In her address to the SNP campaign conference, the First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has stressed that independence is one of SNP’s tasks at hand.
When the Covid-19 crisis is over, Scots will have the right “to decide their own future in an independence referendum”, according to Sturgeon, leaving the economic hardships imposed by Brexit behind.
“Compared with EU membership, Brexit, and in particular the hard Brexit the Tories have imposed on us, will make us poorer and put pressure on budgets for some time to come,” Sturgeon said.
The price of not being independent:— Olaf Stando (@olafdoesstuff) March 30, 2021
✂️ Decade of Tory austerity
⚠️ Nuclear weapons imposed on the Clyde
❌ Scotland dragged out of the EU against our will@NicolaSturgeon is right. Independence is not a distraction from recovery, it's essential to securing the recovery we want. pic.twitter.com/dvh7yFXpf0
As an EU member Scotland would go back to enjoying the benefits of its membership, such as the EU-wide freedom of movement and frictionless trade across the EU. However, a report by the Institute for Government (IfG) has suggested that since “Scotland exports substantially more to the rest of the UK than to the EU” – trade barriers with the UK would be more costly for Edinburgh.
Sturgeon told the SNP campaign conference on 29 March that Brexit has been a destructive force and will continue to hit economy and jobs hard. The IfG report suggested that EU membership for Scotland inevitably disrupt trade with the UK, Scotland’s crucial economic partner.
Not Enough Time
IfG theorized that the path from London to Brussels will take Scotland close to a decade. The transition will be complicated by a hard land border, a first for Britain in three centuries.
“After more than three centuries as part of a single market, Scotland and England would find themselves on either side of a hard economic border,” the report said.
To gain independence Scotland would have to undergo two sets of negotiations – with the UK government on the terms of independence, and with the EU on the terms of accession.
“The UK took nearly five years to finalise its exit from the EU. It could take easily as long, if not longer, for Scotland to complete its separation from the UK while also building the necessary institutions to become a fully sovereign state. The EU accession process could then take at least two years on top of that, based on how long the accession process has lasted for previous new joiners,” the report said.
The Scottish Parliament elections are usually held every four years, with the next vote set to take place on 6 May. Given the time frame of negotiating its independence with Westminster and regaining membership of the EU, Scotland risks running off course if the SNP or another party pursuing a similar agenda fails to get elected as the governing party at least twice in a row.