The Rector of the University of St Andrews, Catherine Stihler, has dismissed the Scottish Government’s new plan for a second independence referendum as a “distraction.” Ms Stihler, who is also a Labour party MEP for Scotland, said in an extensive interview with The Saint that she believed the focus on independence from the Scottish government was distracting from more pressing issues, such as education.
“I think it’s a distraction from trying to make sure we’re doing things to help the National Health Service and in education, with the attainment gap,” she told The Saint.
“There are a whole host of issues that are important in Scotland, and yet we’re back on the constitution again because that is what the Nationalist’s government raison d’être is all about,” she said.
Going on, she added, “I think it’s distracting from the real issues that are impacting on people’s lives.”
Ms Stihler also more widely dismissed those who have said that after the vote for the UK to leave the EU, in spite of a strong ‘Remain’ vote from Scotland, that Scotland should pursue independence.
“If single markets are important, and you hear this rhetoric from the Scottish government, then the most important single market that Scotland has is with England. I think we had an independence referendum and the people of Scotland said ‘No’ two years ago. As democrat[s], we should respect what people have decided,” she said.
Ms Stihler went on to say, “I’m not a nationalist, I’m an internationalist. I will remain a committed internationalist. I do not advocate nationalism and I really do not think that independence for Scotland will be a good idea.
“There’s no guarantee that, even if Scotland had independence, that [it] would become a member of the EU with the deficit of £15 billion, which is more than Greece. In reality, the most important single market is the one with England.”
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced plans for a consultation on new legislation for an independence referendum at the SNP conference earlier this month. She told the party’s conference earlier this month (13 October) that an Independence Referendum Bill would be published the following week.
The draft bill has now been put forward.
Ms Sturgeon said Scotland had the right to choose a different path if it was not allowed to protect its interests “within the UK.”
Scottish Labour leader, Kezia Dugdale, described the draft bill as “irresponsible economic vandalism”, warning: “Our economy is in trouble following David Cameron’s reckless Brexit gamble, and the very last thing we need is more uncertainty for employers.”
Speaking before the publication, the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson, vowed that her party would fight proposals for a second referendum “every step of the way.”