Saturday, March 25, 2017

This is not the time for a Scottish Referendum.

Wrote an article for this week's Oswestry and Borders Chronicle, only to discover it was the wrong week! So it will only be published here.

  Another big week on the constitutional front. On Friday, Her Majesty the Queen granted Royal Assent to the European Referendum (Notification of Withdrawal) Act. The Prime Minister is now able to invoke Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty, which begins the actual process by which the UK will leave the European Union. Theresa May has said that she will invoke Article 50 this coming Thursday. HMS Freedom is setting sail and We are entering uncharted and uncertain waters.

Much the worst aspect of the discussion since the referendum on June 23rd last year has been the uncertainty created in the minds of non-British citizens legally living in the UK. I've said every time I'm asked, and sometimes when I'm not, that in my opinion there isn't the remotest chance that these much valued people will be asked to leave. It's an irony that the fuss and campaigning done to pressurise the UK Government into unilaterally giving a future residence guarantee has actually caused much of the concern. In fact the UK Government has wanted to sign up to a EU wide 'Declaration of Intent', but we're told just one EU country refused. That’s the EU all over! 

As if the uncertainty involved in leaving the EU isn't enough, the Scottish First Minister has announced her decision to ask the Prime Minister to give permission for another referendum on Scotland leaving the United Kingdom to become an independent country. The Scottish First Minister's contention is that her referendum is linked to our leaving the EU. It looks very much like opportunism to me, hoping the Scottish voters will support independence in a climate of uncertainty which they would not following sober and detailed consideration.

Personally, I've always thought that if a majority of those living in Scotland want to become an independent country, so be it. Like most of us south of Hadrian's Wall, I would be desperately sad to see this happen. I do not think it would be good for Scotland or for the Scottish people. But neither do I think that the Prime Minister should agree to a referendum until the UK has left the EU, and we have at least some idea of what the future holds - particularly what it would hold for Scotland. This time, I do think Scotland's First Minister has made the wrong call. 

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