We are ‘in uncharted territory with, effectively, a blank sheet of paper’ in front of us – and that means ‘there might be’ a way that Scotland could stay in both the UK and the EU after Brexit, Nicola Sturgeon said on the Andrew Marr Show this morning. So England and Wales would get what they want and Scots what they want – except for the two-in-five Scots who voted to Leave. But Ms Sturgeon had no suggestion as to how such a plan might work in practice, because it wouldn’t work in practice. Scotland voted in 2014 to stay in the UK, and the UK voted in June to leave the EU. And EU countries including Spain and France don’t want to give Scotland the choice to stay in.
Ms Sturgeon’s idea is a great one – if you’re a nationalist. You get to break away from London (or Madrid) while pooling risk and resources with the EU rather than your nation state. But for this very reason, countries worried about their secessionists (like Spain) and their allies (like France) will make sure the conversation does not even start. And as the EU works in vetoes, they will crush the very idea of the EU acting in any way to encourage the breakup of nation states. That’s why Donald Tusk made clear to Ms Sturgeon recently that he would not so much as receive her in Brussels.
As Iain Martin argued in The Spectator recently, Sturgeon is involved in a giant bluff: the SNP needs to dangle the prospect of a second referendum to stay in business. It needs to tell itself (and its followers) that success lies just around the corner. But the noises coming from Madrid, Paris and even Brussels suggest that Sturgeon’s plan to stay in the EU has already hit a dead end.