Scots second referendum ‘divisive’ at time of uncertainty – UK Government

March 13 2017, 1.03pmUpdated: March 14 2017, 10.17am
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A second Scottish independence referendum would be “divisive” and ” cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time”, the UK Government has said .

After Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon confirmed her intention to call a fresh vote to give Scots a choice between Brexit and leaving the UK, a UK Government spokesman said she should focus on delivering good public services for Scotland.

The spokesman also pointed out that Scotland voted “decisively” to remain in the UK in 2014, in a referendum the Scottish Government described as “once in a generation”.

Ms Sturgeon said that next week she will “seek the authority of the Scottish Parliament to agree with the UK Government the details of a section 30 order – the procedure that will enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum”.

A UK Government spokesman said: “As the Prime Minister has set out, the UK Government seeks a future partnership with the EU that works for the whole of the United Kingdom.

“The UK Government will negotiate that agreement, but we will do so taking into account the interests of all of the nations of the UK.

“We have been working closely with all the devolved administrations – listening to their proposals, and recognising the many areas of common ground, including workers’ rights, the status of EU citizens living in the UK and our security from crime and terrorism.

“Only a little over two years ago people in Scotland voted decisively to remain part of our United Kingdom in a referendum which the Scottish Government defined as a ‘once in a generation’ vote.

“The evidence clearly shows that a majority of people in Scotland do not want a second independence referendum. Another referendum would be divisive and cause huge economic uncertainty at the worst possible time.

“The Scottish Government should focus on delivering good government and public services for the people in Scotland.”

Jeremy Corbyn confirmed Labour’s intention to oppose a second referendum in the Scottish Parliament, but would not seek to block it in Westminster if the idea is backed by Holyrood.

The Labour leader said: “The 2014 Scottish independence referendum was billed as a once in a generation event.

“The result was decisive and there is no appetite for another referendum.

“Labour believes it would be wrong to hold another so soon and Scottish Labour will oppose it in the Scottish Parliament.

“If, however, the Scottish Parliament votes for one, Labour will not block that democratic decision at Westminster.

“If there is another referendum, Labour will oppose independence because it is not in the interests of any part of the country to break up the UK.”

The European Commission indicated an independent Scotland would have to apply to join the EU, rather than automatically being a member.

Commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas said the “Barroso doctrine” continued to apply.

Former commission president Jose Manuel Barroso set out the legal view that if one part of an EU country became an independent state it would have to apply for EU membership.

At a briefing in Brussels, Mr Schinas said: “The commission does not comment on issues that pertain to the internal legal and constitutional order of our member states.”

But he added: “The Barroso doctrine, would that apply? Yes that would apply, obviously.”

Liberal Democrat leader Tim Farron said his party would oppose a second independence referendum and warned that Scotland could find itself outside both the UK and EU.

He said: “Scottish Liberal Democrats stood for election last year on a platform to oppose a new independence referendum. That is what we will do.

“The First Minister refused to state that Scotland would be a full EU member under her plan.

“The SNP are risking taking Scotland out of both the UK and out of the EU. Being outside both would be the worst of all worlds for Scotland.

“We believe that the SNP have gone back on their word that 2014 was ‘once in a generation’.”

Ukip’s Scottish MEP David Coburn described the prospect of a second referendum before spring 2019 as “utterly preposterous”.

“The UK will still be in negotiations with the EU at this time – the SNP seem to wish to cause maximum disruption, uncertainty and overall mayhem,” said Mr Coburn.

“In 2014 the Scottish people decided decisively to remain British, in 2016 less people voted to remain in the EU than voted to be British in 2014.”

He warned that, as an EU member in its own right, Scotland would be ” simply insignificant in comparison to Germany and France and we would simply follow or be told how to follow”.

The SNP do not want real independence, they want “plastic indy”, said Mr Coburn. “They would rather be ruled from Frankfurt and Berlin rather than Edinburgh and London.”

The main opposition parties in Scotland have accused the Holyrood administration of creating uncertainty and division with the announcement.

The Scottish Conservatives, Scottish Labour and the Liberal Democrats have all vowed to oppose Ms Sturgeon’s proposals.

But the Scottish Greens party, which backs independence, welcomed a move it said would give Scots the choice between “hard Brexit Britain and putting our own future in our own hands”.

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson tweeted: “Nicola Sturgeon has today chosen the path of further division and uncertainty. We will vote against any request for a Section 30 next week.”

Kezia Dugdale, the leader of Scottish Labour, said: “Scotland is already divided enough. We do not want to be divided again, but that is exactly what another independence referendum would do.

“With our country facing all of the uncertainty around the Tories’ reckless plans for a hard Brexit, the last thing we need is even more uncertainty and division.”

She argued that leaving the UK would mean “turbo-charged austerity” for Scotland.

Ms Dugdale added: “Labour believes that together we’re stronger. That is why we firmly oppose a second referendum and Scottish Labour MSPs will vote against the SNP’s proposals next week.”

Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie described Ms Sturgeon’s announcement as “the worst possible result for jobs, trade and security”, saying it risks leaving Scotland outside of the EU and the UK.

“Scottish Liberal Democrats stood on a manifesto to oppose a divisive referendum and we will do that,” he said.

But the Scottish Greens welcomed confirmation that the First Minister is seeking the temporary power to call a referendum on independence.

Co-convener Patrick Harvie said: “The Greens welcome the Scottish Parliament’s consent being sought for a Section 30 order on an independence referendum and we will support it.

“Scotland’s votes and our voice have been ignored by a Tory government at Westminster which we did not vote for and a feeble Labour opposition. The people of Scotland deserve a choice between hard Brexit Britain and putting our own future in our own hands.

“Theresa May’s isolationist Brexit will cause huge damage to Scotland’s economy and public services, to our health service, schools and universities. It will isolate us from the world. Those who care about fairness in society are horrified by the kind of Brexit Britain tax haven the Tories are planning. The Greens will campaign for a progressive, internationalist, independent Scotland.”

CBI Scotland said the voice of businesses north of the border must be heard by the UK Government and taken into Brexit negotiations.

Hugh Aitken, CBI Scotland director, said: “Scottish businesses have acted with resilience since the EU referendum, and, in an already uncertain environment, their priority is clarity as soon as possible on what a future deal could look like.

“What’s important is that the needs of Scotland – and the other devolved nations – are heard and understood in the discussions on the UK’s future relationship with Europe. That’s where the CBI’s focus will be.

“The Scottish and UK Governments must continue to work together, with business, to ensure the best deal from the negotiations for Scottish firms, and this work should continue as a matter of priority.”

Labour MP and Open Britain supporter Pat McFadden said the move towards a so-called “hard Brexit” outside the European single market has helped the case for Scottish independence.

“The First Minister’s announcement exposes the hollow promises of Leave campaigners who assured us that Brexit would not result in a broken United Kingdom,” he said.

“The Government’s head-long rush to hard Brexit, and particularly their decision to leave the single market, has boosted the ambitions of those who seek to break up our country.

“The SNP said the referendum in 2014 was a ‘once-in-a-generation’ decision. They have now gone back on that with this new bid for separation.

“Ministers now need to deal with the very real prospect of the break-up of the union, that many of us thought we had secured the future of in 2014.”

Former first minister Alex Salmond has “absolutely no doubt there will be a resounding vote in favour of independence” in a second referendum.

Mr Salmond resigned after losing the 2014 vote but told the BBC News channel: “By either the autumn of next year or spring 2019 we’ll know the outcome of the Brexit talks because it has to go to all of the parliaments across the EU in order to be ratified.

“We will also know what the Scottish Government has to say following the conversations they’ve been having in Europe in terms of what the alternative for Scotland is.

“When these two options are put before the Scottish people I’ve got absolutely no doubt there will be a resounding vote in favour of independence and keeping that 1,000-year long European connection that Scotland as a European nation has had.”

Bertie Armstrong, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, said: “The focus of the fishing industry is entirely on ensuring we free ourselves from the straitjacket of the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), which forces us to give away to other EU countries almost 60% of the fish in our waters.

“Any constitutional arrangement under which we would continue to be bound by the CFP would be unacceptable to the industry.”

Democratic Unionist Party deputy leader Nigel Dodds said it would leave a black hole in Scotland’s finances and bring about economic consequences far worse than any of the dire predictions made before the EU referendum.

“This is another prime example of opportunistic nationalism seizing an opportunity and attempting to exploit it for their own narrow ends.”

The Scottish Socialist Party backs independence but does not think the EU should be the main issue of another campaign.

Spokesman Colin Fox said: “The Scottish Socialist Party voted to Remain in June 2016 but we did so only as the lesser of two evils.

“The EU is an anti-democratic bureaucracy based in Brussels, utterly beholden to Europe’s neo-liberal corporate elite. We voted to Remain only because Brexit was worse, offering a xenophobic cocktail of Little Englander bigotry and backwardness.

“We believe the majority of Remain voters in Scotland felt the same way.

“As far as we are concerned, the EU is not the issue to win Indyref2. That victory can only be achieved by persuading Scotland’s working-class majority they will be economically, socially and politically better off with self-determination.”

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon, speaking at Defence questions in the Commons, outlined Scotland’s major role in the UK’s armed forces.

He said: “Let us be very clear, Scotland is getting all of the Royal Navy’s submarines.

“It is getting a major army base, growing at Leuchars, and is getting huge investment at Lossiemouth, with an additional Typhoon squadron and the deployment of our new maritime patrol aircraft.

“Scotland plays a huge part in the defence of the United Kingdom.”

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