STEPHEN DAISLEY: Splitting up the Union would be even harder than quitting the EU
The Scots are so sceptical of Boris Johnson that, whatever he does, the question is not whether he will damage the Union but by how much.
And so his eleventh-hour Brexit deal was not met with quite as many sighs of relief north of the border as it was in Westminster.
No fewer than 62 per cent of Scottish voters supported the Remain camp in the 2016 referendum and now they find themselves forced out of the EU by Leave voters in England.
This can only increase the appetite for independence, which is already running high.
The Scots are so sceptical of Boris Johnson that, whatever he does, the question is not whether he will damage the Union but by how much
Of the 22 opinion polls on the subject published since January, 18 have shown a majority in favour of secession, with the most recent one recording a hefty 58 per cent backing a breakaway.
And one of the problems Boris has is that, while his deal is unlikely to win him any friends in Scotland, it could push some away.
The fishing communities that stud Scotland’s north-east coast – most prominently in Peterhead and Fraserburgh – are fiercely proud of their industry and were looking forward to a deal that would restore their ancestral fishing rights.
These areas are where many of Scotland’s Leave votes originated and have formed the spine of the Conservatives’ revived fortunes in recent elections.
Scottish Tory leader Douglas Ross won his Moray constituency, home to busy harbours at Cullen and Buckie, in no small part thanks to Brexit-minded fishermen.
Among these trawlermen, the Common Fisheries Policy is spoken of with a vehemence that would make Nigel Farage blanch.
Under the Brexit deal, 25 per cent of EU boats’ fishing rights in UK waters will be transferred to the British fleet over five and a half years.
By JUNE 2026, it’s estimated that UK boats will have access to an extra £145million of fishing quota every year.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation says it is ‘hugely disappointing’ that Downing Street reneged on red lines such as zonal quota shares, which would have given the UK a much higher proportion of the quotas.
The Scottish National Party knows how to win votes in these communities and its leader Nicola Sturgeon was not slow to come out fighting.
‘While we do not yet have full details on the nature of the deal, it appears major promises made by the UK Government on fisheries have been broken and the extent of these broken promises will become apparent to all very soon,’ she said on Thursday.
The issue is especially important now with a Scottish Parliament election on the cards for May. Sturgeon is widely predicted to sweep to victory and will argue she has a mandate for another independence referendum, which – as we have seen – she would be in a good position to win.
Boris Johnson’s eleventh-hour Brexit deal was not met with quite as many sighs of relief north of the border as it was in Westminster
But all the signs are that a divorce from the UK would be far more painful than splitting with the EU.
While a fifth of Scottish exports go to the EU, 60 per cent of its exports go to the rest of the UK.
Putting any impediments in the path of this lucrative trade would be economic suicide but if an independent Scotland was admitted to the EU it would be forced to deal with its biggest trading partner under the terms of the new Brexit deal.
Then there is the question of free movement. It’s hard to see how Scotland’s 5.4million citizens could be permitted to work or settle in the UK without extending the same right to the 446million European nationals who would have the right to reside in Scotland.
Brexit may have boosted the Scottish campaign for independence but it has also turned into a political minefield.