How to lose the second Scottish referendum in five easy steps

Sean O'Grady
Nicola Sturgeon takes questions at First Minister's Questions inside the Scottish Parliament on March 16, 2017: Getty

Wind the Scots up

One of PG Wodehouse’s most memorable and often repeated quips were: “It has never been hard to tell the difference between a Scotsman with a grievance and a ray of sunshine.” Scotswomen too, and not just Nicola Sturgeon. There is nothing that annoys them more – and understandably – than being told what to do by a bunch of English Tories.

An independence vote is one thing, but if Sturgeon outwits Theresa May and turns the argument into an issue of Scottish pride, then the Prime Minister will have unwittingly hastened the end of what she calls this “precious, precious” partnership. And it looks as though that is exactly what has happened. Eventually they will get their referendum, and the angrier they are, the more likely they are to vote to leave the UK.

Then patronise them

When the English and their Scottish allies say that Scotland really isn’t rich enough to be an independent state, it is both insulting and nonsensical. Virtually any nation, and certainly one in the advanced West, can make itself prosperous by pursuing sensible policies, as everyone knows.

The irony now is that if Scotland did manage to stay in the EU and/or the Single Market, it would immediately be at a competitive advantage when compared to England (and Wales and Northern Ireland, assuming they’re sticking with the remaining UK).

Edinburgh could become a more vibrant financial hub, for example, if the City of London begins to falter. Manufacturing, and much else, could also shift to Scotland, and her agriculture and rural services form roads to schools might be better protected by EU schemes (such as the CAP) than by HM Treasury in London.

Then tell them they can't use the pound

If Scotland managed to stay out of the Eurozone, either retaining sterling or introducing a new Scottish currency (the Alba? Scottish Pound? The Punnd?), it would reproduce the same flexible formula that the UK enjoyed. That’s attractive and, if we want Scotland to stay economically healthy, good news for the English and everyone else too.

Besides, no one can stop the Scots using any currency they wish to, even the US dollar. A silly argument best left alone this time.

Then give Labour and the Lib Dems the cold shoulder

The last campaign for the Union worked because it managed to unite the Unionist forces, and had a moderate and presentable head in Alistair Darling. This time round it may be more difficult to build the same sort of harmonious coalition – but it must be done.

And, in a final, futile attempt to save the UK, try to terrify Scotland

“Project Fear” was shown to have its limits in the EU referendum. Too lurid a set of claims about the disaster about to befall an independent Scotland will simply be counterproductive. Passion for the union and the family, business, cultural and other ties that bind us together is OK; but creating a nightmare world of hostility would simply be a self-fulfilling prophecy.