Economist: SNP could back ‘British Union’ as part of alternative independence plan

Independence supporters outside Holyrood. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Independence supporters outside Holyrood. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
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The SNP may propose an “alternative form of independence” in a second referendum campaign to offset public fears surrounding the Brexit turmoil, a leading academic has said.

It could see Scotland remain in a “British Union” while also signing to the European single market, according to economist Professor John McLaren.

The Brexit chaos has brought home the real impact of breaking up a “closely knit economic union” and the SNP’s recognition of this is likely to resonate in a second independence campaign, a paper by the former Scottish Government adviser today states.

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A vote for Scottish independence could result in the same “rainbow” of future arrangements being proposed similar to those on the current “soft and hard Brexit” spectrum.

“The idea of true political and economic independence in the modern age is largely an illusion,” the paper states.

All official data, including the SNP’s growth Commission, makes it clear that Scotland would start out with a net deficit outside the UK of about £10 billion in “fiscal transfers” for public spending it currently receives.

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“This in turn may make it more likely that an alternative form of independence is proposed which helps ameliorate some of these impacts.”

It may mean that an independent Scotland joins a “British Union” similar to the current EU model, but also signs up to the European Economic Area (EEA) which keeps Scotland in the EU single market.

Prof McLaren said: “The UK Parliaments Brexit discussions have provided a useful insight into how the next Scottish referendum may pan out. The range of possible Brexit outcomes highlights how independence is not an agreed, single, end-point but will inevitably involve a prolonged process of negotiations, with both the EU and the UK.

“This leads to a much more complicated landscape for future arrangements than was perceived at the time of the first independence referendum.

“The acknowledged loss of a net transfer of public funds from the UK to Scotland may also lead to greater latitude with respect to what any future political and economic relationships may look like.”