Andy Mayer, Chief Operating Officer and energy analyst at the Institute of Economic Affairs, argues YES
The Scottish people have a right to self-determination, and the consistent election of Scottish Nationalists as the government since 2007, with parliamentary majorities for independence since 2011 creates popular consent to raise the question. The counter argument that the question was settled for the Union in 2014, with a 10 per cent margin, is reasonable but not decisive.
It matters that the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union while Scotland voted by a 24 per cent margin to stay in. The constitutional settlement has changed and creates space for the question to be put again. It is reasonable for the UK Government to counter that a ‘once in a generation vote’ should mean something, but rhetoric doesn’t trump reality. The question today would be independent Britain versus independent Scotland, not just a rejigging of status within the EU.
It was reasonable to argue postponing a referendum during a pandemic; many other elections were similarly delayed. The cost-of-living crisis is not the same, it allows the Scottish people to test whether they want British conservatism or Scottish social democracy as the guiding philosophy of any solution. Here, I suspect the SNP’s addiction to big state populism is a handicap not a strength, although these days it’s harder to see the difference. Either way this would be a hard vote to win, polling evidence favours a repeat of 2014.
Scotland at heart is an entrepreneurial, innovative, outward looking country with a reputation for constructive engagement abroad and compassion at home. Its most famous economist Adam Smith inspired much of what free marketeers believe today. Should it detach from its neighbours its politics would become more diverse and potentially far more liberal. The motivation to out-compete Britain rather than outspend it would rise, and the loss of the block grant would force hard choices. Such competition would similarly motivate London to improve. It remains unlikely the proposition would be tested, but free marketeers should not automatically assume the result would be tartan socialism.
Steven Young, Caseworker for an MP and Policy Researcher at the British Conservation Alliance, argues NO
There are several reasons why it’s not time for another Scottish referendum. Firstly, the people do not want it. The latest polling from YouGov shows ‘independence’ (secession) doesn’t top the list of Scottish people’s priorities. It comes seventh. At the top is the economy, followed by health, then education. Even those who voted yes in the last referendum only consider it the third most important issue.
What’s more, Nicola Sturgeon wants this referendum before the end of 2023, which the vast majority opposes. So why is she making this a priority now? Could it be to distract from those priority areas her government has spectacularly failed on?
This leads to the second reason why it would be a bad idea: the yes campaign could win. It’s unlikely, but it is possible, and Scotland would still be governed by the SNP. Given the SNP’s terrible record in government, from having one of the highest drug death rates in Europe to tanking Scottish education with the ironically named Curriculum for Excellence, the prospect of Scotland only being governed by the SNP is terrifying. Especially when you add the SNP’s chilling attitudes to free speech and women’s rights.
Lastly, another referendum would be a divisive and ultimately pointless waste of money. The last referendum cost £15.85 million. It polarised the nation, but we were assured it was a one-time thing. Now Nicola Sturgeon is planning to do it again, and spend at least that much money on a referendum, the result of which may be the same as last time. YouGov has Yes at 45 per cent, and No at 55 per cent – exactly what it was the last time we wasted that much money.
Enough of this divisive constitutional question. It’s pointless, terrifying, expensive, and unwanted. Enough!