The Prime Minister must stand firm against calls for Scottish independence – for his own sake, and Britain’s.
David Cameron was responsible for his own downfall. Because he didn’t want his legacy to resemble those of previous Conservative Prime Ministers, such as Thatcher’s. Partly as a result of her policy on the Exchange Rate Mechanism, contradictory to her colleagues’, or because of Major’s loss to New Labour for, despite the request of Rupert Murdoch, not changing policy on Europe, Cameron didn’t want to fall victim to the same legacy.
Against the advice of his Chancellor, and with a certain naivety, Cameron decided to hold a referendum on leaving the European Union in order to ‘get it out of the way’ as it were.
Seemingly, he saw Britain’s conflict over the EU as an obstacle to getting on with what else he wanted to do. Therefore, to do this, Cameron went into the referendum strongly believing that he would come out of it the victor, despite his lack of support from Tory heavyweights, Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
Many were damning of his resignation following defeat; but realistically, there was no way, having been the biggest face of the Remain campaign, that he could credibly and whole-heartedly carry out the will of the people; thus, David Cameron’s undoing was his own doing.
If Britain’s current Prime Minister wants to remain in power, he should learn a lesson from his long-time rival and political adversary.
In May, the SNP’s support was again ratified by the Scottish people. Just shy of a majority, Nicola Sturgeon formed a pact with the pro-independence Greens in Holyrood in order to achieve that. And already, the First Minister has pushed Johnson to give the Scots yet another vote on whether to remain a part of the Union (because the “once in a generation” vote simply wasn’t, if it didn’t go your way).
What the Prime Minister must do is stand firm. If he concedes to Sturgeon, that decision may be cataclysmic for his leadership, and like Cameron, he would simply have to resign.
Though Brexit and Scottish independence are two separate issues with separate circumstances – because another vote on independence won’t create the ideological divide within the Conservative Party that Brexit did – they are similar in their divvy of the population.
Pragmatically, too, it would make little sense for the Prime Minister to risk Scotland’s unwise departure from the Union, as it would enable a pro-EU leader to, as she seeks to, attempt to re-join, after having just taken Britain out.
It would also be a disservice to the Scottish people to hand the reins over to Sturgeon, who’s desire for independence is motivated by individual self-determination and political power – as opposed to the self-determination of the Scottish people. And Sturgeon’s pledge to her pro-independence, pro-EU voters is merely an empty one.
Only in April, did the Institute for Fiscal Studies say that the rise in Scotland’s GDP in cash terms represents a deficit of more than £40 billion, meaning it is eight times the limit accepted by the EU for countries wishing to join them – and this happened under the SNP’s watch.
It is clear that Scotland is better off as a part of Britain – especially if independence means the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon. But should the Prime Minister grant another referendum on Scottish independence, and should he lose it, he would be ideologically compelled to resign as David Cameron did.
An independent Scotland is not in the interests of the Union, the Scottish people, or the Prime Minister.
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© 2021 William Hallwell