Is Alex Salmond right to threaten a post-Brexit independence referendum?

The Conservatives can't hold off another Scottish vote if Britain votes to leave

 

As he faces the vast ramifications of a potential Brexit vote, David Cameron surely now regrets opening the can of worms that is the EU referendum.

But while he probably devotes a lot of thought to the consequences for his own career and party, much more important is the question of Scotland’s constitutional future.

For the SNP, the position is clear. As outlined in its manifesto for the recent elections to Holyrood, leaving the European Union against the will of the people of Scotland would be a material change in circumstances that would trigger a second vote on whether Scotland should break away from the United Kingdom.

What then are the chances of such a scenario occurring? If polling is to be believed it could be more likely than many would like to imagine.

Take ICM’s poll for the Guardian earlier this week which saw combined results from telephone and online survey’s putting the leave camp across the country ahead by 52 per cent to 48 per cent. The Scottish sub-set results however show very clear support for staying in the EU.

Likewise, YouGov’s recent data for the Times has found leave and remain tied on 41 per cent each across the country, whilst in Scotland 56 per cent of respondents said they wanted to remain in the EU.

Figures like Chris Grayling on the leave side and Cameron on remain, refuse to entertain ideas of a second vote on Scotland’s future. 2014, they argue, was meant to be a once in a generation vote.

All well and good, but a core part of the 2014 referendum was about Scotland’s place in the EU.

The campaign to leave the Union was warned repeatedly about how difficult it would be to re-enter the EU and that the best way to secure a future in the EU was to stay in the UK.

With David Cameron having recklessly taken the country to the edge of Brexit the people of Scotland could, if the UK votes to leave the EU, legitimately conclude that in 2014 they were sold a pup.

Had they known that the risk of leaving the EU was most acute by staying in the UK, one wonders what the vote on independence would have looked like.

During the recent Scottish election, Labour’s leader at Holyrood, Kezia Dugdale, was roundly criticised for using an interview with the Fabian Review to suggest that she might back Scotland going it alone if the UK voted to leave the EU.

It did her no good in the subsequent elections but if we are honest, she had a point. Who could blame her and other Labour supporters for backing independence in such a situation?

Faced with the prospect of a prolonged period of Conservative rule without the social and employment protections afforded by the EU why would they not think that independence would be the best option?

It was the former SNP Leader and First Minister, Alex Salmond, who last week predicted a second vote on Scotland’s future within two years if the Brexit camp won on 23 June.

Ultimately, he’s right, and faced with likely strong public support; David Cameron et al could do little to hold off the calls for another vote.

Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward

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