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Henry McLeish: Any lingering sense of Britishness, still held by many Scots, is being severely tested

Henry McLeish: Any lingering sense of Britishness, still held by many Scots, is being severely tested

A passionate European, I am sad and intensely disappointed at the result of the EU Referendum.

Black Friday is one of the darkest days in my political life.

Any lingering sense of Britishness, still held by many Scots, is being severely tested.


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Cameron’s unnecessary adventure or gamble was always divisive, despairing and destructive but it could now prove to be disastrous for the Unity of the United Kingdom and pose a great risk to Scotland’s membership of that Union.

England has voted to leave the EU while remarkably Scotland-all 32 council areas- has voted to remain.

More significantly the constitutional or Scotland question has been reframed.

In 2014 the referendum question of “yes or no” was about remaining in the UK which of course carried with it automatic membership of the European Union. But Black Friday changed all of that.

We are now out of the EU but Scotland overwhelmingly decided to retain membership of the EU.

The debate about Scotland’s future has psychologically, constitutionally and politically moved on. This is no longer a narrow nationalist vote, an SNP issue or just another “indy ref 2” on the question of in or out of the UK.

This is about what kind of country Scotland wants to be, how we define our role in the collectivist and collaborative world of tomorrow and whether we want isolationism to triumph over internationalism and interdependence. All of the political parties in Scotland have to address these questions.

So, next time round Scotland will have to decide between two different futures, either being in the EU or in the UK. For Scots black Friday confirmed you cannot have both. This is the choice that Scots will have to make. 

Scotland also has to factor in the very complex web of issues and thinking that led to the Brexit victory. Much of the toxic Euro debate had very little to do with the EU but more to do with the diverging politics of Scotland and England, growing populism and a Trump like embrace of trickle down racism, zenophobia and English nationalism.

None of this was evident in Scotland but they were certainly an intrinsic part of the English debate. And to what extent was disillusionment with the two main parties, grudge and grievance politics, cynicism of elites and angry at “everything” voters, part of the England out campaign?

The politics of Scotland and England are diverging at an accelerating rate. This is an important new reality.

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