Watching and listening to the verbal sparring between Boris Johnson and Jeremy Hunt to become the Conservative Party leader and the next British prime minister — and the pro and con Brexit arguments — in Galashiels, Scotland, while enjoying the annual Gala Day celebrations, a horse riding event commemorating the 1337 killing by Gala lads of English raiders in a field of wild plums, is a political head-twister. The ceremony of sod and stone (sasine) is enacted and red and white roses mingled on a base of thistles to commemorate the marriage of James IV of Scotland and Margaret Tudor of England.
The event felt surreal with Brexit looming on the horizon and the Scots now debating whether to leave the United Kingdom and stay in the EU.
A survey of Conservative Party members last week disclosed that 63% would be willing to see Scotland leave the UK and 59% would be willing to sacrifice Northern Ireland, in order for Brexit to be delivered.
The Scots rejected independence by 55% to 45% in the 2014 independence referendum vote. Scots also voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU in the 2016 Brexit vote.
The Scottish National Party, which supports independence, has already drawn up legislation for a second referendum on independence it wants to hold.
The British Foreign Office has withdrawn support for Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon’s overseas trips because she was using them to promote Scottish independence.
The unwinding of the 1707 union of England and Scotland that created Great Britain will have far-reaching ramifications. Scotland accounts for about a third of the UK’s land mass and 8% of its population. It is also the base for the UK’s submarine-borne nuclear forces — like the Ukraine is to Russia! Its whisky, shipbuilders and oil are also core ingredients of British industry and economy.
Brexit would force Scotland to choose between its 50 billion pounds exports to the rest of the UK to a mere 15 billion pounds to the EU.
A Panelbase poll of 1,024 Scots over the weekend found that 53% would back independence if Boris Johnson becomes prime minister.
Johnson, the clear frontrunner to succeed Teresa May at 10 Downing, whose standing in the polls dropped dramatically this week because of a domestic argument with his live-in partner, would encourage Scotland’s exit from the UK.
Johnson penned a poem while editor of the Spectator in which he described Scots as a “verminous race.” He has joked in the past that the SNP vote in the UK parliament would be “Ajockalypse Now” and earlier this month unveiled tax cutting plans that ignored the fact that income tax powers have been devolved to Scotland.
Former Prime Minister Gordon Brown, a Scott, wrote a scathing Op Ed piece in the Daily Mail a couple days ago in which he warned that Boris Johnson is the biggest risk to the stability of the United Kingdom in more than 300 years. He said Johnson is the “best recruitment sergeant for Scottish independence they could ever wish for.”
Brown went on to say: “But Scottish nationalism, plus English nationalism, plus Welsh nationalism, plus Ulster unionism, does not add up to a United Kingdom — even one united only in name. This would be a house divided that could not stand.”
The Scots are angry and unhappy about the English and their tumultuous history. The Gala Day commemoration of the local lads killing the English invaders being a timely reminder. Stay tuned for another back to the future moment.