Whatever the outcome of the Brexit negotiations it will have a huge impact on Scotland. The Scottish people, like those in Northern Ireland, voted by a large majority to remain but their democratic decision has been ignored in Westminster. A group of those interested in how it will work gathered in London for a conference organised by The Federal Trust and the Scottish Centre on European Relations where they were able to hear and to question a variety of speakers. Many blamed the continuing uncertainty on a lack of informed and sensible leadership: Theresa May lacks the charisma of Nicola Sturgeon, some pointed out.
Others blamed a media largely hostile to Europe that fed readers a non-stop diet of misinformation. “It’s not ‘fake’ news,” former BBC editor Alistair Burnett told delegates, “it’s simply lies.” Few would disagree, but with only two weeks to go to the official divorce it’s perhaps a little late to do much about it. Scotland would appear doomed to leave, despite an estimated 66% being opposed to that. It was pointed out that Scotland recently received some £6-billion from the EU’s Social Fund to help encourage equality. There are fears that outside the union, Britain may drift towards a less-caring US-style of looking at minorities and age and gender issues.
There were no conclusions. One speaker, Paul Schmidt, who is Secretary-General of the Austrian Society for European Politics, said some in Europe will miss Britain for the professionalism of its civil service, but they won’t miss the way the UK has persistently blocked progress, especially on social issues. But the European Union will carry on, with or without its most prickly and unpredictable member. For Britain, the outlook is less rosy. And for Scotland, a chaotic Brexit may well bring closer another referendum on independence from the United Kingdom.