Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
Tel. +44 (0)20 7287 4414
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.
The Bruges Group spearheaded the intellectual battle to win a vote to leave the European Union and, above all, against the emergence of a centralised EU state.

Bruges Group Blog

Spearheading the intellectual battle against the EU. And for new thinking in international affairs.



Everybody in England, Scotland and Wales has the right to raise their voice on the issue of national unity, against our country's being broken up. A minority cannot take a decision which would impact on the whole of Britain. Should all of us in the rest of the UK have no say in whether our country is to be broken apart? The 2018 British Social Attitudes survey found that "it remains the case that a large majority (85%) of people in England would like Scotland to remain part of the UK …" Should that be ignored?

Some claim that it is hypocritical of the British government to deny Scotland the right to leave the UK when that government has exercised the right to leave the EU. But the two choices are quite different. The EU is an international organisation comprising 27 member states. The UK is a single, united nation-state with more than 300 years of shared history.

There is no legal oppression or subjection of Scotland. There is equal protection for all under the law. As Alex Salmond acknowledged in his foreword to 'Your Scotland – Your Referendum - A Consultation Document', "Scotland is not oppressed and we have no need to be liberated." Scotland had 9 per cent of MPs in the UK Parliament (59 out of 650) but only 0.7 per cent of Members of the European Parliament (6 out of 766). In which union did Scotland have more influence?

There is no democratic mandate for separation. The democratic mandate is for unity.

A devolved electoral process like the election to Holyrood cannot deliver a mandate for the reserved matter of the Union of Scotland and England. The Scotland Act 1998 stated that 'the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England' was a matter reserved to the UK Parliament.

Another referendum would relate to the Union, so holding such a referendum was beyond Holyrood's legal powers. The SNP could not legally hold a referendum on dissolving the Union. Yet some in the SNP want to call such a legally meaningless referendum, a course which Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly rejected. The UK Parliament has the sole democratic mandate in our country. Only the UK Parliament could have a mandate to hold such a referendum, and the UK Parliament's mandate is to keep our nation united. The Conservative Party stood on a manifesto that ruled out another referendum and won an 80-seat majority, so it had a mandate. A fortiori, Holyrood could not legally declare Scotland independent. The SNP has no right either in national law or international law to make a unilateral declaration of independence.

In November 2020, the SNP claimed that Prime Minister Johnson's pledge to block a new referendum was 'undemocratic' and 'straight out of the Trump playbook'. The Trump playbook was presumably the one where he refused for a month or two to accept the result of the free and fair vote in the 2020 US election. The SNP is following Trump's example because it has always refused to accept the result of the free and fair referendum of 2014. What is democratic about trying to overturn the result of a majority vote, a vote that the SNP's leaders had pledged in writing (the Edinburgh Agreement) to 'respect'?

The people of the UK do not want our country destroyed by an SNP which refuses to accept any vote in which it is defeated. Ms Sturgeon demands that the British government 'respect' the vote for the SNP. When will she respect the Scottish people's 2014 vote to stay in the UK? When will she respect the British people's 2016 vote to leave the EU? In 2016 Scotland voted as part of the UK and so is bound by our majority vote to leave. Yet the SNP wants Scotland to leave Britain to merge into a much larger political union where Scotland would have less wealth, less influence, and would have to join the destructive euro.

Years of austerity

The SNP now says it wants to keep the pound when it joins the EU. But a separate Scotland could not keep the pound, the EU would not allow a new member to be in an economic union with a non-EU member. Scotland would have to join the euro. The SNP wants Scotland to adopt the failed currency which crushed Greece and Portugal.

Opinion polls suggest that only 18 per cent of Scotland's people believe an independent Scotland should join the euro. With either the pound or the euro, a separate Scotland could not control its own taxation and monetary policy. Inside the euro, without its own currency, a separate Scotland could not set its own interest rates, print money or devalue. A separate Scotland would have no single market and no banking union with the rest of Britain. It would have a huge deficit, with no control of the currency in which it issued its debt. As the SNP admits, it would suffer ten years of austerity. It would have little revenue, no rebate, and no veto.

Scotland trades more with the rest of the UK than with the rest of the world. 60 per cent of Scotland's exports go to the rest of the UK, 18 per cent go to the EU, 22 per cent to the rest of the world. A hard border with England would mean trade barriers with England, harming both. An unnecessary new international border where none has existed for centuries would make the rest of the UK a foreign country. When Scotland exports far more to the UK Single Market than to the EU's Single Market, which Single Market should Scotland seek to stay in? What would Scotland 'win' by seceding? A decade of austerity, at best. Far less influence in the European parliament than it has at Westminster. Loss of its fishing industry, given back to Brussels.

Opportunities ahead

Leaving the EU gives us the opportunity to strengthen our union by investing in skills and industry. We have got back powers over our fishing waters, our shipbuilding industry, farming, environmental and employment policy and others. Instead of passing these powers onto the devolved administrations and adding to the fragmentation of Britain, we must use them to strengthen the integration and effectiveness of our country and bring us all closer together.

After the pandemic, we need to do things differently, as the vote for Brexit expressed. We need something like postwar reconstruction.

Scotland's and Wales' essential interests will be secure in the Union, far more than they ever were in the EU. As part of an independent Britain, Scotland and Wales will thrive. A continued and renewed Union is better for us all. Our unity enriches us all, economically, culturally and morally. 

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Director : Robert Oulds
Tel: 020 7287 4414
Chairman: Barry Legg
The Bruges Group
246 Linen Hall, 162-168 Regent Street
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Founder President :
The Rt Hon. the Baroness Thatcher of Kesteven LG, OM, FRS 
Vice-President : The Rt Hon. the Lord Lamont of Lerwick,
Chairman: Barry Legg
Director : Robert Oulds MA, FRSA
Washington D.C. Representative : John O'Sullivan CBE
Founder Chairman : Lord Harris of High Cross
Head of Media: Jack Soames