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Cunning Tory Plan to Offload Scotland

Summary:
The Chancellor has a mighty task to restore the economy and then balance the budget.  The cost of keeping the Scots in the style to which they have become accustomed is one item on the Treasury hit list. The Barnett formula hands Scotland an extra £6.5bn, paid for by the rest of Britain, not to mention this year’s unprecedented package of support for Scottish businesses and around 900,000 individuals. How can those costs be recovered?  If the UK Government were to agree to the SNP demand for a second referendum and recommend independence, the contrary Scots would immediately vote for retaining the Union. One is reminded of the 40 year old still living in the parental home and complaining about the catering.  Saying “leave” does not work.  In our case, changing the locks did and we are

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The Chancellor has a mighty task to restore the economy and then balance the budget.  The cost of keeping the Scots in the style to which they have become accustomed is one item on the Treasury hit list. The Barnett formula hands Scotland an extra £6.5bn, paid for by the rest of Britain, not to mention this year’s unprecedented package of support for Scottish businesses and around 900,000 individuals. How can those costs be recovered?  

If the UK Government were to agree to the SNP demand for a second referendum and recommend independence, the contrary Scots would immediately vote for retaining the Union. One is reminded of the 40 year old still living in the parental home and complaining about the catering.  Saying “leave” does not work.  In our case, changing the locks did and we are still family.  

Throughout the pandemic, Scotland’s First Minister has demonstrated her enthusiasm for upstaging the Westminster government in much the same way.  If Scottish independence is to be brought about, it must look as if she has won against all the odds. 

The UK Government has made it clear that the Scotland Acts reserve decisions on independence referendums to Westminster.  Their position is that it is outside the competence of the Scottish Parliament to legislate for, and hold, such a referendum. That is undoubtedly so for decisive referendums, i.e. ones that would commit both governments to Scottish independence, but it may not be so for advisory ones, which could be regarded as glorified market research. Some lawyers believe the existing legislation to be unclear on the matter. 

According to the House of Commons library briefing paper What’s the process for a second independence referendum in Scotland?: “It is not clear as a matter of law, however, if the Scottish Parliament can unilaterally hold a referendum on independence. Only if it was judged that such a referendum ‘relates to’ the Union would it likely fall outside competence. Importantly, this debate has not been resolved.” 

This view is supported by the Institute for Government: “However, the matter has never been tested in court, so there remains some uncertainty about whether Holyrood could hold an advisory referendum without consent.” Remember that the 2016 Brexit referendum was, technically, only advisory but once approved, unstoppable.  

Here is how the offloading Scotland plan would work.  When the Scottish Parliament passes legislation for an advisory referendum, Nicola Sturgeon will make a big fuss about democracy and freedom but Boris Johnson will reject the demand citing the grounds above. It is reported that she will take legal action, presumably escalating the issue to the Supreme Court which now has two Scottish judges. The Supreme Court is not known for rubber-stamping the UK government’s legal interpretations. Remember proroguing. Johnson will grandstand his shock and horror when Sturgeon wins. 

But the plan is a bit more cunning than that.  The future EU trade deal is stuck on EU fishing rights in UK waters; solve that and a deal should fall into place.  The UK should compromise by allowing EU fishing in Scottish waters but not in those of the rest of the UK.  It should be signed and sealed before the end of 2020. The Scots voted to stay in the EU so they should be delighted by that. 

Nick Sibley has an alternative plan for the same outcome. Brexit would be cancelled; England and Wales would secede from the union leaving the United Kingdom of Scotland and Northern Ireland with the UK’s international obligations including the EU membership which both nations so much desire and the national debt. 

Putting levity to one side, Downing Street either wants to retain, indeed bolster, the union or it wants Scotland to leave. If the former is the case, ignoring the warnings that the door may be open to a Scottish unilateral advisory referendum, smacks of General Percival’s 1942 defence of Singapore. He refused to listen to intelligence that the Japanese were coming from the north when he knew they would attack from the south.  It would be a simple matter to pre-empt any Supreme Court ruling by passing fresh legislation reserving any Scottish independence referendum, including advisory and parliamentary polling, to the Westminster Parliament. 

If Downing Street is not that foolish, and surely it cannot be, then the only logical alternative is that it has a cunning plan, perhaps along the lines of the one outlined above, to offload Scotland.

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Tim Ambler
Tim Ambler (born 1937) is a British organizational theorist, author and academic on the field of Marketing effectiveness. Ambler featured on Marketing's list of the 100 most powerful figures in the industry. He is cited by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of the top 50 marketing experts in the world

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