A good deal was said during the last independence referendum (indieref) campaign about the risks to Scotland of leaving the UK. There was even some comment on the risks to the rest of the UK of a Scottish exit. These and other arguments will doubtless be revisited during the next campaign and during the prelude while the Westminster and Edinburgh governments argue about the timing. I see no need to contribute to that discussion. I do, however, wish to point out some of the risks to both Scotland and the UK as a whole of having a referendum at all at this time.
The Effect on Brexit.
- A referendum campaign would distract British politicians from the Brexit negotiations.
- It would confuse EU politicians.
- It would confuse people in non-EU countries we need to deal with post Brexit.
A poor outcome for the UK would be bad for Scotland, whether in or out of the UK, and if it was believed, rightly or wrongly, that the Scottish Referendum had damaged the UK’s Brexit negotiations, or our relations with other countries, it could lead to a great deal of acrimony. Not only would it embitter most of the English against Scotland, but it would also anger many Scots against the SNP and its supporters.
The Effect on Business.
One of the concerns many people have about Brexit is that it is creating uncertainty. That is bad for business. It discourages investment. It makes for extreme caution in planning. An indieref would inevitably add to the uncertainty, aggravating the negative effects of Brexit.
The Effect on Voters.
If the outcome; was a vote to remain in the UK, it would make it very difficult to hold a third referendum for many years to come, no matter what circumstances might arise.
A referendum so soon after the 2014 one could generate voter-fatigue, leading to a low turnout and therefore a question as to the significance of the result, possibly also leading to general hostility to those politicians who brought it about.
The Effect on the English. (The people, I mean, not the politicians).
- As mentioned above, English people might resent anything that appeared to damage the chances of successful negotiations with the EU and/or with other countries. The suspicion that the Scots were doing this cynically, so as to hurt England, could be engendered by some of the tabloids.
- English remainers have had to accept the will of the majority, even though it was by a small margin. They could argue that the Scots should also accept the will of the rest of the British people too.
- The proximity to the last indieref could lead to the feeling that this is going to be a regular event until the SNP get what they have always wanted.
If the result is a vote for independence, there is a danger of many English people being unwilling to see as generous a settlement as was on offer in 2014 regarding such things as:
- The share of the Deficit
- The share of public assets
- The rights of Scottish people to live, work, claim benefits, study or even trade in a post-Brexit England.
The Effects on the Scots.
The worst risk, as I see it, is of causing Scottish people to think that all their problems come from south of the border. Most of the problems in Scotland exist in England, and indeed in many other countries. I really hope Scots will be able to contribute to solutions that will benefit all of us, as they have done so often in the past.
How Realistic are these Risks?
It is hard to say. At present, they seem remote. However, if Brexit negotiations fail, or if the economy takes a downturn for any reason, a lot of people could be looking for scapegoats. The tabloids are likely to encourage that, thus making all these risks greater.
Where Do I Stand?
I am a unionist. I am certainly not anti-Scottish. (My name is Murray!)
I do not want to see any of these risks materialise. I want to see a successful partnership between England and Scotland, as well as Wales and Northern Ireland.
I hope people on both sides of the border will consider these risks and work hard to prevent them becoming reality.
What About Your Business?
- Do you see one issue as your only problem?
- Do you think there is one simple solution?
- Do you think that solution would have no drawbacks?
Perhaps you need a Risk Management consultation. What have you got to lose?