Soft Brexit would boost Scottish independence case, former UK minister claims

A soft Brexit would make the case for Scottish independence easier to argue for, according to a former UK Government minister.

Writing in The Times newspaper on Monday, Guto Bebb suggested the odds would favour pro-independence campaigners in the event of a second vote on the issue being secured in a soft Brexit scenario.

Mr Bebb, who resigned as a defence minister in July last year, also urged Scottish Tory MSPs to back calls for another EU referendum.

He wrote: “Brexit will have left Scottish manufacturing, service industries and the financial services sector with little or no influence through the Westminster or Scottish Parliaments.

“My Scottish Conservative colleagues have rejected the idea of a final say referendum despite polls showing that two-thirds of Scottish voters want one.

“They have done this because they fear that such a vote concedes the argument for a second independence referendum.

“I understand that fear. However, it depends on the view that a second referendum will not happen without such a precedent. Is that credible?

“An independence referendum, if secured after a soft Brexit, would be fought on ground that would be far more favourable for those wishing to break up the union.”

Mr Bebb, who quit as Minister for Defence Procurement over concessions made by Prime Minister Theresa May to Brexiteers, added another EU referendum could represent the last chance for the Tories in Scotland to “save the union”.

“Questions on continued EU membership, of access to EU markets and of whether an independent Scotland would need to embrace the euro will be history,” he said.

“A Scotland requesting the same rule-taking relationship with the EU as that of Britain will be much less challenging to sell than what was faced by independence campaigners in 2014.

“My Scottish colleagues need to embrace a final say referendum, not because it’s an easy option but because it may be the last opportunity to save the union.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Conservatives said: “Guto Bebb clearly has a higher tolerance for referendums than the people of Scotland.

“But then he didn’t have to go through the bitter and divisive experience of 2014.

“If he thinks supporting a second referendum is a good way of defending the union, he’s not been paying much attention to the SNP in recent years.”