Scotland & the EU ScotRef

10 questions that will decide if Scotland becomes independent in 2018

Fearmongering and uncertainty were the main/only weapon of the No campaign in 2014 but Brexit is an unexploded a time-bomb of uncertainty.  Until Article 50 is enacted and negotiations are underway and the Brexit fog has lifted, potential no to yes vote switchers (N2Ys) can’t answer the constitutional question. As much as 20 per cent of the No vote could be persuaded to switch, but before that happens they will need answers to the following questions, to which I will suggest the most probable answers in brackets.

1. Can Westminster really do a trade deal that will be beneficial without the EU fees and immigration? (No).

2. What will the border with England look like and how will that effect trade? (Depends on the Brexit trade deal but it is most likely that there no hard border as promised by the UK to Ireland).

Can Westminster really do a trade deal that will be beneficial without the EU fees and immigration? (NO)

3. Will Theresa May cave in and ask the EU for a soft Brexit? (No).

4. Would the EU accept a soft Brexit or say “No, either you accept the four freedoms or you are out of the single market”? (They would say no as there is no such thing as a soft Brexit.  The EU could cease to exist if they agreed to that).

5. If a soft Brexit was on the cards, will Eurosceptic Tories resign and Ukip support surge, thus throwing the UK into political and constitutional chaos? (Yes almost certainly).

6. As a hard Brexit gets closer will the economic damage we have seen since the Leave vote get worse? (Yes and worse still after the UK actually leaves the EU).

7. Throughout the Brexit process which government UK or Scottish looks the most competent and trustworthy? (Scotland’s so far and I would expect that to continue).

Scotland would be granted continuer nation status by the EU

8. What is the EU position on an independent Scotland? Would an independent Scotland automatically retain EU membership? What opt-outs, the Euro/Schengen would we have and what would it cost? (We don’t know but the EU will probably say we can retain membership and inherit all opt-outs but we will need EFTA to fall back on if that is not certain by the time of the vote. This would bring the pro-EU N2Y switchers on board and also be acceptable to the small number of anti-EU Y2Ns) Edit: The National’s headline today quotes a senior EU figure stating that Scotland would be granted continuing state membership rights.

9. Would EFTA want Scotland as a member and would that be better for Scotland than full EU membership if rUK leaves the EU with a hard Brexit? (Yes, and it is a credible alternative to full membership that is preferable to no single market access.  It would depend on the Brexit deal but EFTA almost certainly wouldn’t want the rest of the UK to join as the rUK would be too big and unbalance the organisation).

10. Do the SNP and wider Yes campaign have a credible, well-thought-through prospectus for greater economic prosperity and for creating a better nation with the powers of independence than the chaotic post-Brexit UK can offer? (They will have to present one before indyref2 is called).

We won’t fully know the answers to these questions until Article 50 is enacted and both sides set out their negotiation red lines and then possibly not till after several months of negotiations. So the earliest a referendum date can reasonably be announced is the third quarter of 2017 and the two probable dates for the referendum are May or September 2018.  If the above questions are answered in the way suggested, then there is a good chance that Yes will start the campaign with majority support.

About the author

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp

Gordon MacIntyre-Kemp is the Founder and Chief Executive of Business for Scotland. Before becoming CEO of Business for Scotland Gordon ran a business strategy and social media, sales & marketing consultancy.

With a degree in business, marketing and economics, Gordon has worked as an economic development planning professional, and in marketing roles specialising in pricing modelling and promotional evaluation for global companies (including P&G).

Gordon benefits (not suffers) from dyslexia, and is a proponent of the emerging New Economics School. Gordon contributes articles to Business for Scotland, The National and Believe in Scotland.


  • Should Scotland become independent and seek to join the EU (note – join, as it is unlikely that Scotland can work through 2 referenda in the negotiating period before UK exits) our approach requires to be completely distanced from the stance taken by the UK. That extends to opt-outs. We can be pretty sure these will be off the table. Scotland needs a fresh approach to EU engagement, removed from the dark shadow cast by the UK as an often unhelpful EU partner. Also, the EFTA option is a very different one to be considered in the context of Scottish independence than when seeking a differentiated status from the UK, as an exiting member state.

    • I disagree it is possible that Scotland will be considered the continuing state and inherit all the outputs the UK currently has and be placed in a holding pen until negotiations are completed on both referenda leaving trade with EU uninfected. There is a great deal of support for this in EU circles and it would not have to be agreed unanimously. Lets wait and see what happens with Brexit negotiations as currently there are too many variables.

  • Theresa May was quite ambiguous about her plans for the customs union. Given that WTO requires FTAs to incorporate 90% of trade I would guess that the UK will leave the Customs Union. If that happens a customs border between NI and Ireland is unavoidable. I agree with pretty much everything here but I’m far less confident of point 2).

    I have a genuine concern that the independence movement is banking quite a lot on there being no NI/Ireland customs border and for that to set a precedent. There is no practical way of avoiding a customs border between an independent Scotland in the EU and a post-Brexit England. I’d prefer to meet this head-on rather than pretend it won’t happen.

    • Following the supreme court ruling there will now be a Brexit bill, an amendment on open borders with Ireland will undoubtedly be tabled and if passed may preclude a WTO deal as you have suggested however if the amendment is ruled out then Irish reunification becomes more likely. Westminster between a rock and hard place on the Union!

  • Re: Q10. This can’t be answered until such time as all the economy information is available to the YES side and that won’t be forthcoming from the Treasury. It also can only be done on the basis that the SNP form the government after Independence.

    This was one of the critiques of the “White paper” as all it did was promote a plausible scenario assuming the SNP formed the government. All the YES camping should be doing (IMO) is pointing out the options that would be available to voters after Independence. Who knows (albeit unlikely) they might choose to elect a Tory majority!

    The referendum has to present the simple fact that Independence means that Scots make decisions for Scots. For good or ill, wise or stupid, but no matter what, it is US who wield the power, and not disinterested career politicians in another country with other priorities and objectives.

  • Here’s hoping your last sentence is right Gordon, meanwhile I’ll still keep having the “conversation” with my customers

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