Debating Scotland's Future

Indyref reflections

Published: 18 September 2019

Five years on, have the fundamentals of independence changed? Friends and fellows of the CCC respond.

Chris Whatley of Dundee University on the conditions of independence

In my Scots and the Union: Then and Now, published some months prior to the 2014 referendum, I correctly predicted that insufficient numbers of the Scottish electorate would be prepared to give up the ‘habit’ of union, despite growing disenchantment with Westminster rule. I did so partly on the basis that while support for independence had been strengthening, there was not in Scotland ‘the same depth of pent-up feeling of resentment’ that had galvanised recent popular independence movements elsewhere in Europe. If a majority of Scots were to vote to break up the UK Union in future, I concluded that there would need to be ‘a more vigorous assault on the British union state, [and] a compelling account of the dangers of remaining within...’. Since 2016 these conditions have now materialised. Irritation is turning to anger. The Union now is closer to breaking than at any time in the three centuries since its inauguration in 1707.

Eve Heburn of Policy Scribe on independence and EU membership

Brexit has changed the playing field of Scottish independence. While unionists warned that independence could mean Scotland losing its EU membership in the 2014 campaigns, five years later it appears that independence may be the only way for Scotland to stay in the European Union.

Malcolm Harvey of the University of Aberdeen on referendums

Irrespective of whether the UK Government grants a Section 30 Order for a second independence referendum, perhaps we should be considering whether a referendum is the correct way to settle this question.  Given the tone and tenor of the EU referendum campaign, up to and including illegal activity, as well as the subsequent parliamentary and legal processes delaying the intended result, do referendums still maintain the level of legitimacy required to deliver a credible outcome to constitutional questions?

Nicola McEwen on changing meanings of independence

Often when independence movements emerge and succeed, they have been galvanised by a sense of grievance or dissatisfaction with the political status quo. That wasn’t the case in 2014. Then, 45% of Scots voted for independence despite the absence of political grievance. The Brexit that a clear majority of Scots rejected – and its consequences for Britain’s politics, the economy and international reputation – could create a sense of grievance with the potential to mobilise support for independence. But Brexit also complicates independence, and calls for a re-examination of what it means for Scotland to be an independent member of the EU when its large neighbour to the south is not.  

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