Brexit has made second Scottish independence poll more likely, ex-DExEU perm sec says

Written by Beckie Smith on 14 November 2019 in News

"No doubt that Brexit has been a profound shock to the UK"

Photo: Baldo Sciacca for CSW

The chances of a second Scottish referendum have “certainly gone up” as a result of Brexit, Philip Rycroft, the former permanent secretary at the Department for Exiting the European Union, has said.

In an interview with Prospect magazine this week, the Edinburgh-based former perm sec said he was worried about how Brexit would affect the future of the UK, given “two parts of a four-part union voted to stay in the EU, but are likely now to be taken out of the EU essentially against their will”.

“There’s no doubt that Brexit has been a profound shock to the United Kingdom, which was already under stress,” he said.


Rycroft, who left DExEU on 29 March – the date the UK was originally due to leave the EU – said anyone trying to predict whether a second poll would lead to Scotland leaving the union was “being very brave indeed”.

“If you look at the polls at the moment, Scotland is very much a nation divided. The numbers are at pretty much 50/50,” he said.

There have been repeated calls for a second referendum on Scottish independence from campaigners and politicians including first minister Nicola Sturgeon since the Brexit referendum in June 2016.

Rycroft said that since the last vote in 2014, “The facts have changed, the world has changed. And that is giving people pause for thought in both Scotland and Northern Ireland… about their future in the UK.”

Rycroft said the Westminster government was pursuing a form of Brexit that risked alienating people in the devolved administrations.

Leaving the single market or customs union would mean a “loss of growth” and go against calls from the Scottish and Welsh governments to stay in both, he said. He said had the government pursued a softer Brexit, “people [in Scotland] would have felt perhaps that their voice had been heard more loudly than it has been”.

The ex-perm sec, who also worked in the Scottish Government in posts including director general for education, used the interview to call for a “serious refresh of the way that intergovernmental relations work” in light of Brexit. People in “Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland must “have this assurance that they’re respected in the highest councils of the land”, he said.

And England is also “way over-centralised”, he said, despite the devolution of some powers to metro mayors.

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Beckie Smith
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Beckie Smith is a reporter for CSW who tweets @Beckie__Smith.

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