OVER the past few years, cabinets have been reshuffled and UK prime ministers have come and gone. But in all the worst regards, there has been remarkable continuity in Westminster.

Each and every one of the past four UK administrations was steeped in sleaze and resigned in disgrace. And all along they have consistently demonstrated their unwillingness to respect, understand and engage with the Scottish electorate and their democratic representatives. 

For international observers, Brexit shone a stark light on the democratic deficits and dysfunctionality of the Westminster system. Europeans, in particular, watched in disbelief as Theresa May ruled out a soft Brexit despite the narrow result of the referendum, the UK’s overall split on Brexit and Scotland and Northern Ireland’s clear vote for Remain.

READ MORE: Nine dramatic graphs reveal Brexit's negative impacts on Scotland

Exactly three years ago today, Boris Johnson imposed the hardest possible Brexit, rejecting pleas from the devolved parliament and assembly of Scotland and Wales to remain in the single market.

Liz Truss proudly boasted that she was going to ignore Scotland’s First Minister, while Rishi Sunak’s government, for the first time in the history of devolution, used a Section 35 order to block a bill that had passed in the Scottish Parliament with two thirds of votes and cross-party support. A new independence referendum, repeatedly demanded by the Scottish electorate, has been ruled out by each and every one of these UK prime ministers.

The National: Former prime minister Liz Truss

As two European citizens, we found it particularly insulting when Alister Jack, the UK Government’s Scotland Secretary, recently dismissed a poll which found that 79% of Scots would like to rejoin the European Union. “There’s no desire in Scotland to have membership of the EU,” Jack claimed, rejecting popular opinion with the ease of an autocrat.

This autocratic vibe permeates Westminster and makes it harder for many of us to feel at home in Brexit Britain, contributing to the sense that a page in history must be turned. Scotland’s self-confidence is crucial for this endeavour, but so is European solidarity and support. 

Europe for Scotland wants to play its part in strengthening both. Back in November, in the aftermath of the Supreme Court verdict, we displayed European solidarity from five European capitals. And in the coming year, we will publish a report that outlines why we think that it’s in Europe's best interest to support Scotland’s bid for independence in Europe, which we’ll then also present to European politicians. Here are a few arguments that our report will examine in detail.

Scotland’s democratic will must be respected

While the EU must respect democracy in general, as a former member state that left against its will, Scotland’s democratic wishes deserve particular respect. The most essential argument for welcoming back Scotland is the simple fact that a majority of Scots see themselves as European and have expressed this view not just in opinion polls but also at the ballot box. 

In 2016’s EU referendum, 62% of Scots voted Remain. In 2021, parties that proposed a referendum on independence and EU membership won an absolute majority of votes and seats in the Scottish Parliament. Compared to the popular mandate for Brexit, the democratic mandate for a referendum on Scotland’s future in Europe is even stronger.  

Scotland could guarantee energy security and help the EU’s transition to renewables

The war in Ukraine revealed many EU states’ dependence on Russian oil and gas. With 60% of the EU’s total oil reserves, 25% of Europe’s offshore wind and tidal power and 10% of Europe’s wave power potential, an independent Scotland could supply the EU with fossil fuels in the short term and, more significantly, Scotland’s renewable energy resources could help facilitate Europe’s energy transition in the long term, even allowing the EU to reach a proposed target of 45% renewable energy by 2030.

The National: Hornsea One offshore wind farm, 174  7 MW turbines, total capacity of 1,2 GW, area 407 km2, 120 km to Yorkshire coast, UK. https://hornseaprojectone.co.uk/

Scotland has strong democratic institutions

In 2022, the EU granted Ukraine and Moldova candidate status, honouring their democratic desire to join the European Union. However, many states that emerged after the fall of the Soviet Union have faced huge challenges when strengthening their democratic institutions and rooting out corruption. Scotland, by contrast, already has institutions in place to uphold a pluralist and stable democracy and the rule of law and would help the EU maintain high democratic standards.

Easier trade between the EU and Scotland would be mutually beneficial

Post-Brexit, Scotland’s exports have decreased by 13%, while European exports to Britain have gone down by 20%. Removing trade barriers with Scotland would hence also significantly benefit continental Europe. Scotland rejoining the single market would also facilitate trade with Northern Ireland and simultaneously put pressure on England to remove barriers to European trade.

READ MORE: What EU leaders and residents told me about Scotland's future

Free movement would make it easier to hire Scotland’s highly educated workforce

Many European companies struggle to find enough highly skilled workers and would like to reduce red tape when hiring employees from Scotland. Scotland not only boasts the most highly educated workforce in Europe but is also an English speaking nation – a huge plus as many workplaces in continental Europe operate in English.

Erasmus and Horizon would once again include Scotland

Scotland’s world-class universities have long been a magnet for European students and researchers. That’s why the EU Parliament sought to uphold Scotland’s membership in the Erasmus programme even after Brexit (however, the attempt failed in 2021). Meanwhile, the UK has not finalised its association status with innovation programme Horizon Europe. Scotland’s EU membership would once again open doors for European students and academics, while attracting more Scots to European universities.

The National: University degree grades investigation

Scotland would shift the geographical balance within the EU

When the EU tackles internal challenges or takes a stance towards foreign powers, consensus always needs to be reached. The war in Ukraine has pushed the EU’s geopolitical balance towards the east. While this is not a bad thing, Scotland’s membership would help restore a balance that shifted post-Brexit, strengthening Western Europe in general and Scandinavia and Ireland in particular, which is why Scotland’s historical friends will particularly benefit from Scotland’s swift return.

Scotland rejoining would begin to unravel the impact of Brexit

It may come as no surprise but Europeans truly dislike Brexit. Not only has it weakened the union of states that has brought peace and prosperity to the continent, but Brexit has also emboldened populists across Europe. Nothing would demonstrate the failure of Brexit more clearly to all Eurosceptics than Scotland rejoining the EU.

Scotland’s civic and inclusive nationalism can inspire Europe

This month marked the death of Tom Nairn, described by the First Minister as “one of the greatest thinkers, political theorists and intellectuals that Scotland has ever produced – and certainly one of the leading and most respected voices of civic nationalism”.

The National: Scottish political thinker/writer Tom Nairn at his home in Livingston...Picture by Stewart Attwood.

He was also among the 200 European intellectuals who launched our open letter to EU leaders in 2021. His prescient vision of an independent European Scotland shaped a form of civic and inclusive nationalism that can inspire Europe, challenging politicians that present patriotic nationalism and internationalism as binary, incompatible choices.

Scotland is one of the most ancient European nations

Scotland is and always was a proud European nation. In a recent short film we produced with writer and broadcaster Billy Kay, we celebrated the many historical ties between Scotland and Europe, examining trade links, intellectual and cultural exchange and the role Scots played in European history. Such rich history is testimony to a bond which cannot be severed. Rejoining the EU would restore Scotland to her rightful place as a sovereign nation at the heart of Europe.