Being an advocate for Scotland remaining in the UK leading up to the 2014 referendum, and in the five years that have passed since, has not always been easy, writes Pamela Nash of Scotland in Union.
This is despite there being consistent evidence that I am representing the majority of people in Scotland; a huge 59 per cent would vote to remain in the UK, according to a new poll.
Over the past five years, much has changed, with the political tide turning even before the independence referendum. We are seeing nationalist politics on the rise across Europe and beyond, as people seek change at any cost in a bid to escape the lives that they have become unsatisfied with, largely due to the impact that the economy is having on their quality of life.
Brexit has infiltrated every area of public discourse, including Scotland’s future in the UK. The nationalist rhetoric of Scots choosing to support independence in order to escape the chaos we are seeing at Westminster, and in order to stay in the EU, has not come to pass.
In fact, 36 per cent of ‘Yes’ voters have changed their mind and now wish to remain in the UK. That is more than half a million people. And why? The top three reasons given were to protect public services, the UK leaving the EU and … Nicola Sturgeon’s performance as First Minister.
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It is not a surprise that Brexit is on the list. We know that the impact of Scotland leaving the UK would far outweigh the damage that even Brexit could do, with one report showing that it would be eight times as costly as the worst-case scenario Brexit. And voters know that Scotland could not just walk straight back into the EU. There are lengthy and costly hurdles to overcome for membership with no guarantees of success.
The majority of young people (under-25s) are in support of Scotland staying in the UK. They know that this gives them the best chance of future opportunities. They know that building borders in a world that is rapidly becoming interconnected is the last thing we need, when we need to work together now more than ever before to tackle the large global threats we are facing, none more so than climate change.
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Barely a quarter of people support the First Minister’s plan for a second referendum within 18 months, and over half of people think another referendum would make Scottish society more divided at a time when the country is already deeply divided.
The results in this poll show that if another referendum took place, it is likely that Scotland would vote to remain in the UK once again. But going through another referendum in itself would cause social division and economic hardship.
We are stronger together as part of the UK. It’s time to put the independence referendum divisions behind us and work towards a better future for Scotland as part of the UK, protecting public services and growing our economy, and building on our shared history and culture.
Pamela Nash is chief executive of Scotland in Union