HAYES IN THE HOUSE: By MP John Hayes
Recently the Scotland rugby team, buoyed by rare but deserved success against other British sides, travelled south to Twickenham, confident they could foil the ‘auld enemy’. Instead of besting England on home soil for the first time in 34 years, their pre-match swagger was made to look daft as Eddie Jones’ team won by a huge margin, so also winning the Six Nations trophy.
There may be lessons from this Scottish hubris beyond the rugby field. Last week, when Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her intention to hold another referendum on independence, many people were puzzled. After all, it’s just two and a half years since the electorate north of the border overwhelmingly rejected a split – in a poll then described as a ‘once in a generation’ event. The assumption that, because many Scots voted to remain in the EU, they are bound to change their mind on independence, is highly questionable.
Because I grasped that it would lead to the constitutional complications we’re seeing today, I opposed devolution in the late 1990s. Though Westminster was right to respect the democratic mandate of the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum in 2014, re-running elections until you get the result you want is not democracy. The SNP’s request for another plebiscite should be roundly rejected.
The case for independence was always flimsy and now confused. Originally, Scottish nationalists based their plans on a high oil price which has since collapsed and shows little sign of recovery. Even the SNP’s own economic advisor warned that the country’s economy would be set back by 10 years by separation. Now the separatists claim that Scotland could stay in the EU – yet the idea that their application would be fast-tracked is fanciful.
Nationalists wanted to go it alone, but also to retain the pound, the BBC and the Queen as Head of State – rather like a teenager desperate to move out of home, whilst insistent they keep their weekly pocket money and don’t have to pay any bills.
The SNP want to have their haggis and eat it. Opinion polls suggest Scots don’t want a second referendum, and, still more strikingly, a recent Social Attitudes survey revealed that a majority of the Scottish electorate have strongly Eurosceptic views. I suspect that some in Holyrood are suffering from the same over-confidence as their rugby team.
Patriots love all parts our UK and don’t want to end a glorious 300 year union which has helped to shape the modern world. As we prepare to embark upon our negotiations with the EU, we should focus on getting a deal that works for the whole UK. Though rivals in sport, over past years England and Scotland have worked together, prospered together, and fought for freedom together – our future lies together too.