Sturgeon discusses future of country at the Scottish Parliament
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Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon declared a second independence referendum is the “will of the country”, after the Scottish National Party (SNP) won a fourth consecutive term in power last week. The SNP and Scottish Greens won a total of 72 seats in Holyrood on a record turnout for the Scottish Parliament elections of 63 percent – 10 percent higher than on average for a Scottish Parliament election. In the last parliamentary term, the Greens and SNP formed a pro-independence majority, with the former supporting the minority government on key votes including the budget.
There is now the possibility that they may form a coalition government in this parliament, which could increase the pressure on the UK Government to agree to a second referendum.
After the vote, though, Prime Minister Boris Johnson has only said the focus should be on the Covid recovery and not on another independence referendum.
His Government is clear that the UK’s constitution is reserved for the Westminster Parliament.
Ahead of the 2014 referendum, the two governments signed the Edinburgh Agreement.
This time around Ms Sturgeon is pressing ahead regardless of the UK Government’s wishes.
As a constitutional stand off appears to be round the corner, unearthed reports suggest Ms Sturgeon should think twice about leaving the UK.
The experience of the “Velvet Divorce” between Slovakia and the Czech Republic is often cited by Scottish independence advocates as a possible model for their own breakup with Britain.
Like many Scottish nationalists, advocates of Slovak independence wanted to break away from their larger, richer partner, in part so they could pursue more interventionist economic policies.
However, in 2014, a spokesman for the Scottish Labour Party pointed out that it “took 3,000 treaties to agree the breakup of Czechoslovakia”.
Moreover, former Labour shadow Scotland Office Minister Willie Bain cast a shadow over the SNP’s plans to keep the pound in case of independence.
He said: “Alex Salmond has said Scotland could just keep using the pound but the reality is that currency union is almost impossible to have without political union and that is what the Czechs and Slovaks quickly discovered.”
The Treasury meanwhile pointed to figures which showed that protectionism grew between the Czechs and Slovaks in the first decade of separation.
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Between 1993 and 2003 Slovakian exports to the Czech Republic had fallen from 42 percent of all exports to 13 percent while Czech Republic exports to Slovakia fell from 22 percent of total exports to eight percent.
Currently 59 percent of Scottish exports are to the rest of the UK.
A Treasury spokesman also added that the euro had suffered because of a lack of political union to support currency union.
He said: “The lesson of the eurozone crisis is that you cannot have monetary union without significant fiscal and political integration.
“The UK is already one of the most successful monetary and political unions in the world and Scotland is better off as part of that.”
The former President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus, who was instrumental in breaking up Czechoslovakia, also advised against a currency union, even if temporary.
Asked about the prospect of Scottish independence at an event in the House of Commons in 2014, the former President said it was possible to break a country up in “a smooth and friendly way” but pointed out that Slovakia and the Czech Republic had failed to maintain currency union.
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After the countries separated in 1993, it took just 38 days for the currencies to have to be separated even though the union was meant to last at least six months, at which point the smaller country, Slovakia, was forced to devalue.
Mr Klaus, who is also an economist, said: “We were afraid of the loss of our economic relations. So we decided to keep the customs union, we decided to keep the free trade area and we wanted to keep the monetary union.
“I always argue that I am an expert on the dismantling of monetary unions. We wanted to keep Czechslovak (Koruna) for the future but after six, seven weeks we understood that it is really impossible.”
He added: “No-one believes me in Europe but to separate the two currencies was a simple administrative thing to do. The separation of the currency was a non-event. People don’t remember the next day. Nothing happened.”
He also said that during his time overseeing the separation of the countries he had wanted to “make the split as smooth and as friendly as possible which is something that we did”.
He insisted: “We called our divorce a velvet divorce. It is better to have a velvet divorce than to live together in an unfriendly way.”
Mr Klaus made his comments at an event in Westminster, where he was launching the English translation of his eurosceptic book ‘Europe: Shattering the Illusions’.
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