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Prof: Scottish Independence Requires Serious Debate Amid Soaring Cost of Living in UK

© Sputnik / Robert Perry / Go to the mediabankScottish people
Scottish people - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.06.2022
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon plans to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence around October 2023, possibly without the consent of the London government. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has denounced the initiative, urging Sturgeon to “focus on the things that people really want us to deal with.”
"Two things have to be achieved [for Scotland to become independent]," says Sir John Curtice, politics professor at Scotland’s University of Strathclyde. "One is you have to be able to run a referendum that both the UK government and the rest of the world are willing to recognise. And the second is you actually have to win that referendum. Neither is impossible, but neither is guaranteed either."
The first Scottish independence referendum was held in 2014, in which 55% of Scottish residents voted to stay in the UK. On Tuesday, Prime Minister Johnson told Sky News that a "decision was taken by the Scottish people only a few years ago, in recent memory (…) I think we should respect that".
However, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has argued that much has changed since 2014, principally referring to Brexit. Roughly 62 % of Scots voted against the UK's divorce from the EU during the 2016 Brexit referendum. According to Scotland's first minister and Scottish National Party leader, Brexit left Scots at a “critical juncture.”
Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, is interviewed in Washington - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.06.2022
Neverendum: Sturgeon Launches Latest Bid for Scottish Independence
Current opinion polls show that Scots are nearly evenly split on whether to stay in the UK or become independent, Curtice explained.
"Given the space close to 50/50, [the result] would depend on which side managed to marshal the more persuasive arguments," the academic said. "What really got kicked off yesterday is, at least on the yes side, saying that we're now going to start putting some effort into trying to persuade people by developing and laying out some of the coordinates."
The professor agreed that the issue of Scottish independence is a different one to that of 2014 "simply because of Brexit." According to him, it's now a choice between Scotland being independent but part of the European Union, or being part of the UK but outside the European Union. "That double choice comes with all sorts of qualifications and arguments about where you think Scotland's long-term economic and strategic interests lie," he remarked.
© AFP 2023 / TOLGA AKMENA customer carries their shopping in a basket at a Sainsbury's supermarket in Walthamstow, east London on February 13, 2022
A customer carries their shopping in a basket at a Sainsbury's supermarket in Walthamstow, east London on February 13, 2022 - Sputnik International, 1920, 16.06.2022
A customer carries their shopping in a basket at a Sainsbury's supermarket in Walthamstow, east London on February 13, 2022

Scottish Referendum & UK Economic Troubles

Sturgeon's call for independence comes at a time when the UK is dealing with the consequences of the COVID pandemic, skyrocketing inflation and soaring costs of living.
UK year-on-year inflation soared to 9% in April with economic observers warning the Bank of England against further interest rate hikes to avoid recession. At the same time, average wages are failing to meet inflation upticks, with annual pay growth dropping by 4.5% in April after adjusting for inflation, according to the Office for National Statistics. The cost of living crisis has sparked protests across the divide, including upcoming trade union marches planned in Glasgow and London on Saturday.
In addition, the UK and the EU have been involved in a spat over BoJo's Northern Ireland Protocol amendment, which is threatening to further aggravate tensions between London and Brussels.
Both those opposed to independence and those who advocate it are using these issues in their arguments, according to the academic.
"[T]hose on both sides of the argument are wanting to argue that the cost of living crisis is a reason why you should be having a referendum now and why you would prefer to have access to the fiscal firepower of the United Kingdom," he explained.
"It's also been suggested that maybe people will be more at risk averse to the economic consequences of independence, as a consequence of the cost of living crisis. But, what I could certainly find through polling, this suggests that there may still be somewhat more people who are concerned about the economic consequences of independence than think they will be okay. There are plenty of people in Scotland who are concerned about the consequences of Brexit as opposed to thinking ‘I'll be okay’."
However, in reality, this is a choice between two alternatives, neither of which necessarily looks overwhelmingly attractive, according to Curtice. So, the main question is which of the two options looks to have greater opportunities and fewer risks, he noted. The two camps have not engaged in a substantial debate so far, the academic highlighted, adding that this debate is necessary for making the choice.
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