Whig Internationalists for Scottish Independence

by Elias Blum

“I was not pro-independence in the Scottish referendum. However, I think that the result on Friday makes it entirely acceptable that the First Minister explores all means to secure Scotland’s position in the EU. If that means that there is a second independence referendum then it will have my full support.” (Some guy on the internet, 2016)

Scotland entered into the Union in 1707 primarily in order to avoid geopolitical and economic isolation. The aim was to be part of a larger common market, with freedom of trade and travel, with all the opportunities that provided. We will leave the UK very soon for precisely the same reason.

In 2014, Scottish independence was primarily attractive to the social democratic left, who wanted less austerity, a more solidaristic set of domestic policies, and the protection of public services. Their main grievance against the UK was that it seemed to be governed by and for the rich. This approach was attractive to the working class, who had been disappointed by the anemic performance of Blair and Brown. But the middle class, if not unsympathetic, remained mostly unconvinced.

In 2016, Scottish independence has now become attractive, too, to the Whiggish, liberal-cosmopolitan, internationalist element. It is attractive to people with second homes in France. It is attractive to businesses who do business on the continent. This is a big shift. The potential exists for the formation of a broader coalition for independence in Europe, one that brings together both the Yessers of the optimistic left and the Remainers of the pragmatic liberal centre.

Yet the politicians who were active in the No campaign in 2014 are still haivering. Today in the Scottish Parliament, Willie Rennie said he wants Scotland to be in both the UK and EU. I’m sure many share that desire. But, perhaps sadly, he cannot have it both ways. Notions of a ‘reverse Denmark’ solution or a federal UK, as advanced by Kezia Dugdale, while not perhaps inconcievable in theory, are far fetched and impracticable.

It has become an either/or proposition.  We can have a Scotland in the UK, or in the EU, but not both. We have to choose. Scotland’s next referendum, if it comes to it, should make this choice explicitly clear. To my mind, the choice is not only stark, but obvious: civis europeus sum.