back into the EU would mean trade barriers, virtual or otherwise, where none currently exist because automatic harmonisation will have ended and the Irish question becomes the Scottish question. With four times as much Scottish trade going to the rest of the UK than to Europe, whatever the economic impact of the UK leaving the EU it would be four times as great if Scotland left the UK.

These febrile times are leading to a loss of grip and perspective, like Labour’s John McDonnell who promised yesterday that Labour would let the Scottish parliament decide whether there should be a second independence referendum, which it already has, even referring to Westminster as the “English parliament”. In one-garrulous Fringe chat show, Scottish Labour’s election pledge is now for Indyref 2, much to the dismay of Edinburgh South MP Ian Murray.

Even in the parliamentary recess, the momentum towards an autumn election is accelerating because with no sign of European willingness to renegotiate the alternatives are a new parliament and a change of government or a No Deal departure on October 31.

With his working majority down to one, the chances of a No Confidence vote when Westminster reconvenes in September are high, but Mr Johnson is not compelled to call an election and instead has 14 days to demonstrate he can form a new government which commands a majority.

Only if that fails must an election be called, so it is not unfeasible for an election to be after October 31 by which time the UK will have left the EU without a deal.

The Conservative position of honouring the results of the 2014 and 2016 referenda and opposing re-runs of both has the benefit of consistency and for the sake of the Union Scottish Conservatives have no alternative but to get right behind the UK government and be ready for November 1. Deal or No Deal.