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The solution to the Scottish independence paradigm: don’t let the Scots vote

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The matter is settled: independence is neither agreed upon nor requested. As the UK Supreme Court ruled on November 23, the Scottish Parliament will not be allowed to hold a referendum on the matter of its independence from the United Kingdom.

The question we are all asking ourselves, though, is: why not?

Well, it’s not hard to guess that the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, organized thanks to an agreement between then First Minister of Scotland Alex Salmond and Prime Minister of the UK David Cameron, was likely approved because Westminster did not expect the “Yes” to win. And in fact, it didn’t.

However, if a referendum took place now or in the near future, it would be expected that a majority of Scotland’s population would vote in favour of their independence from the UK. Therefore, the solution to this problem is easy: don’t let the Scots hold their referendum vote.

As seen in the recent past with the case of Spain making Catalonia’s independence referendum illegal on October 1, 2017, this is not an unexpected move by the UK Government. It’s more of a preventative move. “Fake it till you make it,” or ignore the problem until it hits you in the face.

The issue with this strategy, though, is that it postpones an inevitable event. And arguably, as also seen with Catalan people, it provokes the part of the population that would actually vote to stay in the UK to consider if their democratic rights to express their opinion are being met. Aren’t we supposed to have freedom of expression, no matter what our opinions are?

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has now proposed to consider the next general election a “de facto referendum,” which means that different political parties should clarify their position as pro- or anti-independence and their votes should be added together to see how many people want or don’t want to become independent. 

This decision is clearly neither Sturgeon’s plan A nor B; it’s probably more like her plan Z. It’s not the strongest strategy, but it’s definitely one of the very few possible plans of action that politicians in her position could take, and it also eliminates the option of trying to declare independence unilaterally, as Catalonia tried to do.

During the press conference held in Edinburgh on November 23, Nicola Sturgeon redundantly tried to deny UK democracy and made statement that she stood “ready at any time to reach an agreement with the Prime Minister on an adjustment to the devolution settlement that enables a lawful, democratic referendum to take place.”

Considering that it’s common knowledge that “an adjustment to the devolution settlement” to allow the Scottish independence referendum to take place will never happen, some may argue that dialogue should always be the first option when it comes to negotiating the future of a country. However, as seen countless times in history, it’s most likely to be the less effective option, too. 

Following our previous example, Spain refused to discuss Catalonia’s possible independence both before and after it tried to become independent unilaterally. In fact, they applied Article 155 of the Spanish Constitution from 1978 just one hour after the Catalan Parliament unilaterally proclaimed the Catalan Republic, on October 27, 2017. The article suspended Catalonia’s self-government, dismissed the president and councillors and dissolved the Parliament. It was in force for a total of 218 days.

The outcome of Sturgeon’s “fight for Scottish independence” will most likely not end like Catalonia’s, probably because there will be no unilateral declaration of independence. But as you should know, the Catalans also tried to follow the “de facto referendum” option with their 2015 regional elections.

The then President of the Government of Catalonia, Artur Mas, and his party which was pro-independence, won the elections with a percentage of almost 40% of the votes. They won the elections, but they failed to obtain the absolute majority on their own. After that, you know the rest. 

However, we’ll agree that the SNP’s strategy towards an independence referendum shows perseverance, and patience as well. Not rushing into things is always a good idea, but let’s hope Sturgeon doesn’t forget that we’re all waiting to see what happens next, and a de facto referendum… Is not very exciting.

Featured Image Credit: The Sunday Times

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MSc International Journalism student at the University of Stirling.

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