Should They Stay or Should They Go?

By Jeremie Mutolo

Following the United Kingdom’s controversial decision last June to secede from the European Union, it now appears that Scotland is gearing up for its own referendum vote. While many will agree that leaving the European Union presents obstacles that Scotland and the rest of Great Britain will have to tackle moving forward, perhaps Scotland’s best decision is to remain a part of Great Britain for now.

Following the United Kingdom’s controversial decision last June to secede from the European Union, it now appears that Scotland is gearing up for its own referendum vote. The results of the June 26 vote yielded roughly 51 percent of voters in the U.K. seeking to leave the EU. However, a resounding 62 percent of voters in Scotland sought to remain in the trading bloc. The Scottish National Party (SNP) is now gauging interest among voters to determine whether another vote should be held to decide Scotland’s continued membership in the British kingdom.

As Great Britain begins to discuss the terms of its exit from the European Union, Scotland, fearing the loss of EU benefits, has faced clamoring among government officials to hold an independence referendum. The decision by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP to push for another referendum after their unsuccessful 2014 campaign comes at a time when the sluggish Scottish economy is underperforming the entire United Kingdom. Scotland’s economy grew only 0.7 percent last year while the U.K.’s grew 2.2 percent. Scotland also saw its unemployment inch up 0.4 percentage points last year to 5.1 percent, higher than the U.K.’s 4.8 percent average. To top it all off, Scotland’s North Sea energy sector has seen revenues fall drastically following the drop in oil prices between 2014 and 2016, heavily affecting the nation’s public finances and employment capabilities. Last year alone, Scotland saw its oil revenues fall 97 percent resulting in a £48 million drop in tax revenues. This means that Scotland is now spending close to £13,000 per person but is only collecting £10,000. With an aging population, the stress on Scotland’s public finances will only grow. Additionally, if Scotland leaves the U.K., it will face the same problems that lie ahead for Great Britain. They will no longer have access to the single market, making it harder for employers to seek out talent and firms to find new business.

Sturgeon and the SNP believe they can capitalize on the discrepancy between the Brexit vote in Scotland and the rest of Great Britain to finally achieve independence. The issue is that Scottish fervor for an independence movement has waned since 2014. While many will agree that leaving the European Union presents obstacles that Scotland and the rest of Great Britain will have to tackle moving forward, the SNP’s lack of a coherent plan regarding an independent Scottish state (such as what currency to use and how to deal with its impressive spending deficit) suggests that perhaps the best decision is to remain a part of Great Britain for now. London seems to agree. Just recently, British PM Theresa May rejected Sturgeon’s demand for a referendum, citing that “now is not the time”. In the coming months, Sturgeon and May will clash as the Scottish First Minister hopes to coalesce public support for the vote and place pressure on May to finally liberate Scotland.