Brexit is not the clean break up we all hoped it could be. As the day of departure approaches, a decision has yet to be made. The public are left with little indication of where our country will go or whether we will get a deal at all. We find ourselves more and more reliant on the word of officials and politicians to explain the current intentions of our government. It comes as a surprise to me that the First Minister of Scotland, would so carelessly raise the already high tensions of the general public during her address at Georgetown’s Institute for Women, Peace and Security this month.
Ms Sturgeon suggested the better option to a no deal Brexit is ‘a further referendum on EU membership’, and highlighted how a ‘no deal’ option ‘would be hugely damaging – far more so… than the government shutdown’ in the US.
While these are all valid concerns when considering what will happen to our access to food and medicine in a no-deal scenario, the vocabulary Sturgeon uses suggests an absurd, perhaps even apocalyptic, outcome with her claim that MPs are purchasing fridges to store the medicine that they are stockpiling in preparation for the shortages that may be incurred if we exit with a no deal. In asserting that any no-deal contingency plan is referred to as ‘genuinely astonishing,’ and that the UK is ‘not remotely prepared’ to leave the EU in March the First Minister is allowing for genuine alarm to escalate.
Furthermore, by inciting doubt and apprehension, and in suggesting that Scotland’s national interests ‘can only properly be served by becoming an independent country,’ Ms Sturgeon has introduced a new focus for the debate, adding another level of confusion to the Brexit proceedings – the hope for another Scottish Independence referendum. As leader of the SNP, it is understandable that she should prioritise Scottish interests, and we have often heard from Sturgeon and others that another independence referendum is necessary.
However, in highlighting these issues at this very moment in Brexit negotiations, Ms Sturgeon seems to have abandoned the calm stance one would expect of a leader during a time of crisis. She is pushing her own initiative, no matter what that does to the current level of panic within the country. The Scottish vote was a significant part of the ‘remain’ demographic and, in inciting panic about the deal while playing on the concerns of Scottish citizens, Ms Sturgeon seems to simply be further perpetuating Scottish disillusionment of Westminster.
The movement for Scottish Independence is valid, but the speech has stoked the fires of public anxiety at a very sensitive period of the Brexit process. Sturgeon’s speech rests solely on the no-deal scenario despite there still being potential for the government to come to a conclusion that avoids this calamitous no-deal Brexit. The effect on panic within the general public is not something we can project, but highlighting the worst possible outcomes will certainly not help in encouraging rational thinking and, as a First Minister, Sturgeon should know better than to intensify this panic.
Image: ARCTIC CIRCLE via Flickr