In the Brexit referendum last month, Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay a part of the EU, but the whole UK voted to leave. Scotland's ruling nationalist party SNP defends that the country cannot be taken out of Europe against people’s will. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has called for another referendum amid the 2014 one on independence, when Scotland voted by 55% in favour of its permanence to remain a part of the UK. The newly elected UK Prime Minister Theresa May has made her first official visit to any other country, to Scotland, in an attempt to cool tension over a potential breakup of Britain.
To better understand the consequences of a break up and discuss any possible future political and economic scenarios, I spoke to Dr Thomas Carl Lundberg, a professor at the University of Glasgow and an expert on Scottish-EU politics.
Is it still premature to address the question of an independent Scotland and its relation to the EU?
Yes, I think the SNP #Government will wait to see what kind of 'Brexit' we have before deciding on another independence referendum. If we end up with some kind of close relationship (like an EEA-style one) with the EU, I think a Scottish independence referendum is unlikely.
Do you think the EU should push for accelerating talks with Scotland over EU membership or is it an ‘internal’ issue that should be firstly resolved within the UK?
It looks like the EU officially is not getting involved in this, seeing it as an internal matter, which I think is correct. It would probably be wise for the EU to prepare for the possibility of Scottish independence, however, in case things move in that direction..
What political and economic benefits or disadvantages would EU membership bring to Scotland if it was to join the EU?
It would be hard for a small state like an independent Scotland to thrive economically unless it has a significant, close trading relationship with its closest neighbours (EU or EEA). The disadvantage is that Scotland would be pulled into the potential for deeper integration, though if it inherits the UK's opt-outs on the currency and Schengen it might be less of a problem, at least initially.
Which sectors would be most affected? Oil & Gas and fishery are bound to remain central in Scotland's economy?
Oil & Gas is not doing well now and would be sensitive to whatever happens with Scotland's relationship with the EU, while for fisheries, those in the sector in Scotland tend to be against EU and EEA membership. If went with the Norwegian example, would mean staying outside the EU fishery policy.
Would it cause a domino effect in other parts of Europe, for instance Catalonia?
For Catalonia, the nationalist community will probably try to get something from an independent Scotland, but I don't know how far it will go because the situation in Spain is different I don't actually think the Spanish government would stand in the way of an independent Scotland if the UK government accepted it..
What’s the most likely short-term scenario?
There are many variables depending on the type of Brexit 'hard' or 'soft', economic developments in the UK and the EU, internal politics in England and in Scotland, the prospects for new trade relationships, etc. So, I really wouldn't want to speculate. If it's a soft Brexit, which I think many Conservatives will want, then we'll end up with an EEA- or Swiss-style relationship with the EU, which would probably mean immigration would continue as now from the EU. This would enrage many people who voted to leave and would help UKIP, which is already poised to do well out of the current disarray in the Labour Party. Much of the vote to leave had to do with people feeling 'left behind' by globalisation and 'europeanisation' and betrayed by the establishment. A soft Brexit deal will intensify that feeling and could have major consequences for British politics.