Has Europe Forgotten Caledonia?
The population of Scotland according to the last census is 5,295,000, of which roughly 5% originally come from elsewhere in the EU. Immigration from EU countries is broadly welcomed in Scotland, as the economy and social services greatly benefit from the skills that incomers bring to the labour market, and they integrate very well into society and the communities where they choose to settle.
The economy has an estimated annual GDP of $238 billion, or $44,000 per capita, (broadly similar to the Czech Republic).
Scotland is about the same size in terms of population as Slovakia, Denmark or Finland. It is larger than 9 member states of the EU including Ireland. It has been part of the United Kingdom since 1707. In 1745-46 an insurgent nationalist rebellion and war of independence resulted in defeat of the highland rebels by the English Army, and the implementation of severe ethnic cleansing policies to control the population of the region. Since that time, it has been closely integrated within the United Kingdom.
A referendum on the independence of Scotland held in 2014 was rejected by a small majority of the population.
When the United Kingdom held its referendum on leaving the EU two years later, in June 2016, 62% of Scottish voters (1.6 million electors) voted in favour of remaining in the EU, and 38% voted to leave. These results were even without taking into account the views of the many hundreds of thousands of expatriate Scots living in the EU, and EU passport holders resident in Scotland, who were not allowed to vote in the British referendum.
Scottish electors voted by a significant majority to remain in the EU but now find themselves facing exit from the EU in just over 50 days’ time completely against their will. The referendum to leave the EU was meant to be advisory in nature; there were also illegalities regarding the campaign expenditure leading up to the vote, which raise questions about its validity.
But like rabbits caught in the headlights of oncoming traffic from the notorious UK tabloid press, the two leading political parties in Britain appear to be incapable of deciding other than to implement the results of the referendum without regard to the consequences.
The British Government and the EU are now set to collaborate together on a course of action that will disrespect the voice of the Scottish electorate, and will forcibly remove Scotland from the European Union on 29th March 2019 against the wishes of the majority of the people in Scotland. Special arrangements have been negotiated between the EU and the UK for the Protectorate of Northern Ireland, (where 440,000 voters also voted to stay in the EU), but nowhere else in Britain, irrespective of the wishes of those regions. Is anyone surprised that Europe faces a vacuum of leadership in its politics?
The treatment of Scotland and its voters is simply bad politics, and a derogation of responsibility. It is causing terminal divisions of opinion in Britain that cannot be healed, and which will inevitably destroy the unity of the United Kingdom. Scotland is now destined to seek to separate from the rest of Britain within a few years after the UK leaves the EU. Public opinion has been turned around by recent experience with Westminster politics, and a second Scottish independence referendum will almost certainly result in a vote in favour of an independent Scotland when submitted to the popular vote.
The aftermath we all face is clumsy, and destructive, effectively spoiling the prospects of a generation of young people who will be forced to rebuild their destiny from scratch. Scotland will have no representation in Europe after the UK’s exit from the EU, no representation at the European Parliament. The politicians who will have delivered this chaotic situation to the electorate will no longer be there to be held accountable for the result of their failures.
We shall have a new European Parliament in May, a new European Commission in the autumn, and almost certainly a new parliament in Britain when the electorate finally wakes up to the reality of the incompetent debacle that politicians have created there. It will take a generation to set the UK’s ship of state back on course, including the need to create an independent Scotland, and rebuild Scotland’s future relationship with the EU.
But in the meanwhile, the current generation of young people, looking to build their careers in Scotland and in Europe are faced with rudderless leadership which leaves them with little choice but to strike out on their own into an uncertain future.