2007 - 2020

Scottish Independence – Wexit or Sexit?

Of Scottish descent – by way of New Zealand – I have long taken a close interest in Scotland’s pursuit of independence and its realisation as a free nation. Needless to say, this I firmly support.

Now well settled in Cymru, I recognise that our country has much to learn from their experience.

In both countries, there is impatience among many to take back control and get indy done. Others, at least for now, are more cautious, and some are antagonistic. In the shifting sands of modern politics, we should neither underestimate nor exaggerate these differences.

Nevertheless, public opinion in both countries has been moving towards independence, albeit in fits and starts, and now beyond a significant minority in Scotland. The tantalising prospect of a majority appears to be within the SNP’s grasp.

The unionist parties are at sea. Labour is much diminished. Despite the Conservative’s election victory in Westminster, the Tories are isolated and impotent in the Scottish Parliament. They will surely follow the Liberal Democrats and Labour into the margins. Further gains for the SNP are likely.

A more astute PM than Johnson, intent on preserving the Union, would promote a referendum in Scotland (and possibly Wales) forthwith. There are unlikely to be majorities for independence today or tomorrow, and further referenda could be shelved indefinitely. Though with yet another government in London that Scotland did not vote for, and will gain little succour from, support for independence can only increase. The longer an independence referendum is delayed, the more likely the vote will be carried.

The Brexit vote was a poisonous chalice, exacting a significant price on social cohesion in the UK, the Union and its people. The divisions that were laid bare then were only partly subsumed by fear of a Corbyn government in 2019, mendaciously ratcheted up by a largely hysterical media. Those divisions will re-emerge in the years ahead. Consensus and unity will be difficult and time-consuming to achieve. There must be a strong likelihood that they may never be.

London has little to offer Scotland, with little will to do so. The PM will be sure to delay a second plebiscite on independence, attempt to withdraw powers, marshal his cheerleaders in the media to pour scorn on and undermine the case put forward by the SNP, and otherwise create as much uncertainty as possible. Johnson’s recent letter declining a second referendum simply underscores that intent. Already disliked by the Scots, Johnson will probably risk further unpopularity with equanimity if the Union is saved for another decade or two.

In part the SNP has inadvertently provided the PM with an easy target. The case they have put forward for independence is hardly robust or inspiring. As Professor Richard Murphy and Dr Tim Rideout point out, the retention of sterling immediately concedes control of the Scottish economy to the Bank of England and the City. Other compromises, like the continued use of Faslane for Trident, have been mooted. In short, an independent Scotland as currently envisaged by the SNP may not be very independent at all. It would be a weak exit from the United Kingdom, a Wexit!

Would Scottish voters get out of bed to vote for or against a Wexit? What difference will a Wexit make would surely be a fair question. How much enthusiasm would there be for maintaining a clone of England north of the border?   Scotland in name only? Admittedly, the SNP Government has acted to ameliorate social conditions for the least well-off, and further progress across a broad field is intended. Divergence is certain, but is the current prospectus sufficient to gain appeal, let alone enthusiasm?

A bare majority will be enough for the politicians and for many Scots. Perhaps even a Farage-style ‘overwhelming majority’ of 52% will be achieved in the referendum. Either way, the SNP would inherit a divided country.

And how helpful and magnanimous would the rUK Government be towards a newly independent Scotland? A measure may be found in the tone and content of Johnson’s letter and other denigrations of Scotland. Some readers might recall the churlish behaviour of British politicians and diplomats at the Hong Kong Handover event. That would not happen in this case, surely? But it could be oh, so tempting with many levers at the former’s command to cultivate some, shall we say, buyer’s remorse.

While no country on attaining independence in modern times has ever opted to return to its former status, a looser arrangement – for example, federalism – might achieve most of London’s fallback objectives, including neutralising Scotland’s voice. One might imagine important concessions being extracted in the early days…

Looking at the SNP prospectus for independence, what is there that could inspire distinct enthusiasm? The offer appears to be designed to placate English settlers (some are clearly colonists and unlikely to be swayed) without losing the confidence of the nationalists. The SNP is after all a centre-left party with modest political and social objectives, and perhaps unable to seize people’s imagination.

What if a more radical programme were offered? Complete independence, a Scottish currency, no membership of Nato, phasing out nuclear power, a Green New Deal, not rejoining the EU until its manifest problems are sorted – in short, a strong exit – a Sexit!

As in Cymru, I suspect that younger Scots are seeking a very different society, not one so in thrall to the money economy, a nurturing culture where well-being would be prioritised. To them, Wexit would be a sell-out. More importantly, a Wexit may pre-empt the deep reforms that Scotland’s politics and governance needs.

What chances then for a Sexit in Scotland? If the SNP stalls, and starts to lose ground among younger voters in particular, the choice may be reversion to a Unionist stalemate or real independence. The latter would certainly be a stirring rallying cry. Scots wha hae! Hwyl!




Rhondda Cynon Taf


[An edited version of this article was first published by Nation.Cymru as Scotland may be heading for independence in name only – will Wales follow? on 11 February 2020]



Comments (12)

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  1. Paul Brough says:

    Bore da! I’m sure that’s right that you need to promulgate Scotland’s independence as a new and different proposition. During the last referendum many were frustrated that the debate got dragged into an “oh yes it is oh no it isn’t” debate about tiny details of the budget, many of which were speculative at best; getting, in football terms “pulled out of position”. Can’t have a repeat of that. Alba gu bràth.

  2. Lorna Campbell says:

    “…Looking at the SNP prospectus for independence, what is there that could inspire distinct enthusiasm? The offer appears to be designed to placate English settlers (some are clearly colonists and unlikely to be swayed) without losing the confidence of the nationalists. The SNP is after all a centre-left party with modest political and social objectives, and perhaps unable to seize people’s imagination…”

    Excellent article. The above quote is precisely where the SNP went wrong after 2014: by ceding the ground to the motley crew of minority, vested interest Unionist cliques – the three, vested interest English-based parties that hold us to ransom with lies and half-truths; the rUK colonialists whose decision to come to Scotland (for many, not all) was based nowhere on any fellow feeling for the Scots, but on vested interest in keeping the status quo, despite being well aware that there is a SNP government and a groundswell for independence; and the mebbies aye, mebbies naw swing voters. Many in this group see Scotland as the northernmost part of a Greater England. In pandering to these elements in Scotland, the SNP has all but destroyed the momentum for independence. It is a fact universally acknowledged that a pre independence referendum is a load of guff, but disseminated by Unionists to hang on to power, and by the SNP who do not wish to rock the boat. The Scottish people have the right under international law to seek their own future. No one has the right to thwart that right. So, immediately, we can see that the anti independence alliance of minority groupings is wrong-footed. We have the right, under the Charter on both human rights and on self-determination. However, our greatest asset is the Treaty of Union which has been eroded deliberately and consistently by England, then by England-as-the-UK. That no one in Scotland appears to have the nous or the cojones to actually say this, is testament to how far up the backsides of the anti independence lobby the SNP hierarchy is. It has, not to put too fine a point on it, shafted its own supporters and the wider YES movement for five/six years now by not engaging with these malign influences but by trying to skirt round them to no gain whatsoever. How hard can it be to make a legal case in international law – if you are serious about independence, that is – and avoid the divisions that will be caused by another referendum, which we will not get, anyway? No harder, surely, than hanging on for five years for a referendum we are never going to get?

    Unless we actually break the ‘British’ (wholly English) Constitution, within the domestic framework, by holding an unsanctioned referendum or by simply declaring UDI, we are going nowhere. If the SNP puts a policy in its Manifesto to move towards independence immediately after the SE, we will see how the minority groupings that make up the Unionist alliance react. That is another point: why the hell doesn’t the SNP or the YES movement make it plain – because it is absolutely true – that the anti independence lobby is not the majority in any sense that could be construed as democratic. So what if it won the 2014 referendum? There are now so many questions around the conduct of that referendum that no one can be sure it was even fairly won; the 2016 referendum stands in direct opposition to the 2014 referendum; and the British government does not honour its own international legal and constitutional obligations. Why should we give a toss what these people say? They speak with forked tongue. They want all that we have, but they don’t want the inconvenience of the mass of the Scottish population (which is pro independence, incidentally). No, there is no way now but to crowdfund, if necessary, a commission into the Treaty by two independent Scottish constitutionalists, to build a case that will take us out of the Union. By doing so, we will show our commitment to independence, and we will win. The various minority strands of anti Scottishness in Scotland will just have to suck it up, as they are never tire of telling us in relation to the 2014 referendum ‘result’ which ‘they’ ‘won’. Aye, right!

    1. Alex M says:

      I agree completely with your arguments Lorna. The backsliding by the SNP hierarchy is verging on the deceitful. What do they really stand for? The “policy” conventions of 2018 did not approve the Andrew Wilson report, but that changed nothing.

    2. Paul McMillan says:

      Are the 700,000 Scots who live in England ‘colonists’?
      Fully supportive of Scottish independence but this racist denigration of ‘english’ as somehow a malign 3rd column is distasteful to say the least. Replace ‘english’ with black…..

      1. Paul McMillan says:

        And what about people like me with ‘mixed parentage’ are we not fully ‘Scottish’ or should we also be viewed with suspicion?
        Maybe (like the Nazis) we have to have our birth records checked going back several generations to make sure our ‘blood’ is ‘pure’
        What about the people from abroad who’ve chosen to make their home in Scotland, are they also colonists?
        An independant Scotland should be an inclusive welcoming society (in my opinion) and ethno nationalism should have no place.

        1. I completely agree Paul, and this site will not tolerate racism or racist comments.

          1. Chris Connolly says:

            To be fair it was the original article that made reference to English people in Scotland being colonists. I’m surprised that Bella’s anti-racist policy allowed that comment to pass. All Lorna Campbell did was repeat what had already appeared above so if she deserves a caution on grounds of anti-English sentiment then so does Bella for putting up the (apparently anonymous) article in the first place.

        2. Arboreal Agenda says:

          The truth is that ethnonationalism is part and parcel of any nationalism. You cannot have nationalism without it, no matter how much you try and spin out of it. Nationalism is based on a belief in the primacy of a particular people’s desires for autonomy and that has power due the long history of such people in a specific place, a history that involves ethnic stability and a culture that grows out of it. Of course civic nationalism is where you want to steer the debate or at least a benign kind of ethnonationalism that does not demonise the other, but you don’t have to spend that long with any nationalist movement to realise that mitigation is all you can probably do.

          Whilst one of the most powerful arguments being used to promote Scottish independence is to get away from the iniquitous English, the ‘parcel of rogues’ from perfidious Albion, and ‘their’ Westminster, and argued so relentlessly, then phrases like ‘colonists’ and ‘settlers’ (even worse really) for those who come to live in Scotland are not going anywhere.

          1. The reality is that ethnonationalism is a fringe minority in the Scottish independence movement.

    3. Hi Lorna

      “Unless we actually break the ‘British’ (wholly English) Constitution, within the domestic framework, by holding an unsanctioned referendum or by simply declaring UDI, we are going nowhere”

      just declaring UDI isn’t really a plan.


  3. Chris Connolly says:

    ” Other compromises, like the continued use of Faslane for Trident, have been mooted.” I stand to be corrected but this is the first I’ve heard of it. The only independence supporter I have come across who is pro-nuclear weapons is Wings Over Scotland, who argued that we should rent the nuclear subs out to the English, put a poll on Twitter to ask for support and saw his idea firmly rejected.

    Of course we don’t want Scotland to be a clone of England; we do want a nuclear-free, compassionate, liberal, free (& in my case) green, socialist independent nation. I simply don’t see where the accusation of backsliding is coming from unless we are just re-hashing the same old pro and anti Nicola arguments that are becoming more boring every week.

    nb With respect, and not wishing to insult the author’s intelligence, maybe you have to be Scottish to know that Scots don’t go around saying “Scots wha hae!” This is a quotation from a poem by Rabbie Burns (or Burnes or Burness) and means “Scots who have…” rather than “Hooray for Scotland.”

  4. James Mills says:

    The writer’s view of what an independent Scotland may look like ( a clone of England ) is not what I see as the future for my country . Yes the SNP has appeared to dither and dive in its promulgation of what a newly independent country MAY look like – but that is their view but not ,I imagine , the view of so many independence supporters ( as can be gleaned from some of the comments on here and other blogs ).

    The writer appears to be falling into the trap that opponents of independence usually succumb to – that a newly independent Scotland will do things EXACTLY like the rUK .
    Whatever the SNP hierarchy view as a possible future path for Scotland is not being supported by thoughts of many activist/bloggers/supporters – Commonweal have put forward radical views on the path that a future Scotland may follow , as have others .

    If the writer is simply considering the obstructions in the path of a referendum/independence then he may be correct – or not ! Who can can say in these times what may happen constitutionally in the next few months . What I am convinced of is that the anodyne view of a future Scotland championed by some in the SNP will NOT prevail in the long term , and that a more radical view of how our country treats its population will be seen by the majority as the main reason for embracing a new direction – Independence !

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