So it’s all over for the United Kingdom.
Scotland, overwhelmingly, and Northern Ireland by a smaller margin have voted to stay in Europe while England and Wales have voted decisively to leave. Whatever happens in Northern Ireland, Scotland must now hold a second referendum. The Scottish Government said before the referendum that it would only hold a second independence vote when the polls showed a significant lead for the independence camp. It needed to turn 45% into something more like 60%. Next week’s polls will show that and more, as well over the quarter of the 55% will choose the EU over the UK, while none of the 45% will switch the other way.
Alex Salmond has already suggested that the fresh referendum must take place within 30 months. He’s wrong in his uncharacteristic caution, though. It’ll have to take place much sooner than that. There’s a likelihood that the new Tory leader will call a UK general election, then assuming he (or, in theory, she) wins a handsome majority – which he or she will – there’ll be another 2 years or so of Brexit negotiations. It would be literally senseless for Scotland to be part of the UK for those negotiations, only to leave immediately after and alter fundamentally the agreements just made on behalf of the UK. This would require the EU to start all over again, negotiating with England/Wales and Scotland (and Northern Ireland or even a united Ireland) over yet new terms. Moreover, the new England/Wales construct would require yet another general election because it would be an entirely new political construct. Even if Labour won an election with the help of the SNP, the same negotiations and subsequent elections would have to take place.
So providing the polls next week do show over 60% in Scotland for independence, Nicola Sturgeon will have little choice but to press on with an early referendum. The dying UK government will not be in any position, morally or politically, to prevent it. Few Brexiteer Tories will seek to stop the Scots leaving; they’ll be too buy having a ball with their own arrangements.
There will have to be new Scottish elections after independence, of course. We can expect the SNP to continue to dominate an independent Scotland for some years, although Scotland will be a healthy democracy and a real opposition will emerge since nature abhors a vacuum. That opposition could even be the Scottish Labour Party one day, if it plays its cards right. For now, there’s only one card for Scottish Labour to play. It must support Scottish independence in Europe. This will be the acid test. If it does not it will die altogether and will deserve to.
I have a feeling that Scottish house prices are about to go up. And the incomers will be voting FOR independence this time.