View from Westminster 22nd March 2017

It seems for the Scottish Nationalists that not even two referendums are enough. Nicola Sturgeon has opened a new row, pushing for what is being known as IndyRef2, Scotland’s opportunity to have a third referendum in four years – the second on independence.

I was in Scotland last week, meeting businesses and leaders as part of my role opening up new trade opportunities for UK businesses. Reaction amongst the people I met ranged from rolling their eyes to downright anger.

The Nationalists argue that the EU referendum result changed the landscape for the future of Scotland and so they are entitled to another independence referendum. Scotland voted to Remain in last year’s EU referendum and so they argue that they should be allowed the opportunity to vote again on independence from the UK.

It is an odd argument. It has been widely stated from those who count that if Scotland left the UK, it would leave the EU and so need to re-apply to join again, with all that entails including joining the Euro. This alone would require Scotland to pump billions into central bank reserves, starving the country of public services. The effects on its fiscal position and thus financial stability have been well discussed at IndyRef1 in 2014 and certainly haven’t changed since then.

The Prime Minister has argued that now is absolutely not the time to hold a second independence referendum. She is right. Without a conclusive deal on the UK’s future with the EU, it would be impossible for Scottish voters to know what the alternatives are when voting. They would be asked to choose between two uncertain outcomes – a yet to be finalised deal between the UK and the EU; or an extremely opaque future trying to renegotiate membership of the EU without being part of either single market (the UK or the EU).

For the economy, it would be a period of sustained, double uncertainty. Businesses need some degree of certainty to be able to plan for the future. They are coping with Brexit, but would those businesses north of the border be able to cope with double doubt? Even the Scottish economy needs their investment, their taxes and their jobs to keep public services being delivered.

We can speculate about the SNP’s motives, but I am sure about one thing: the UK is a far better place with Scotland, and all it brings to the union.