Scottish independence: Brexit has changed the safe choice from No in 2014 to Yes today – Kenny MacAskill

A pre-lockdown All Under One Banner march in Glasgow in support of independence  (Picture: John Devlin)A pre-lockdown All Under One Banner march in Glasgow in support of independence  (Picture: John Devlin)
A pre-lockdown All Under One Banner march in Glasgow in support of independence (Picture: John Devlin)
Indyref2 will be a choice between two futures, but the risks of leaving are vastly outweighed by the dangers of staying, writes Kenny MacAskill.

Uncertainty defines the Scottish constitutional debate, and not just the date of the next referendum. Both sides face challenges in laying out prospectuses given the prevailing global uncertainty, and that will be with us for some time to come.

But what’s changed from 2014 is that risk no longer solely seems to apply to independence. The stability that the Union once seemed to offer has long gone and it isn’t coming back. Next time there will be as much, if not more, risk in staying rather than leaving.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Try as it might in 2014, the Yes campaign couldn’t shake off impressions that all risk lay with independence. From EU membership, through surety of sterling, to a structural deficit for a Scottish state, risk was portrayed as inherent, if not assured, with a Yes vote. Of course, shameless lies were told, and many believed them.

That will be an issue for unionists the next time, when scaremongering will carry less threat, and assurances on whatever issue will sound hollow. Even supposed impossibilities of independence have been debunked. The structural deficit that would apparently have sunk Scotland like a stone, supplanted by a Chancellor printing money with gay abandon; and replicated by countries large and small around the globe.

Read More
Why Labour’s new plan would mean reversal of devolution – Murdo Fraser MSP

For others, it wasn’t the risks of an independent Scotland but their hopes for a kinder and better Britain. Many thought that delusional given the trajectory that the UK had been on for many years. The Tory Party has been edging right ever since Ted Heath’s day, each successor taking them to a new nadir.

Self-serving elite epitomised by Dominic Cummings

But still some hoped. Brexit would never happen, they thought, the UK would come to its senses. Some parts did, but others, sadly, took leave of theirs. Not just voting for it, but invigorating a Tory Party prepared to countenance a no-deal Brexit or willing to sign up for trade deals that will be hugely damaging.

A Boris Johnson premiership, once laughed off as a joke, has come to pass. Far from a kinder and better Britain, we’re seeing its ugly side. Narrow and venal, and run by a self-serving elite as epitomised by the Dominic Cummings affair. Now we’re seeing disturbances on the street, as England seeks to come to terms with itself.

Of course, it will – but it won’t be quick and certainly won’t be easy. The gulf is wide between those seeking a new England that’s inclusive and those insisting on preserving an Olde England that was anything but. However, the dreams of those who believed a No vote could restore a golden age of British decency are crashing.

Back in 2014, the UK had both influence and influential friends. Favours could be called in with devastating effect. The comments by Jose Manuel Barroso, the former President of the EU Commission, on Scottish EU membership were hugely damaging to the Yes side. Even President Barack Obama could be prevailed upon to tweet in support of the Union.

Trump embarrasses even Johnson

But what now? All the indications point towards justification of Scottish membership and the disparaging of Brexiter dreams of Singapore-on-Thames. Comments, whether from Michel Barnier or Ursula von der Leyen, can be deployed for independence; not just Britain’s influence, but its stature has shrunk.

Hide Ad
Hide Ad

Enemies have been made and the contempt is apparent, closeness to Trump an embarrassment even for Johnson. A choice of two futures was what the Yes campaign sought to promote in 2014 and they were right to do so. It was about that but sadly, through the lies and uncertainty, too many thought the risk too high or the uncertainty too great. It won’t be like that the next time.

An independent Scotland will face challenges but many small nations, whether the Irish Republic, Denmark or Finland, have shown themselves to be able to move quicker and turn faster in the coronavirus crisis than the crumbling edifice of the British state.

Coming out of it will be no different, with a fairer and better society being delivered in those countries, rather than an escalation of inequality and a further impoverishment of the poor that will be faced here. This crisis has shown that we’re most certainly not all in this together. So it will be a choice of two futures, but the risks of leaving are vastly outweighed by the dangers of staying; the possibilities of a different type of society in a future independent Scotland better than the one playing out in modern Britain.

Unionist hopes that a global economic downturn and an uncertain world will play into their hands are mistaken. Other nations, whether Ireland in 1921 or the Baltic States with the collapse of the Soviet Union, faced similar issues. For them, as with for Scotland, the opportunities of independence far outweighed the risks of staying.

Kenny MacAskill is the SNP MP for East Lothian

A message from the Editor:

Thank you for reading this article on our website. While I have your attention, I also have an important request to make of you.

With the coronavirus lockdown having a major impact on many of our advertisers - and consequently the revenue we receive - we are more reliant than ever on you taking out a digital subscription.

Subscribe to and enjoy unlimited access to Scottish news and information online and on our app. With a digital subscription, you can read more than 5 articles, see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times, and get access to exclusive newsletters and content. Visit now to sign up.

Our journalism costs money and we rely on advertising, print and digital revenues to help to support them. By supporting us, we are able to support you in providing trusted, fact-checked content for this website.

Joy Yates

Editorial Director



Want to join the conversation? Please or to comment on this article.