domingo, 16 de outubro de 2016

‘Hard Brexit’ gives Scottish nationalists hope / VÍDEO (em baixo ) : Nicola Sturgeon announces plan for second Scottish independence referend...

Hard Brexit’ gives Scottish nationalists hope
Theresa May is ‘one of the best things to happen to our campaign since it began.’


GLASGOW — Scottish nationalism has a surprising new pin-up: Theresa May.

The British prime minister’s hardline stance on Brexit may have won friends in England. But in nationalist Glasgow — Scotland’s hulking industrial heart — it is toxic. Over the past three days at the Scottish National Party‘s conference in the city, the prospect of a “hard” Tory-led Brexit loomed everywhere and its potential boon to independence was never far from the surface.

Brexit might be anathema to Scottish nationalism, but it’s now its best hope of freedom from Westminster.

Alex Salmond, former leader of the party which runs the devolved administration in Edinburgh and holds 54 out of Scotland’s 59 seats in Westminster, has made it his life’s work to divorce Scotland from the United Kingdom and turn it into an independent country. For Salmond and those who share his vision, Brexit is a golden opportunity.

“Where we are just now is a bit like jumping off the Scott monument,” Salmond said in an interview, referring to the imposing 60-meter high landmark in Edinburgh. “We’re looking around half-way down and saying: ‘Well, it’s alright so far.’”

If [the U.K. government] go for hard Brexit, then they’ll hit the ground with one almighty thump. And that seems to be the way they are moving” — Alex Salmond

“But if [the U.K. government] go for hard Brexit, then they’ll hit the ground with one almighty thump. And that seems to be the way they are moving,” he said.

They face fierce May’s government which is determined to preserve the territorial integrity of the U.K.. Scotland’s independence aspirations, they say, were put to rest at the 2014 referendum when 55 percent of voters cast their ballots against it.

However, throughout the week in Glasgow, the fervor for ‘IndyRef2’ was palpable. The Scottish economy significantly benefits from European single market membership and at the June 23 referendum, 62 percent of voters supported the Remain camp. With May signaling a ‘hard Brexit,’ in all probability leaving the single market, Scots feel like prisoners in a car “being driven at 70 miles per hour off a fecking cliff,” one senior SNP figure said.

Though the SNP backed Remain, senior figures in the party now recognize that the harder the Brexit that May delivers, and the tougher the economic consequences for the U.K., the more likely will the Scottish people be willing to back another independence referendum.

Breaking free from the U.K., they calculate, may be their only route back into the EU and the single market.

“The case for independence is very much there,” said MP Stephen Gethins, the party’s spokesman on Europe in Westminster. “At the moment, the government in Westminster appear to be telling us this is going to be the hardest of hard exits from the European Union with a devastating effect on the economy, on jobs and benefits that we take granted. As that becomes clearer, and if the U.K. continues down its current path then the demand for independence is going to increase.”

Scotland’s popular First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who succeeded Salmond after the failed independence referendum two years ago, on Thursday fired the legislative starting gun for a second vote — to rapturous applause from the party faithful. However, her announcement only committed to publishing a consultation on a second referendum.

Not all dream of independence

While the SNP is the dominant power in Scotland, it is not all-powerful. Nor is its dream of independence universal.

A poll published by BMG Research this week showed support for independence remains where it was in 2014. And despite significant support for Remain in June, four months later the majority of Scots do not support holding a second referendum on exiting from the U.K.

SNP officials seized upon another of the poll’s findings. Asked how a ‘hard Brexit’ — taking the U.K. out of the EU single market — would affect voters’ decision on holding a second vote, 43 percent said they’d back it, 42 percent were against it and 15 percent were undecided.

“We know that Brexit will damage our economy,” Sturgeon told supporters Thursday, setting the tone for the case that the SNP will make in weeks and months to come. “Hard Brexit — removal, not just from the EU, but from the single market as well — will be disastrous.”

The independent Fraser of Allander Institute predicts that a ‘hard Brexit’ could result in the loss of 80,000 jobs in Scotland. Meanwhile, the pound continues to fall and the Bank of England has issued inflation warnings. If things go on like this, then, as Gethins calculates, the case for remaining in the U.K. might well weaken.

If the Scottish people and Scotland’s parliament do rally behind a second referendum, May will find it extremely difficult to stop it. However, re-entering the EU as an independent country may not be a straightforward option for Scotland.

‘A country leaving a country that is leaving EU’

Spain has expressed opposition and even threatened to veto Scotland’s return to the EU if it chose to break away from the U.K., mainly to discourage Catalan separatists from following suit. One senior SNP figure told POLITICO that contacts had been made with Spanish MPs, suggesting that Madrid could change its mind after Brexit gets underway.

“Spain won’t say anything until Article 50 is triggered, but after that, an independent Scotland joining the EU becomes a completely different question for Spain,” the SNP senior figure said. “We’d be a country leaving a country that was leaving the EU. That wouldn’t be setting a precedent for the Spanish situation with Catalonia, because Spain isn’t leaving the EU any time soon.”

Many in the party, including Salmond, are urging Sturgeon to be bold. The former leader likes to point out that when, in 2012, he signed an agreement with David Cameron to hold a referendum, support for independence stood at 28 percent. Within two years, it soared so high that he almost won. And that was before Brexit.

“We need to decide how we influence our lives going forward,” Michael Russell, the SNP’s Brexit minister told supporters, eager for news of the party’s intentions. “There are clearly a range of options that will meet or fail our tests. Independence is clearly one of those options.”

One option not on the table, he said, was simply “accepting” May’s vision for Brexit.

Kelly Given, a member of the SNP Youth movement, was even more blunt on Friday when she asked party delegates to vote on a motion stating that “if no viable solution to safeguard our membership as part of the U.K. exists, Scotland should prepare for a second independence referendum and seek to remain in Europe as an independent country.”

“Independence is coming, conference, and I’d like to personally thank Theresa May for her cooperation with that,” Given said. “She’s one of the best things to happen to our campaign since it began.”

The motion passed overwhelmingly.

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