SNP must not dismiss serious questions about independence with Brexit-style bluster – Scotsman comment

Ahead of the 2016 European Union referendum, some Brexiteers sought to paint questions about potential problems as somehow unpatriotic, despite the provision of answers being clearly in the national interest.

The ongoing dispute over the Northern Ireland Protocol is just one example of the consequences of a lack of focus on the details.

With the SNP-Green Scottish government pressing ahead with its plans for a second independence referendum, they need to learn from Boris Johnson’s mistakes and avoid the temptations of populist bluster as a substitute for careful planning for what would undoubtedly be a cataclysmic event.

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But questions about currency, pensions, the nature of an independent Scotland’s trading relationship with the rest of the UK, and its speed of entry into the European market are not merely academic ones for nationalists.

They are also serious issues, in the here and now, for existing companies and those considering opening a new factory or making an investment of any size in Scotland.

So remarks by David Lockwood, chief executive of Babcock International, that the company might relocate its Rosyth shipyard to England if “we were told we weren’t welcome” in an independent Scotland cannot be simply dismissed.

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They should prompt fresh thinking by the independence movement’s leading lights about how to make sure businesses like Babcock really do feel welcome. As a defence firm, it may have specific concerns, but most companies that do business with the rest of the UK will have their own too, particularly given the effect of Brexit on even relatively small companies’ ability to do business in the EU.

Royal Navy aircraft carrier HMS Prince of Wales departs from Babcock's Rosyth dockyard in 2019 (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

SNP defence spokesperson Stewart McDonald’s response that Babcock was “not just welcome, but vital” was the right immediate message to send, but it now needs to be backed up by more substantive reassurance.

Given the Johnson’s government refusal to grant permission for a second referendum and the Scottish government’s determination to hold one, Scotland could be subject to uncertainty over its future for years to come with a real impact on how companies make long-term, big-money decisions.

So it is beholden on the protagonists of independence, most importantly those in government, to find ways to reduce that uncertainty and answers to basic, fundamental questions about what independence would mean and how it would work. Brexit-style bravado won’t cut it.

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