Scotland’s First Minister is now trying to take Scotland out of the UK because more Scottish people voted to remain in the EU than they did to leave – but there is something very wrong about this. A two-million-people majority voted in the Scottish independence referendum in 2014 to go the same way as the UK. These votes are not simply wiped out by the fact that Scotland, like many constituent parts of the UK, did not on their own vote for Brexit.
So Scottish unionists who voted for Brexit are being made to feel guilty for their decision because it has further compromised the stability of the British union. But if supporting a United Kingdom means being constantly afraid to take decisions that would otherwise seem the right thing to do, like Brexit, then this is not a happy set-up. As the facts change, so will people’s minds about the Scottish union, and Nicola Sturgeon talking about ‘the will of the people’ while actively seeking to go against the will of the people will become too tiresome.
We weigh up the costs and benefits of our political decisions and when the outcome is clear we can be either pleased or disappointed. That was fairly easy to do until we were faced with four potential futures: Scotland inside both the UK and the EU, outside of both, or inside only one of either of them. This placed the politically-opinionated in a tricky situation when fighting for one belief caused another to be either at risk or unachievable, as we have just experienced.
Given how things panned out, Nicola Sturgeon’s reaction is not surprising. The sheer roar of the SNP backing has enabled her to successfully portray Brexit as an injustice committed against the whole of Scotland. But not everyone perceives it like that, and a greater percentage of SNP supporters voted to leave than Scottish Conservative voters did. Not to mention that SNP politicians still do not confront the fact that they are not offering independence if the plan is to join the EU, as a smaller state with even less influence than the UK has in the EU.
Not getting Brexit wouldn’t have been worth appeasing a deluded-seeming Nicola Sturgeon who wants to do all of the following: keep the Pound, have no border with England and stay in the EU. With this in mind, it is unsettling that people would tolerate things fundamentally at odds with their values in order to not upset the apple cart. The EU is an anti-democratic, transparency-lacking institution which is impossible to reform to any significant degree from within. The collective clout we have as EU member states on the world stage is thwarted when it comes to individual countries’ voices by the complex layers of bureaucracy, stripping us of agency and the sense that decisions and the future are in our hands.
The 80,000 pages of EU rules, regulations, directives, and laws were already hard to stomach without acknowledging the path to ‘ever closer union’ that Jean-Claude Juncker, the president of the EU commission, set forth and reiterates time and again. This is practically insurmountable while subsumed within and our future is far brighter and freer outside – where we choose to cooperate on our own terms and are not burdened by the clutches of a wasteful and inefficient EU.
On average, these reasons regarding sovereignty are why people voted for Brexit, and not because they are anti-immigration, nor because they would have regretted it had they known what the aftermath would be like. Though this is contrary to what parts of the British media would have the public believe, as they promote both the ‘regret myth’, and the idea that the Brexit vote caused the disgusting and deeply upsetting racist attacks we have seen highlighted of late.
Selected anecdotes bear no truth as, when polled, four times as many Remain voters said they were happy with the result as Leave voters were regretful. As for the perpetrators of racial abuse – they represent no one but themselves.
The initial chaotic nature of post-Brexit Britain’s inception is being abetted by Remainers’ behaviour. It is reminiscent of Yes voters after Scotland voted No to independence – especially the claims that 18-24s were “robbed” of our futures and if our turnout matched that of older groups then we would have stayed in the EU. It is as ridiculous as saying that “if the turnout of everyone who committed to staying in the UK for a few decades had matched that of those who were planning to emigrate soon then we’d have stayed in”.
That is not how a voluntary voting system in a democracy works. One could compare virtually any two groups of voters and attempt to draw conclusions but ultimately it is not relevant. Leave voters, of which many were committed and impassioned young campaigners, can take credit for placing our futures closer to our grasp.
Now we must go forth and snap up those trade deals, ensure we remain in the European Economic Area (EEA) which much of the markets’ uncertainty and expected job losses are contingent upon on leaving, and fight to maintain our outward-looking and tolerant society where we welcome people from the EU and elsewhere to our country.
This post first appeared on the Institute of Economic Affairs’ Blog, on Wednesday 29th June 2016.