#IndyRef2: Like Kezia and Nicola, I’ll keep all the options on the table

scott arthurScott Arthur says until a number of key things are known, we should all keep our options open on #indyref2.


The UK now faces its greatest crisis since the Suez debacle. Just like Suez, the situation is of our own making and will, for better or worse, change our standing in the world. The vote to leave the UK has the potential to reshape and dominate the political landscape for a generation.

The political response so far has been mixed. David Cameron, after announcing he’ll stand down in the Autumn, is keeping a low profile, but I expect/hope his government is working frantically to prepare the UK for what comes next. Boris Johnson looks like a man who just lost a game of Russian roulette, but is now no doubt focussing on replacing Cameron as our PM. UK Labour is turning inward as the campaign has raised more questions about Corbyn’s leadership.

In Scotland the debate, understandably, is focussing on whether or not Scotland should leave the UK. Ruth Davidson argued that Scottish remain votes do not cancel those cast in 2014 to stay in the UK. Nicola Sturgeon is less sure, but has said a second independence vote is “highly likely” – she’s making herself look busy by holding press conferences. Scottish Labour’s Kezia Dugdale has made it clear that the party will “consider all options”.

An opinion poll today shows a clear majority of Scots now back Scottish independence. Whilst this poll does reflect the conversations I have had with people since Friday, my view is that it’s too soon to know what’s best for Scotland now. There will always be those who will support independence at any cost and those who support remaining in the UK equally strongly. In 2014 the bulk of Scots were caught in the middle of these opposing groups, but rightly voted “No” as it was clear we’d be worse off outside the UK – the vote was about head, not heart. To be clear, we made that decision knowing Brexit was possible as the EU Referendum was already on the table.

Of course the economic argument for Scotland remaining in the UK has now changed. However, we don’t know how it has changed and will not do so for some time. For that reason, I think it’s too soon to know how I will vote in any second independence referendum.

Yes, solidarity with the rest of the UK is hugely important, but the Brexit vote may mean that Scotland may have to choose between that and Europe. Until the uncertainty is reduced we simply do not know what outcome is the best path to protecting public services and economic prosperity in Scotland. In my view, the economic argument can’t be made until three things (at least) are known.

Firstly, we need to know what the UK’s future relationship with the EU would be. It’s clear that the UK will try to establish some sort of a Norwegian/Swiss style EFTA deal. This will, its supporters will claim, give us the benefits of EU membership without the downside. The costs and benefits of this deal are key to the UK’s economic prosperity.

Secondly, we need to understand what an independent Scotland’s relationship with Europe will be. It appears unlikely that Scotland can stay (yes, I know we are not a member right now) in the EU as the rest of the UK leaves:

  1. With one of the largest deficits in the western world (more than double that of rUK), we don’t meet the entry criteria. The EU does not need another country with a huge deficit.
  2. Any country which backs Scottish membership would essentially be triggering the break-up of the UK – a diplomatic minefield.

Can Scotland really leave the UK due to Brexit only to become an independent state adrift outside the EU without the support of the Barnett formula? The 33% of SNP voters who backed Brexit may think that’s a good idea, but I don’t.

Thirdly, the SNP have several of the usual non-trivial questions to answer on things like borders with rUK and currency.

This uncertainty explains why even the staging of a second independence referendum looks less than certain to me. Until the three points above are addressed I will remain undecided but, like Kezia and Nicola, I’ll keep all the options on the table.

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48 thoughts on “#IndyRef2: Like Kezia and Nicola, I’ll keep all the options on the table

  1. Nothing is going to happen overnight Scott we can take that as a given. But I envisage a repeat of Indyref 1. Regret and understanding.
    Many who voted to leave the EU are only now understanding the consequences and are regretful. Parallels with many who voted No in the Indyref. As a result there will be a growing consensus and probably campaign for an EU ref 2 and all this talk of once in a generation will be seen for exactly what it is.
    The question is will Scotland still be in the UK to vote in the second EU ref?
    Its all moving fast and there is only a 2 year timetable from when the UK has itself a new leader. There is also the question of yet another GE. What if Labour actually win? What will Labour do? Respect the result or ignore it?

    1. Telling No voters they should regret how they voted is a great place to start. Look at the Scots economy, you should be thanking them!

      1. I was highlighting the fact that it was they who were telling us.

        You’re trolling again Scott. Getting to be a really bad habit with you.

  2. And just for the record in no way shape or form does the Barnett consequentials support or aid Scotland. The Barnett consequentials are nothing but money returned to Scotland which was first taken by the treasury via revenues.

    Getting out of the habit of project fear lying seems to be a real chore for some people.

      1. Reality Scott. The way it worked was the Treasury collects all UK revenues and redistributes part of them back via Barnett to the constituent parts of the UK.
        Now that Scotland has the power to keep some revenue raised in Scotland rather than hand it to the treasury any it does raise will be deducted from the Barnett block grant proportionally. That means an extra tax burden on the people of Scotland for a zero benefit in revenues.

        That’s our continued union benefit.

        Told you this before more than once.

        1. You keep telling people this, and it remains an absolute lie.

          John Swinney confirmed it was a lie.

          The block grant is set on the basis of keeping tax rates the same. Additional or reduced revenue from changing tax rates is applied subsequently. If Scotland chooses to raise more revenue it receives the additional revenue.

          Stop lying about this.

  3. You will keep your options open? This piece certainly doesn’t read like that at all – quite the opposite.
    Whatever happens between England and the EU, it is certain that any ‘deal’ that does get put in place will be equal or better than there is now. That would be ludicrous from the EU point of view.
    Scotland doesn’t have a deficit, the UK does. At the same time, the deficit has been run up under governance of Westminster so who is to say Scotland could not control and reduce any deficit it is landed with by departing from the UK? We are a rich country with huge resources, badly managed at the moment.
    The trigger for the breakup of the UK has already been pulled. Where have you been the last few days?

    Honestly, then we move back to the old chestnuts of borders and currency. On the first, given the English vote on the EU it is *they*, not Scotland that have likely forced a border requirement. Currency? really? Its more likely now that the people in Scotland will simply shrug and say “who cares”… The pound might tank completely – who would want it? The Euro is attractive to Scots travelling, working and holidaying abroad. Our own currency tied to any other in the world? maybe a possibility… but honestly its no longer the ‘big deal’ you folks tried to persuade us it was. That horse, along wth many others has well and truly bolted. Scotland has seen what non-civic nationalism looks like close up from our nearest neighbour. It isn’t pleasant.

      1. The UK has been operating on a deficit all my life, and I am well over pension age.

          1. No it isn’t. The Scottish Government balances its budgets every year its the UK Government who creates deficits with the reserved revenues it gathers from across the whole of the UK relative to its expenditures.

            5.5 trillion in debt and growing.

            You cant stop lying your arse off can you?

          2. Magnificent. A pack of lies rounded off with an accusation that the person correcting them is a liar.

            Mike, you’re an idiot.

          3. Only since this year. For the last 40 years, Scotland was contributing far more per capita than the UK.
            Our problem was/is that Westminster did not invest in Scotland’s industrial and social infrastructure when we were contributing so much.

  4. “To be clear, we made that decision knowing Brexit was possible as the EU Referendum was already on the table.”

    So just to be clear once again you believed back in 2014 that Labour wasn’t going to win the GE in 2015? So you voted No based on a belief the Tories would be in a position to bring about and EU ref which they would lose.

    And on top of that you believe that’s what many No voters believed as well?

    Are you for real?

      1. You didn’t come to that conclusion from anything I posted you came to it because you’re unable to answer my posts with any valid contradiction.

        As usual.

  5. Scott Arthur has lots of advice for Scotland. He has advice for what Nicola Sturgeon has to say and do in the immediate future. He knows what Ruth Davidson thinks and Scott has a list of questions the SNP have to answer, but his silence on the Labour Party and its roles and responsibilities is revealing.
    There are a number of commentators pointing the finger for the Brexit win at the leader of The Labour Party but Scott Arthur prefers not to comment.
    In 2014 Scotland was promised by The Labour Party and its voices, including Murphy, Brown, Darling, Miliband, Labour Hame, and Scott Arthur himself that to gaurantee continued EU membership we as a country had to vote No to independence. As things stand now, we are now about to dragged out of Europe against our wishes. Does Scott Arthur feel it necessary to comment on what has turned out to be contradictory and disastrous advice? Seemingly he does not.
    May I suggest to Scott Arthur that before he applies his voluminous knowledge of constitutional issues to advising others he should first take a moment and reflect on his own and Labours position.

      1. Scott Arthur,
        Where? when?
        Your answer to my comment is typical of the arrogance we have come to expect from Labour’s self opinionated intellectuals. Does it matter to the likes of Scott Arthur that the Labour Party is twitching in its death throes? Does it matter to him that Scotland is about to removed from the EU against the overwhelming wishes of its people. Does Scott Arthur think it necessary to explain why, just two years ago he argued vehemently that the only way to guarantee Scotlands continued membership was to vote No in our referendum.
        Not only is Scott Arthur so sure of his understanding of the present constitutional crisis, he cannot contain himself, he considers it his obligation to write an article with advice for all. Interestingly with no advice for his own party. Which is really quite funny considering the circumstances Labour now find themselves.
        But the most illuminating and disrespectful part of Scott Arthur’s approach to discourse is the way he is so dismissive with those that disagree with him. Scott Arthur thinks it is enough to reply to comments with ‘You are quite wrong’ or ‘Wow, it’s like you think nobody in Scotland voted for Leave.’ or ‘What analysis is that based on?’.
        Labour has lost Scotland now England and Wales. it is acknowledged by themselves that the problem has been that they have not listened to their core vote. Scott Arthur’s arrogance and his know it all attitude typifies this.
        Now its too late, but to Scott Arthur that doesn’t matter. The only thing he cares about is getting his name out there.

  6. “To be clear, we made that decision knowing Brexit was possible as the EU Referendum was already on the table.”

    That is wrong. The Tories said they would put it in their manifesto if they won the election. All political hacks, polling companies and bookies had a Labour minority government as the most likely outcome of the forthcoming GE.

      1. No he didn’t. He highlighted the fact that Brexiteers existed in the UK. No more than that.

        This is typical of your online trolling contributions these days Scott.

  7. Scottish Labour Party policy is for no referendum for Scottish Independence as Scotland is part of the UK and there is no support for IndyRef2 and the majority of the people of the UK have have voted for Brexit so Scots know the rules and will have to accept the will of the Greater United Kingdom and stop their dour whinging, look on the bright side world markets have opened up great opportunities to export to other countries and no EU rules regulations and red tape to hinder us we should be shipping out Haggis,Whisky and Shortcake by the barrel load to other countries. Come on Scotland get a grip and be a positive part of the Greater United Kingdom we might even get a few more powers from Westminster don’t be sad be happy.

  8. Do you want to be governed by Boris Johnson, Michael Gove IDS into the foreseeable future? Ably supported by the bug eyed jakey Farage. The English have fallen in love with these liars & millions of english labour voters opted for Leave. All the crap from Scottish Labour telling us things like A family from Portree have more in common with a family in Portsmouth rings pretty hollow now. To say nothing of Labour voters unity with European workers. Brexit was won by Labour voting areas of England & Wales. Even your in house publication The Record have recognised the unfolding horror of what’s happening down south. Come on Scott. We can do this if we all stick together

    1. I remember Brian Wilson nodding agreement, that he preferred a Thatcher government, than Scottish self-government.
      There is still a large strand of Scottish opinion with zero levels of confidence in themselves. That is very sad, and is redolent of colonialism.

  9. A few points. What Kezia said was this:

    “Now is the time for calm heads. Labour’s manifesto ruled out a second referendum in the lifetime of this Parliament – we won’t be changing our minds any time soon.”

    So it seems clear to me that she doesn’t back indyref 2, presently. Her statement is on the Labourhame website. But I hope she changes her mind.

    The UK wont get a Norway deal. It isn’t in the EU’s interests. The UK has just voted against free movement of people. The UK after Brexit is going to experience economic misery for years to come. Think Greece.

    Borders. An independent Scotland would have no need to put up borders with England. England, the other hand, might want to erect a border to stop movement of EU nationals into England. They’ve just voted for that.

    Currency. After indyref. Mervyn King, former governor of the Bank of England came out and said that of course an independent Scotland could have used the pound. So that argument won’t hold much weight a second time. I personally favour using the “Scottish pound” instead. However, most independence supporters coudn’t care less what the currency is. Euro? Fine.

    Deficits. Look, all countries run deficits. An independent Scotland would be able to borrow. The EU heads are already making signs that Scotland would be welcome. That makes sense, as it is in their interests. Scotland either has the talent to look after our own affairs, or we don’t. Nobody is saying it will be easy. But “too wee, too poor, and too stupid” is an unwinnable argument. Other similarly sized countries, without oil, manage just fine. If you want to say that Scotland is in some way inferior to those countries, then good luck. Arguments like that tend to destroy the side that makes them.

    I believe that all countries should have the right to self-determination. That’s all I want for Scotland. I don’t like what the UK has become. Look at the news, for God’s sake. Look at how people are treating immigrants right now. Look how many people got behind Nigel Farage. I don’t want to be a part of all that. I will not see my country go down that route. This EU referendum campaign has been a festival of horrors. I have never felt less British.

    And it isn’t just me. Ask any Yes voter what his Facebook friends who voted No are saying now. Seriously. Any one.

    Look, Scottish Labour. You have a pivotal choice here.

    You can carry on with the SNPBad stuff and clinging to this “the Union before everything” stance. If you do that Labour will cease to exist in Scotland. You must be able to see that. Or you can back Yes this time and work with us to move Scotland forward in the world. I’d like us to put away the rivalry and work together, and many Yessers feel the same way.

    As for the Labour party in the rest of the UK. The UK is on a grim path. But if Scotland becomes a successful, small independent, socially-just country, then people in the rest of the UK will look at that and try to find a party who can offer them the same thing. The motto during indyref was “hope over fear”. In Scotland we’re going for Hope. And right now I’m afraid that it looks like the rest of the UK is going for Fear.

  10. The remarkable set of circumstances that has taken place in the last two days is Labour’s (UK and Scottish variety) final chance to embrace and promote the Independence option for Scotland. What other choice? Floating somewhere in the mid-Atlantic with a Tory/UKIP government for decades? Be brave Scottish Labour. Take this historic opportunity, Save yourselves by helping save Scotland from the Brexit morass.

  11. At the exact time as the Tories are split and in huge turmoil over the LEAVE vote, Labour desires to commit , not to oppose the Tories or act to protect their electorate, but to self-immolation in public.
    Corbyne has been assassinated by the BBC, but Labour’s right wing has also joined in to replace a Leader who got a huge mandate only a year ago.
    Who would replace him?
    Why would left wing activists support that person?
    Would trades union funding still be there?
    Why would the electorate vote for this bunch of “chancers”?—–I heard today that a third of Labour voters would not vote for them again. This seems to be a third against the present party, but also a third who wouldn’t support an alternative, Blairite Party.

  12. It’s reasonable to see how it looks like the cards are going to fall,
    But if it looks like we can get to a situation where the economic situation is manageable, then many many people would support a united campaign for independence.

    If Scottish Labour was involved then the combined forces of SNP and Labour could do it together,
    Much of Scotland is natural labour territory, but it has drifted away.

    I’ve always thought there is far more uniting the parties than dividing us. It makes no sense that we are political opponents all the time. The SNP used to be full of small minded separatists full of anti-English idiots, but that’s just not the case any more. These idiots are shunned for the most part. The ‘Scottish Resistance’ types are an embarrassment to them.

    Just think.. Labour and SNP together, They could be heroes.
    One day there would be a statue of Dugdale and Sturgeon in the Royal Mile – the leaders that led us to a progressive, open-minded European nation state !!

    We could be a beacon of hope to inspire voters in England and Wales. A place where ‘foreigners’ and minorities are welcomed and appreciated. That seems like a better option than being shackled to a UK, run by an increasingly right wing,xenophobic England with a private NHS on the way and 2 weeks holiday a year. That’s the way it is going down there.

    Reading some of the comments from down south on my facebook is incredible. We just don’t have a united kingdom any more anyway. The average leave supporter either
    1. couldn’t care less what Scotland does, or
    2. has this arrogant attitude that we can’t afford to leave them, so shut your face and suck it up.

  13. Well done Nicola Sturgeon and MSPs who threaten to sabotage the democratic Brexit referendum result and the will of the majority of the UK people who voted for Brexit, if there is any attempts to do so then the UK Government at Westminster should dissolve the Scottish Parliament and see how you like it, if it was the other way around and say there is a IndyRef2 with a majority vote for Independence and the other side do not like the result and tried to get the UK government to sabotage it would those who voted for independence like it I don’t think so.

    1. Archie Birt and Brian Wilson threatened Scotland with—-“What if England says NO” for decades.
      If Scotland is an equal within the UK, as we were told, how can the will of the Scottish people be secondary to the will of our neigbours?
      If it is to do with numbers, then our democratic choice will always be secondary.
      That is NOT a partnership, but colonialism.

    2. Your’re so blinkered that you can’t see the huge massive flaw in your ‘remedial action’.

      Do you really think the people of Scotland would just roll over and accept that, only an imbecile would think so, but you’re not an imbecile, are you?

  14. If Scotland gains its independence before Brexit, we will inherit the UK terms and obligations as a “continuator” state—-just as rUK would have done if Scotland had left two years ago.
    Scotland would also gain a substantial number of jobs, moving from the South to us, in finance and manufacturing, just as r|UK would have done in reverse, or so we were told during Indyref1.
    If that were the case, would Scottish Labour OPPOSE Scotland gaining an economic boost?
    Would Scottish Labour not want Scotland to maintain solidarity with 500 million people in the EU?

    1. You make several unproved assertions here. IF Scotland could succeed as the continuing state then you are certainly right about jobs. But the statement that that is what will happen if we vote Yes in a second indyref is fundamentally dishonest. You cannot possibly know.

      1. Which is why the FM is in consultation with the EU at present to determine the actual options available to Scotland in the event of an Indyref or without an Indyref.
        If the EU gives Scotland no options without an Indyref then she has said clearly she will put a second Indyref proposal in front of the Westminster Parliament.
        She will do this knowing exactly where she stands with the EU.

      2. I make my assertion based on the Vienna Convention. I am not a lawyer or constitutionalist, but what I say is basic sense. Nor do I recall any quibbles about rUK being the continuing member state if Scotland had gained it’s independence two years ago.
        Sturgeon is taking on the task of examining the options for Scotland with the Leaders of the EU and it’s constituent members. I wish her luck, though there have already been remarks that some in the EU would welcome us.
        It may be we would be able to continue our membership as was the case with Denmark, or we could be fast tracked in—- as was the case with East Germany.
        But we need clarity first.

  15. Calm down Ted. The Scottish Parliament cannot veto the decision of the Westminster government to leave the EU. They can deny legislative consent (which I would expect all but the Tory contingent at Holyrood to vote for) but Westminster has the power to simply ignore it and bash on regardless. Such is the democratic deficit Scotland suffers in the UK. Its bad for Scotland, Scotland voted against it (in Holyrood I would expect as well as the referendum) but tough …. we’re getting it anyway.

  16. You are right Mr Hothersall, it is not as yet certain Scotland would be counted a “successor state” in the EU if it gains its independence before the UK finally burns all its bridges. However, it is a distinct possibility which I am sure Nicola Sturgeon and her team will chase down thoroughly. Already, Eurocrats on the continent have made sympathetic noises about it.

    During IndyRef1, Eurocrats effectively backed the UK govt whenever possible because, in my opinion, the UK govt was “in the club” and members would back the other members in expectation of similar support should they require it. However, the UK having just given the other member states the “giant middle finger”, EU backing for a europhillic, independent, sovereign Scotland becoming the successor state to the UK should be much easier to come by.

    As I said, entirely in my opinion.

  17. This “article” sums up everything that is wrong with small-minded people.

    Won’t you ever acknowledge the correlation between abandoning principle and the demise of Labour? When do you learn? What size of stake do you have in this status quo that warrants selling all your principles down the river like that, over and over and over again, on every issue that matters?

    Scotland is about to be locked in a cage designed and manufactured by the most repulsive extremists that the Tory Party has ever conjured up, and you are talking about how it will affect your income and Barnett?

    Total grubbers.

  18. @Steerpike. I thought it was a pretty reasonable and balanced article.

    Even Sturgeon is being cautious in leaping into another referendum right away. I believe her when she says she didn’t want a Brexit solely to get an opportunistic second referendum. But it may well be that we there is no ability for Scotland to remain in the EU unless we become a nation state.

    So the timing of a second referendum may be forced upon us if we want seamless membership.
    Or we may also get the promise of fast-track membership if we apply in a few years time. Scotland as a current member (through the UK) is obviously in a far different position and I see no reason why the EU shouldn’t make a pledge to Scotland. There would be no loyalty left or favours to give to the UK, and the pro-European result in Scotland speaks for itself.

    I may be wrong in this, but I am also getting the mood that many in the UK wouldn’t stand in the way this time, or at least there wouldn’t be such ferocious opposition. It seems clear that we are gradually moving apart, and if Scotland is heading towards independence, it makes sense to have a kind of velvet divorce and retain as many beneficial links as possible, and maybe not even stand in the way of a currency zone.

    It doesn’t seem likely that Corbyn will win a UK election anytime soon, but it looks like we are stuck with the stubborn old fool. Everyone saw the job the right wing tabloids did for Brexit, and they will have a field day with him.
    So there is a choice to be made, and if it comes down to choosing between a far-right UK with the likes of Johnson and IDS in charge, then there is a clear choice for Scots whatever their previous allegiances.

    Regarding the economy, the current deficit is a problem, but it should start to come down as the economy re-balances to lower oil prices. Perhaps Europe will be flexible in our situation if they want to see us as a continuing member. I can see Sturgeon taking a more honest approach than Salmond and saying we will have to tighten the belts for a couple of years, but long term, there are bigger growth prospects being part of the EU, compared to a devolved area of an increasingly isolationist UK.

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