Among many others – currency again being the obvious one – there are two arguments against Scottish independence that have come to the fore recently in light of the UK’s decision to leave the EU, and the UK Government’s subsequent decision that this means leaving the single market too. They are worth brief consideration.
The first argument is this. Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK are worth approximately £49Bn. Scotland’s exports to the rest of the EU are worth approximately £12Bn. Therefore, continued access to the UK single market (made up term) is worth four times more than continued access to the EU single market.
Now, if it really is the case that Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK are worth four times their exports to the rest of the EU, then it would appear foolish for the Scottish Government to want to remove itself from the former union in favour of the latter.
Or at least, that’s how unionist politicians would put it. However, I think it is important to be very cautious with this comparison. Dig beneath the headline figures and it is no longer as clear cut.
First, it is not clear in this statistic how many Scottish exports to the rest of the UK are then sold on to the rest of the EU anyway; nor is it clear how many of these exports have to follow this route for UK taxation purposes, which means that as a mere region of the UK, Scotland has no choice but to export in this manner. This skews the figures.
Second, the four to one ratio means very little without understanding how many of the companies in the rest of the UK receiving Scottish exports are themselves dependent, for their very existence, on their own access to the EU single market. Take that away, and it is no longer clear that their demand for Scottish exports would continue to the same extent.
Third, would the rest of the UK really stop importing from Scotland if Scotland were to leave the UK and join the EU as its own state? Highly unlikely, given that Theresa May has set herself the objective of securing an ambitious free trade agreement with the EU. Scotland could not be excluded from this.
The second argument is about the apparent contradiction that lies at the heart of the SNP’s position. Why would Scotland choose to regain its sovereignty from the UK and then immediately hand it over to the EU? Again, on the surface, this would appear to have weight. There would be no point whatsoever in doing this, especially given the ‘four to one’ market ratios and the turmoil that would ensue.
However, this argument deliberately muddles the type of relationship that the Scottish Government has with the UK, as a region with limited devolved powers protected by what has now turned out to be a worthless convention, and the type of relationship it would have with the EU, independent of the UK, as a fully competent state.
To me, the point is this. As things stand, Scotland’s place within the UK means that the Scottish Government cannot legislate on issues of fundamental importance to the structure of our society, such as immigration, foreign policy and defence; for example, Scotland could not decide to rid itself of the nuclear weapons it hosts on behalf of the UK, because the UK Government simply would not let this happen. If Scotland were to leave the UK in favour of the EU, there would be no such interference.
Given the direction in which the UK has been travelling for quite some time now, obsessed with fulfilling the xenophobic wishes of its right wing elites, desperate to lead the free world again with Trump’s America, and as always, totally fixated on ridding Scotland of all but its most mundane political ambitions, my EU citizenship is worth at least four times more to me than my UK citizenship ever will be again.
Why would I want to give that up?