Furthermore, the economic case for an independent Scotland falls apart when put under close scrutiny, businessman Kevin Hague, chairman of the These Islands think tank, told Express.co.uk. Mr Hague made his remarks after Scotland’s First Minister Ms Sturgeon appointed public finance minister Kate Forbes as Finance Secretary in a reshuffle of her cabinet triggered by the resignation of Derek Mackay, who was forced to quit after revelations about 270 messages sent to a 16-year-old boy over social media.
And while he was cautious about suggesting the cracks were starting to show, Mr Hague suggested the party’s ongoing obsession with going it alone, which he said continued to be prioritised by the Scottish government above all other things, was beginning to count against it.
“But that has not been the case – Brexit does not seem to have provided the impetus they thought it would have done.
“Brexit was about breaking away from something after 40-odd years – but Scottish independence would be breaking away after a union which is 300 years old.”
By leaving, Scotland would be walking out on a single market with the rest of the UK and membership of a single currency, he said, while Scots would inevitably have taken note of the complications over Ireland’s border with the North and the impact a similar situation involving Scotland’s border with England would have.
Mr Hague added: “The fact is, the UK is more important to Scotland than the EU is.”
This fact was borne out by opinion polls which suggested the issue continues to divide Scots roughly down the middle, rather than the consistent 60-plus figure in favour Mr Hague said would be required to justify another Scotland-wide vote on the issue following the referendum of 2014.
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Nevertheless, the SNP was fixated with forcing a referendum, Mr Hague said, adding: “Do I think that Nicola Sturgeon and her colleagues care about education, health, all that stuff? Of course they do.
“But they care about something else more, namely Scottish independence, which is their number one priority.
“I have conversations with people who ask how the SNP appears to be able to defy political gravity because they should be held to account for their record.
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“However, I think finally things seem to be changing.”
Additionally, the party was also split between hardliners, such as Joanna Cherry, who favour calling a referendum even without the blessing of Westminster, and Ms Sturgeon herself, who has adopted a more cautious approach, Mr Hague explained.
With specific reference to Mr Mackay, and setting aside the specific reasons behind his resignation, he said: “He was not an inspiring politician.
“And yet she was apparently positioning him to be her successor.
“That means either there is a dearth of talent within the party, or the divisions with others within the party such as Joanna Cherry are such that she does not want them to take over.
Mr Hague also scoffed at the suggestion, floated by among others former SNP leader and First Minister Alex Salmond, that Scotland was a net contributor to the UK economy which could afford to pay its own way.
He said: “That was true for one year out of the last 20 years.
“It’s just not the case for the vast majority of the time.
“I always make the economic case for staying with the UK – I believe that if people are well-informed then the case for independence withers and dies.”
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