Nicola Sturgeon’s ill-judged EU strategy is riddled with misleading errors

Nicola Sturgeon’s ill-judged EU strategy is riddled with misleading errors

Watching the live stream on the Press & Journal website of Nicola Sturgeon’s statement at Bute House yesterday, I had a deep sense of déjà vu. Literally hours after the EU referendum result last year – before all the votes were even in, before anyone had any time to contemplate or reflect on an extraordinary, quite historic result – Nicola Sturgeon was in front of those cameras in Bute House seizing her Nationalist opportunity to crowbar Scottish Independence back onto the political agenda. I felt like I was watching that opportunist, ill-judged speech again; in fact I think the dress was even the same colour. Alas it was worse than déjà vu – it was groundhog day.

The pursuit of Independence “transcends” all else, as the First Minister has described it. It transcends Brexit, transcends oil, transcends national wealth; it even transcends the opportunity of the next generation to get a quality education.

In confirming that she plans to stage yet another referendum on Scottish Independence between Autumn 2018 and Spring 2019, Nicola Sturgeon has betrayed the people of Scotland by putting her Nationalist interest ahead of the national interest.

And her speech was riddled with misleading arguments that would make even Sean Spicer blush.

First, there is the elephant in the room: the question of Europe. Nicola Sturgeon is imposing a referendum based upon the question of an independent Scotland regaining/retaining EU membership (she doesn’t even know which option she favours, if any).

This is a flawed strategy from the start. The Nationalist movement is deeply divided on this issue: 400,000 SNP supporters voted Leave in the EU referendum last June. Nicola Sturgeon has since airbrushed their existence from history in order to further her grievance argument that Brexit is a hard-right wing Tory-imposed apocalypse.

But the fact of the matter is that huge numbers of Scottish Nationalists do not want to see a raft of powers over important Scottish issues being shipped back off to Brussels. For them, an independent Scotland with EU membership is not independence! Former SNP Deputy Leader Jim Sillars encapsulates this position: he has accused Nicola Sturgeon of behaving ‘hysterically’ in her grandstanding over Brexit and has stated that he would no longer vote for independence.

Second, there was the typical over-inflation of the importance of the EU single market to Scotland – conveniently side-stepping that Scotland’s biggest trading partner is… the rest of the UK.

In 2015, Scotland sent 63% of exports to the rest of the UK, compared with just 16% to the EU. Scotland’s exports to the rest of the UK increased by 74.1% between 2002 and 2015, whereas exports to the EU increased by a mere 7.9%. And yet, the SNP would readily slam down a hard economic border between Scotland and the rest of the UK, in order to remain inside the EU’s single market.

The scourge of Nationalism has clouded the First Minister’s already questionable economic judgement. The SNP are so fixated with independence that they would gladly hit the self-destruct button to achieve it. Meanwhile, the Scottish people have realised that it simply doesn’t make sense to prioritise our membership of the EU over the UK.

Then there was the claim that the UK Government is planning a ‘devolutionary power-grab’ to remove decision-making from Holyrood. This fallacy has been cooked up in the ever-productive Nationalist propaganda machine. The reality is much different. The Prime Minister has readily reiterated her commitment that no powers currently held by the devolved administrations will be removed from them.
Indeed, the Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, has frequently restated the UK Government’s intention to take a ‘devolutionist approach’ to the repatriation of powers post-Brexit. This means more powers for Scotland after Brexit, not less! I find it extraordinary that a Nationalist Government would do everything in its power to stop new powers coming to the Scottish Parliament and is actively taking us to the brink of a referendum to ensure these decisions are taken by Eurocrats in Brussels rather than MSPs at Holyrood.

Moreover, Nicola Sturgeon has asserted a flawed mandate to hold a second referendum. There are two fatal defects in this line of argument. The First Minister has herself said that she would not have the right to hold a referendum ‘without strong evidence that a significant number of those who voted No have changed their minds’. Today, this ‘strong evidence’ is, at best, illusive and, at worst, non-existent.

The second fundamental flaw lies at the foot of the former First Minister, Alex Salmond. He was categorical on the campaign trail in 2014 about the referendum being a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’. I have often pondered what exactly Mr. Salmond meant by ‘once-in-a-generation. Well, now I know: an SNP generation amounts to a mere 907 days. That’s 907 days between 18th September 2014 – when Scotland voted categorically (by 55%-45%) to remain part of the United Kingdom – and 13th March 2017. The SNP’s so-called ‘mandate’ is entirely void of substance!

Perhaps most alarming of all, however, is the arrogant rhetoric coming from the Nationalists. ‘Game on’ said one senior strategist, for example.

I echo the sentiments of the UK Government: ‘Politics is not a game’. The lives of our people are not a game. The prosperity of our businesses and industries is not a game. The security of people’s jobs is not a game. The future of our country is not a game. Is it too much to ask that this SNP Government put grievance politics and constitutional game-playing to rest, and instead focus on improving crucial public services for the people of Scotland?

Apparently so. The SNP are not ‘stronger for Scotland’; they are only ever interested in being stronger for the SNP.

In truth, we all knew this was coming as the SNP have a tunnel vision obsession with independence. But there should be no fear or trepidation. The values and virtues of the Union won in 2014, and they will prevail again. The SNP will disseminate divisive rhetoric as it always does, but this will have short shrift with the Scottish people when faced with the economic abyss and uncertainty of independence.

Nicola Sturgeon may have fired the starting gun on a second referendum, but it will be the SNP who take the bullet.