Supporters of Scottish independence must use gentle and respectful persuasion to win over undecided and open-minded voters, writes Angus Robertson.
Scotland is a European country and Edinburgh is a European capital city. Our Brexit predicament is well known in the European Union, and the sympathy for Scotland is very real.
In recent days one of the highest-profile EU figures, Donald Tusk, confirmed that the European Union would be enthusiastic about Scotland rejoining after independence.
Speaking to Andrew Marr of the BBC, he said: “I want to stop myself from saying something too blunt. Sometimes I feel I am Scots. I’m very Scottish now, especially after Brexit.”
The former president of the European Council added: “Emotionally, I have no doubt everyone would be enthusiastic here, in Brussels and more widely in Europe, but still we have treaties and formalities. But if you ask me about our emotions, there’s a genuine feeling. You will witness only, I think, empathy.”
Across Europe people know that Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the European Union. They also know voters here were encouraged to vote ‘No’ to Scottish independence in 2014 to protect Scotland’s place in Europe, but we have been taken out against our democratic will.
No wonder there is now majority support for Scottish independence. Last week YouGov found that voters expressing a preference put ‘Yes’ 51 per cent to 49 per cent ahead of ‘No’. The lead amongst voters under 65 is now 58 per cent in favour of independence. Pro-European and younger voters are driving growth in support for independence.
A threat to Johnson’s premiership
Now the momentum for an independence referendum is widening, with the country’s largest trades union Unison coming out in favour of the Scottish Parliament having the power to hold a referendum.
Last week, a majority of MSPs at Holyrood voted in favour of a referendum too and a poll for Survation for Progress Scotland showed overwhelming support for the Scottish Parliament having the power to decide.
To counter the democratic challenge, the UK Government is going to launch a £5 million propaganda campaign. According to UK Government sources: “There is a consensus in Downing Street that this is the one issue – perhaps after Brexit – that could derail Johnson’s premiership.”
On this point at least, the Tories are right. However, no amount of cinema and social media adverts will explain away the democratic deficit of Tories who have not won an election in Scotland since 1955, telling the elected Scottish Parliament and overwhelming majority of Scottish MPs that their views and that of the electorate will be ignored indefinitely.
Meanwhile Nicola Sturgeon is absolutely right to concentrate on the best route to success. There are no short cuts to Scottish independence and the work of gentle and respectful persuasion must be the top priority.
The aim must be to secure independence and not just a referendum. In doing that, we need to reach the undecided and open-minded and help give them the confidence for the next steps.
The fact that we will be welcomed by friends across Europe will be reassuring for many. Scotland’s rightful place is at the top-table of the European Union. As a country of five million, we would join similarly sized Denmark, Finland and Slovakia in the biggest single-market in the world.
We would restore our European citizenship rights, including the freedom to travel, live and work throughout Europe.
In 2014, the UK Government lobbied European leaders and governments to intervene in the Scottish referendum campaign and suggest a ‘Yes’ vote would be problematic. Now they don’t have that leverage. Post Brexit many more European leaders will welcome Scotland with open arms.