The Blog

Featuring fresh takes and real-time analysis from HuffPost's signature lineup of contributors

David Knowles Headshot

If I Were a Scottish Nationalist I Would Be Very Worried

Posted: Updated:

If I were a Scottish nationalist, not one of the unthinking trolls who clog up the internet with cries of 'freedom!' and 'Westminster rule', but a thoughtful, intelligent person who genuinely believed that the lot of ordinary Scots would be vastly improved through separation from the United Kingdom, I would be extremely worried.

I would be worried for many reasons but the main one is simple; the severe limitations of the SNP and its leaders.

Alex Salmond is frequently lauded as one of the canniest and shrewdest politicians around. He led his party to a stunning election victory in 2011, defying the polls in the process, and, 80 years after the formation of the SNP, has got the referendum his party craved.

He is easily the most recognisable political figure in Scotland and despite the best efforts of his detractors, the most effective of its operators. The polls in the independence referendum are moving, 'yes' is slowly gaining momentum. Salmond's hour seems to be at hand.

So why would I be worried?

Simply put, the SNP's behaviour in regards to Scotland, the rest of the UK and the EU is, at best, blunt and uncompromising and at its worst childish, stubborn and dangerously simplistic.

It would be easy to take, as an example, the White Paper that the Scottish government published at the end of 2013. Held up as the definitive 'guide' to an independent Scotland it reads more like a Christmas wish-list (replete with errors, e.g the confusion between 'institutions' and 'assets') than a serious, grounded plan of separation.

The row over currency is almost a textbook example of the Scottish government's weaknesses. The SNP's open threats about defaulting on Scottish debt, its refusal to countenance the idea that the UK government might not be bluffing and the absence of a credible plan B is insulting to Scots, dangerous to the Scottish economy and naive in its estimation of Westminster's resolve. Scottish voters deserve better.

What would worry me further is the fact that the Scottish government's positions are repeatedly on the wrong side of international law, as Professor Adam Tomkins has convincingly and lucidly argued. (notesfromnorthbritain.wordpress.com)

What about the EU? Salmond and his party express a clear and understandable desire to enter the EU as soon as possible after a 'yes' vote. It is here, in their European policy, that the SNP's naivety on the international stage shines through.

It is true to say that Scotland's position regarding the EU after independence would be unprecedented in modern European politics, so perhaps the SNP's initial position that entrance would be automatic is understandable. However, it is precisely because this situation is unprecedented that an independent Scotland's entrance into the EU would have to be negotiated!

Unknowns abound. For example it may be that Scotland would have to adopt the euro which would make their plan of currency union with London rather tricky. It could be that Scotland would have to enter the Schengen agreement which would raise a whole host of issues regarding the border with the rest of the UK.

What is certain is that Scottish entrance to the EU would a lot trickier and more bruising than the SNP hope. It is difficult to imagine countries like Spain, with its large and vocal Basque and Catalan communities, waving Scottish membership through no questions asked. What kind of precedent would that set! Jose Manuel Barroso made it clear when he said it would be 'extremely difficult' for an independent Scotland to join the EU.

All of this is to say that the issue of EU membership is not as easy and straightforward as the SNP imagine it to be. Their naive vision of the future is perilously dependent on an awful lot of other states and organisations realigning their own interests to suit the whims and fancies of the Scottish government.

You would have thought that, considering the formidable obstacles in the way of the SNP's dreams the party would be very careful not to upset or worry potential allies and partners on the European stage. Astonishingly, the Scottish government have done the exact opposite. Last week Alex Salmond stated that a refusal of entrance to the EU would lead to 'the fishing fleets of 12 countries being denied any access to Scottish waters and, as a consequence, their access to Norwegian waters, which is also dependent on Scottish access.'

This is not nuanced or subtle diplomacy and encourages a rather depressing vision of the politics of an independent Scotland.

It is a world where Westminster is perpetually to blame for the slightest misfortune, allies and friends are alienated by blunt international threats and membership of the EU is a torturous and difficult process at the end of which the advantages of being in the EU hardly outweigh the costs of admission.

If I were a Scottish nationalist I would be extremely worried.

Around the Web

Scottish National Party: Together we can make Scotland better.

Scottish independence is winning over uncommitted, says SNP ...

Scottish Independence: SNP Plan To Scrap Trident 'Unacceptable ...

BBC News - Q&A: Scottish independence referendum - BBC.com

Scottish independence within SNP's grasp - poll - The Scotsman

Scottish independence: The Sunday Herald newspaper pledges support for 'Yes ...

Scottish Independence Poll: Businesses Think UK Government's Assessment is ...

Scottish Independence: SNP Plan To Scrap Trident 'Unacceptable For Nato ...

Independent Scotland Should Get EU Referendum, Says Ex-SNP Leader