News World UK Why Boris Johnson and Brexit may break the United Kingdom

Why Boris Johnson and Brexit may break the United Kingdom

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The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants an independent Scotland. Photo: AAP
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The re-election of the Conservative government in the UK provided Prime Minster Boris Johnson with a mandate to get Brexit done, but it also reignited a push for an independent Scotland.

The Scottish National Party (SNP) captured 48 of the 59 parliamentary seats, setting the scene for a second independence vote, with leader Nicola Sturgeon declaring on Sunday the northern country won’t “be imprisoned in the union against its will”.

“Boris Johnson may have a mandate to take England out of the European Union,” Ms Sturgeon also declared on election night.

“He emphatically does not have a mandate to take Scotland out of the European Union.

“Scotland must have a choice over our own future.”

As Ms Sturgeon rushed to beat the independence drum, the Conservatives were just as quick to slap it down.

Speaking to Sky’s Sophy Ridge on Sunday, Tory MP Michael Gove said he could “absolutely” guarantee the government would refuse to grant a second independence vote for Scotland, saying the country would be  “better off” in the UK.

Mr Gove said: “We had the referendum on whether or not Scotland should be separate from the United Kingdom in 2014. We were told that that referendum would settle the question for a generation.

“Scotland is stronger in the United Kingdom. You can be proudly Scottish and proudly British together.”

Setting the scene for a second vote

Since the SNP lost the independence referendum in 2014 (by 55.3 per cent to 44.7 per cent), the party has been rebuilding a case for a second vote.

And Brexit has become central to the argument – the Scots voted in large numbers (62 per cent) to remain in the EU in the 2016 referendum – unlike most of England.

Mr Johnson has repeatedly ruled out allowing another referendum while he is in office – meaning the two are at a stalemate, said Monash University’s Remy Davison.

“She can’t get a vote through unless it’s approved by a majority in the House of Commons, but it’s unlikely the conservative government would give her one,” Dr Davison said.

“So they’re stuck for now.”

To stay in the EU, Scotland would have to pass the difficult Westminster hurdle first, he said.

“Scotland would literally have to separate and then apply for EU membership.”

Scotland leaving the UK may be bad business for Britain, but politically it would be a win for the conservatives, Dr Davison said.

“It’s very unlikely the conservatives would want to let it go. The main reason they want them in the UK is North Sea oil,” he said.

“But the conservatives don’t have any seats in Scotland, whereas the Labour party has, so if you let Scotland leave, you would make the Labour party a lot weaker.”

Ms Sturgeon has pinned independence on the fact that Brexit will be bad news for the Scottish economy, which is likely, said Professor Sally Wheeler of Australian National University.

“The Scottish economy is not in great shape,” she said.

A pipe band leads Scottish independence supporters in 2019. Photo: Getty

“I suspect Brexit will be bad for the whole United Kingdom’s economy, but it’s hard to see how it is going to make Scotland any richer.”

While another vote is a long shot, it’s not completely out of the picture, Professor Wheeler said.

“I imagine Sturgeon hopes to create enough noise whereby Westminster reconsiders. Not all Tories will be against an independent vote.”

The debate is also about identity, said Ian Campbell, president of the Scottish Australia Community.

“It depends on what sort of deal they end up with, but it’ll be hard to get a yes vote because there are so many English people living up in Scotland. It is very hard, though but it is possible,” he said.

“The English don’t like the Scots, it’s a funny situation… But a lot of people would like to see Scotland be on their own.”

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