It is self-evidently essential to negotiate for Independent Scotland to remain in the EU, in advance of Brexit taking effect. But those negotiations will take time – budgetary contributions, relationship to the Euro, the Central Bank and Schengen, fisheries quotas, representation in the parliament and commission, Phare and research grants, structural and development funding, and those are only a few of a massive list of details to be settled before Independent Scotland takes its place in the EU. There is over a year of negotiation there.
But Scotland’s position becomes much more difficult if there is not a seamless transition. If when the rest of the UK withdraws, Scotland remains seated at the table as a successor member without its citizens losing that status, both the process and the substance are very much simpler than if Scotland leaves with Brexit and has to apply to rejoin. Indeed there is a respectable legal argument that in the first case Scotland’s continuing membership cannot be subject to single state veto, whereas a Scotland which is rejoining could.
The stark fact is this. Scotland cannot await the outcome of Brexit negotiations. These are certain to take up almost all of the available time between triggering of Article 50 and actual Brexit two years later. If Scotland waits, it will be too late for Independent Scotland to negotiate her own terms in time for continuing EU membership on rBrexit.
The only possible result of the petrified stalling of the SNP in the face of the obvious need for InyRef2 is that they will fail in both of their objectives. Even at the earliest the Scottish Government may call for IndyRef2 on their current plans, it will be too late. Scotland will find itself still inside the UK and outside of the EU or just about to be. They will then face the prospect of selling Independence with no guarantee that we will be allowed back in.
Caution can be good. But there are times in life where inaction, though from the best of motives, may prove disastrous. I very much fear that, if we do not move to hold Indyref2 in spring 2017, the sequence of events may mean we miss the chance for Independence for a great many decades.