Dr Scott Arthur says those who trusted Nicola Sturgeon to act in Scotland’s best interests in the aftermath of Brexit are being badly let down.
I was one of the many Scots who in the aftermath of the EU referendum moved from being sceptical of the benefits of independence to being willing to consider it. I believed and trusted Nicola Sturgeon when she said she would only act in Scotland’s interests, as I assumed this would not mean “independence at any cost”. I certainly didn’t think that the Scottish Government should shut up, stay away from the Brexit debate and focus solely on the real problems we face in health, education and social care in Scotland.
Nonetheless, things have now changed. Nicola Sturgeon has earned lots of air miles and drunk lots of espresso in the capitals of Europe, but has received nothing but polite indifference from the EU. Indeed, only this week the Spanish PM Mariano Rajoy said “Scotland does not have the competence to negotiate with the EU”.
It is now clear that if Scotland leaves the UK it will have to apply to re-join the EU – a process which will take several years and may come with conditions such as the Euro, Schengen and no rebate. Optimists claim that Scotland can become independent before Brexit and remain an EU member, but there is no rational basis for this.
As if being outside the EU and the UK would not be bad enough, we would be trying simultaneously to deal with the biggest deficit in the western world whilst our largest trading partner, which the SNP label as xenophobic and protectionist, would be busy building a border. This would make the rough seas of Brexit look like a millpond. Selfies wouldn’t get us out of that mess.
Of course, if Nicola Sturgeon really was “acting in Scotland’s interests” she’d be able to show that these risks were acceptable and she’d have a plan to deal with our deficit. Instead she has done nothing but amplify any report which raises concerns about Brexit. This reached new depths this week when the SNP tried to scare Scots with a HM Treasury report which Nicola Sturgeon had previously labelled as “fear-based” during the EU referendum. Her “positive” Yes movement has transmogrified into a parody of the “Project Fear” they loathed so much.
Whilst this leaves me feeling rather bemused, I do wonder how the economy will react. We have a First Minister who is trying to protect and build trade links with Europe (what took her so long?) whilst simultaneously shouting about the UK economy “falling off a cliff”. This is not rational.
Within this context, Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement that she will publish a second Scottish independence referendum bill is a sign that she is prepared to scare Scots into independence at any cost. Worse than that, she is now trying to claim that Theresa May is to blame – as if Brexit can possibly justify breaking links with our biggest trading partner (1 million jobs) and abandoning the pooling and sharing of resources within the UK (plugging Scotland’s £14,800,000,000 deficit).
It’s time Nicola Sturgeon stopped this pantomime and started to work with Labour to hold the UK Government to account and ensure we get the best possible deal. That, however, would mean working in Scotland’s best interests.