Scottish independence would weaken the United Kingdom

Great Britain: Boris Johnson loses the Scots?

At least the Prime Minister himself apparently thinks this is a real danger. A few days ago he made a prominently staged lightning visit to Scotland to promote the continued existence of the United Kingdom. Johnson posed in a fishing port with two gigantic crabs that made him look like his hands were made of creepy pincers. The reason for the head of government's activism are opinion polls that have shown constant majorities in favor of Scottish independence for weeks. 54 percent of all Scots, according to the latest figures, are currently in favor of leaving the British state as a whole, only 46 percent want to stay in the Union.

Actually, this issue should have been resolved for years. In 2014 there was a referendum on Scottish secession and 55 percent voted against it. For at least a generation, that was the consensus at the time, this topic would not be heard from. Of course, Brexit, which most Scots reject, has renewed aversion to London. The separatists can no longer just point out that Scotland is a nation of its own, which after centuries of foreign control has finally earned its own state existence again. You can now also argue that only an independent Scotland can remain a member of the European Union.

At the same time, Britain's exit from the EU complicates Scottish separation from the United Kingdom. An independent Scotland still belonging to the EU would no longer be linked to the rest of Great Britain, by far its most important economic and trading partner, through a customs union and no single market. That would mean a loss of prosperity. The Brexit makes the "Scexit" so emotionally more attractive and practically more difficult.

The government in London recalls the tangible advantages that Scotland enjoys from being part of the United Kingdom. Hardly, Johnson made it clear on his advertising tour, an independent Scotland would enjoy the credit rating in the credit markets that enabled Great Britain to mobilize huge sums of money for company subsidies and short-time work benefits in the corona crisis in a very short time.

Secession would indeed be bad business financially: Scotland is subsidized to a considerable extent from London (that is to say, in fact, from taxpayers in wealthier England). On the other hand, one knows from the Brexit referendum how ungracious voters can react if one tries to talk them out of the decision for greater national sovereignty with reference to the threat of economic disadvantages. When the then Prime Minister David Cameron declared an exit from the EU to be detrimental to the economy, he was chalked up as blackmail ("Project Fear"); the unwanted instructions only spurred the Brexit friends on. It cannot be ruled out that Boris Johnson will fare similarly when he insists on the benefits of the Union.

No one can formally force the Prime Minister to call a second independence referendum, and for the time being the government in London says the question will not be raised again. But if Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon's Scottish Nationalists (SNP) win the regional elections next May (which it currently looks like), then that will inevitably act like a popular vote for the new referendum called for by the SNP. By then at the latest, Boris Johnson would have a third, even bigger crisis ahead of him after Corona and Brexit: the possible end of the three-century-old multi-ethnic state that he may be the last prime minister to rule.