Scotland's rocky road ahead

Scotland's rocky road ahead

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's first minister, says another independence referendum for Scotland is now a matter of "when not if," and that after leaving the UK, Scotland will launch a bid to rejoin the EU. But there are formidable obstacles ahead.

Getting to a vote will force a complex game of chicken with UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson. If a majority of Scots then vote for independence — hardly a sure thing – the process of extricating their new country from the UK will make Brexit look easy. Next, come the challenges of EU accession. In other words, Scotland's journey down the rocky road ahead has only just begun.


Obstacle 1 – Getting to a vote. Scotland can't stage a legally binding referendum without approval from the UK parliament, which can't happen without a go-ahead from Boris Johnson. Here's where the political game begins. Johnson knows an independence vote in Scotland could still go either way. Polls suggest support for independence winning by the narrowest of margins.

If Johnson says yes to a referendum, he could become the PM who lost Scotland and broke up the UK. That would likely end his political career. If he says no, he risks driving up support inside Scotland in favor of breaking away — and he knows he can't say no forever. The UK can't simply hold Scotland hostage. At least not indefinitely.

For now, Johnson can say, "Nicola, shouldn't you be focused on COVID and recovery?" To which Sturgeon will reply, "Yes, Boris, we are focused on COVID. But when it's under control, we want to vote." Johnson can throw money at Scotland and offer it more autonomy, but it's unlikely that either will change many Scottish minds on a question as large as independence.

Obstacle 2 – Winning the referendum. In 2014, Scotland voted to remain within the UK by a margin of 55-45. Much has changed since then. Though Scotland voted 62-38 for the UK to remain within the European Union in the 2016 Brexit referendum, the far larger number of votes in England carried the day, and Brexit pulled Scotland unwillingly from the EU. That's the main reason there's been a shift in Scotland in favor of independence since the first referendum.

But no one knows what might happen during a new campaign. Johnson's government will pull out all the stops to persuade Scots that independence is much riskier than they think, and he'll insist Scotland will be economically stronger inside the UK than outside. If Scotland votes to remain, even by the tiniest of margins, it will be at least a generation before another referendum can be contemplated.

Obstacle 3- Leaving the UK. Extricating Scotland from the UK will be far more costly and risky than the UK leaving Europe. After all, the UK joined the EU in 1973, while Scotland has been part of Great Britain since 1707. The legal and regulatory ties will be extraordinarily hard to untangle. The value of Scotland's exports to the rest of the UK is four times more than to the EU. That would change over time if Scotland joined the EU, but a hard border between England and Scotland would create an immediate shock and lasting damage. At least one recent study found that Scottish exit from the UK would be far more economically damaging than Brexit, even if Scotland eventually rejoins the EU.

Adding to the friction, Johnson's government, mindful of the movement for Irish reunification and independence chatter in Wales, will make everything to do with Scotland's exit as contentious and painful as possible.

Obstacle 4 – Joining the EU. This might be the easiest to surmount. After all, as part of the UK, Scotland was an EU member for nearly half a century. The process of political, economic, legal and regulatory alignment would be far easier than for any previous EU membership candidate.

That said, accession would depend on a unanimous vote of all current members. Spain, under challenge by Catalan separatists, might wield a veto to avoid setting a precedent for breakaway states. EU concessions to ease Spanish fears could smooth Scotland's path, depending on what's happening in Spanish politics at that moment.

Bottom line. Brexit reminded us that secession movements aren't driven by pragmatism. They're fueled by hope, fear, anger, and pride. Those who want an independent Scotland can overcome all these obstacles. But we shouldn't underestimate the complexity of the problems ahead, or how long it will take to solve them.

Okuafo Pa means good farmer in the Twi language of West Africa. Hence, the naming of the project reflects the value of good farming and the rewards it brings to the people of Ghana. The Okuafo Pa Project will support Ghana's sustainable development by promoting socio-economic growth and sustainable business models.

Watch to learn how Eni is helping youth to develop agricultural knowledge and skills.

Iranians head to the polls on Friday to vote for president, and it appears a foregone conclusion that hardliner Ebrahim Raisi, the nation's top judge, will win.

Outsiders, and many Iranians, roll their eyes at the predictability of this vote. Iran's Guardian Council, a dozen clerics and judges who answer only to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has cleared the field for Raisi by ruling all of his credible challengers ineligible. The fix is in, and Iranians are now preparing for a moment when anti-reform conservatives, those who oppose social change inside Iran and deeper engagement with the West, will for the first time ever control the country's presidency, parliament, courts, and much of the media.

But simmering beneath the cynicism and predictability of this event is a deepening anxiety over Iran's future as it enters a potentially momentous period in the Islamic Republic's 42-year history. The Supreme Leader, in power for 32 years, is now 82 years old. Very few people know the true state of his health. Even if he outlives Raisi's presidency, which could last four or eight years, preparations for a historic, uncertain, and potentially dangerous leadership transition will intensify soon.

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Jon Lieber, Managing Director of the United States for the Eurasia Group, shares updates on recent policy developments:

With the Supreme Court's recent decision, is the Affordable Care Act here to stay?

Yes, this was the Court's third ruling on the Affordable Care Act upholding its constitutionality. This challenge was brought by Republican attorneys general who argued that the repeal of the individual mandate tax undermined the court's previous justification for allowing the law to stand. They were unsuccessful, yet again. And the political salience of the Affordable Care Act has really diminished in the last several years, with Republicans moving on to fight other issues and the Court signaling very strongly they don't want to get involved in overturning this piece of legislation. The Affordable Care Act will be here at least until Congress wants to legislate on it again.

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Latin America needs vaccines: The World Health Organization has called on the G7 countries that pledged to donate a billion COVID vaccine doses to the developing world to prioritize Latin America, with WHO officials pointing to the fact that out of the top 10 countries with the highest COVID death tolls per capita over the past week, nine are in Latin America, where many health systems are overstretched and vaccines are scarce. This call comes as Latin America's COVID death toll has surpassed 1 million. Cases and deaths are soaring in Argentina and Colombia, for instance, while Brazil has fully vaccinated just 11 percent of its population despite recording the world's second highest death toll. Even Chile, which has carried out Latin America's most successful vaccination campaign to date, has been forced to delay reopening due to a recent surge in infections among unvaccinated younger people. The WHO says prioritizing the region for vaccine donations makes sense in order to stop large sustained outbreaks that may spur potentially more infectious COVID variants that'll cross borders and wreak havoc in populous states. Most of the donated shots will be distributed through the COVAX facility, which is a problem for countries like Venezuela, shut out from COVAX because of payment problems.

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In 2019, Ethiopia's fresh Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed accepted a Nobel Peace Prize for his role in brokering a peace treaty with neighbor and longtime foe Eritrea. At the time, Abiy was hailed by the Western media as a reformist who was steering Ethiopia, long dominated by ethnic strife and dictatorial rule, into a new democratic era.

But barely two years later, Abiy stands accused of overseeing a campaign of ethnic cleansing in the northern Tigray region, putting the country on the brink of civil war.

It's against this backdrop that Ethiopians will head to the polls on June 21 for a parliamentary election now regarded as a referendum on Abiy's leadership. But will the vote be free and fair, and will the outcome actually reflect the will of the people? Most analysts say the answer is a resounding "no" on both fronts.

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Marietje Schaake, International Policy Director at Stanford's Cyber Policy Center, Eurasia Group senior advisor and former MEP, discusses trends in big tech, privacy protection and cyberspace:

Cyber issues took center stage at the G7 summit. Is there a consensus among world leaders on how to handle cyberweapons?

Well, depending on who is included, there is a growing consensus that the escalations of conflict in cyberspace must stop. And G7 leaders that are now all representing democracies did call on Russia to hold perpetrators of cybercrime that operate from within its borders to account. So, I guess hope dies last because laws in Russia prevents the extradition of suspects to the US, even if Vladimir Putin answered positively when Joe Biden asked for cooperation on that front. And when it comes to limiting the spread of tools that are used for hacking, surveillance and infiltration, the EU has just moved ahead and adopted new dual use regulations which reflect the concerns for human rights violations when journalists are targeted the way that Jamal Khashoggi was. So ending the proliferation of systems that are used to attack would be an urgent but also obvious step for democratic nations to agree on.

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