Scotland Is Not Leaving the UK Anytime Soon

18/07/2016 16:09 | Updated 18 July 2016

There have been a lot of jitters lately about Scotland being on the verge of jumping out of the UK since the Brexit vote.

You hear it with Nicola Sturgeon, the steely Scottish First Minister, announced almost immediately that a second referendum 'must be, and is, on the table.' You see it from the new Prime Minister, Theresa May, dashing to Scotland with a commitment to the union. The surge of SNP memberships helps to stoke the flames.

In many ways, the Scots case of leaving the UK is rather compelling. During the last Scottish Referendum, despite a 10% margin defeat for the separatists, the central argument for staying included not losing out on the membership of the EU.

For many, having the UK being carved up to pieces (let's not even talk about Northern Ireland here) after being on the fast track of jumping out of the EU, is a pretty tough pill to swallow. So jitters from unionist can be expected.

So, for those who love the union, are we screwed?

Nope, and here is why.

The central Westminster Government won't grant approval, and there has been zero indication from PM May that suggests anything different. The Westminster Government has primacy over the Scottish Government and the UK as a whole voted to leave. Which is why Scotland cannot get any special measures with the EU that differ from the rest of the UK. Until May says yes - it's constitutionally impossible, and barring a Turkey-style coup, it will stay that way.

No cautious PM will risk additional uncertainty and everybody on the Remain side of Government officially hates referendums now. The Westminster administration will use every argument; delay and detail to avoid a referendum, an easy way is to simply repeat the words 'oh but the SNP did not win a majority at Holyrood in the last Scottish Election', that alone will work for at least another four years.

Sure, the Scottish Government can hold their own vote as an act of defiance, in a similar way to Catalonia in Spain. That comes with huge risks and minimal upside - if they lose, the journey ends and if they win, critics will denounce the lack of neutrality. Others would argue that Sturgeon should focus on economic stability instead of spending millions on a symbolic vote.

Second, the SNP core arguments are not yet developed or markedly changed from 2014, when we had the last Scottish Referendum. No solutions are currently feasible for replacing the Scottish currency, and joining the Euro, which is mandatory for new EU joiners, to bail out Greek and Italian banks is not exactly a snappy campaign slogan.

Oil price has dropped to the floor - widening a £8 billion funding gap per year, and that's assuming the rest of the UK will let Scotland have all the revenue (they won't). Combine that with the immediate loss of EU funding, no monetary policy control (as the Bank of England will control the pound) and the uncertainty in dividing the country: you have yourself a perfect cocktail for a financial crisis...

The immediate mess from the Brexit win has been a cautious reminder of what could happen in the immediate aftermath of an independent Scotland.

You might think Scotland will sort out the EU funding crisis by joining the EU quickly, but that won't work either. Scotland will get no special concessions aside for some warm words. They will have to go through the extremely long winded process and will be (depending who is in charge) be behind Scotland in the queue. Very stringent economic tests will need to be passed, not guaranteed without the financial muscle of oil or the tax revenues from London.

If all those fail to discourage Scotland - we have a surprising ally our side: Spain. Spain will simply shrug and veto the whole dream anyway. There is no way the Spanish will let Scotland in, as it encourages the Catalonians to break away. It's a matter of self-preservation - they care little for Scottish politics.

Finally - it's actually the First Minister. She's a smart, hardworking and very cautious politician and lacks the bluster of her predecessor. She knows she needs to win if she goes for a second referendum. She had to declare dramatically that Scotland might want another say in leaving the UK, she had no choice, her members are chopping to the bits to try again, but her story is not yet solid. Sturgeon would have preferred to dictate the process under her own terms, not external events.

Her challenge in the end - is quite simple. It's hard to weave a compelling argument of freedom as an independent Scotland when her main pitch is to rejoin an even bigger, damaged institution.