When Scotland held its first independence referendum in 2014, the case looked weak.
The country’s economy isn’t that big, it was dependent on dwindling oil and gas revenue, Scotland wasn’t really “oppressed” by British rule, and its population is smaller than Greater London.
In hindsight, it was not surprising that the Scottish chose to stick with the devils they know, by a margin of 55%-45%.
But Brexit will change the entire constitutional and economic basis of the Britain. Now, little more than a year after the 2014 referendum, Scotland is being asked to give up all its European rights and powers, to give up the EU Bill of Rights, and to give up the right to appeal court rulings all the way to the European Court of Justice.
It’s also being asked to give up its access to the Single Market, to give up its rights in the Customs Union, and to give up membership of the EEA.
A majority of Scots voted to stay in the EU — 62% to 38% — and now they are all being dragged out against their will. They made one constitutional choice and are having another forced upon them.
You can see how this doesn’t feel fair.
This is literally not what they signed up for in 2014.
Suddenly, independence looks like a lifeline for Scotland.
It could keep the country inside the EU (or at least let it re-enter Europe relatively quickly), depending on whether countries like Spain, which has its own independence problem in Catalonia, allow it in.
And it would hedge Scotland’s economy by giving it two horses to ride: The British economy (still the world’s fifth largest economy and the second-largest in Europe) and Europe (probably via adopting the euro).
So now the logic for a referendum is much stronger. In 2014, it was weak: There had been only positive changes for Scotland leading up to it, with many political and legal powers being devolved into the Edinburgh parliament. Scottish MPs actually had more power than English ones because the English MPs don’t vote on Scottish matters in Westminster but the Scots do.
Former prime minister David Cameron risked the breakup of the UK in 2014 and won. When he left office Great Britain remained intact.
Current Prime Minister Theresa May now has a more difficult path to climb. She could win Britain’s independence from Europe but that might come at the cost of losing this thing we call the “United Kingdom.”
And then, of course, there is Northern Ireland …
This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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