Referendum or Referenda in Scotland?

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'Scottish Parliament' / Andrew Cowan / CC
'Scottish Parliament' / Andrew Cowan / CC

Scottish Independence! Those two words produce a feeling that is as decisive as it is unifying. It also produces exuberance and a fervour about Scotland’s future which is scarcely witnessed elsewhere. Therefore, with these emotions now stirred, it’s no surprise that the question of independence was not ultimately decided on that historic day last September.

The SNP looks certain to promote another independence referendum in their manifesto for next year’s Holyrood elections. This possibility led to groans of negativity from politicians, analysts and those firmly in the No camp. However, the SNP would go against its founding principle if it did not include it.

British Prime Minister David Cameron has dismissed the possibility, claiming the 2014 result was ‘decisive’ and that the vote was a ‘once in a generation’ event. However, that does not reflect the current mood of Scottish politics. The SNP is a party founded on promoting an independent Scotland. The Party has seen sweeping victories in the 2011 Holyrood election (something the voting system was designed to make impossible) and the 2015 Westminster elections where they won all but 3 of Scottish seats. They have never witnessed this level of power and support before, so would not currently support then include support for the primary purpose in its future direction? It would be utterly baffling if they don’t, even their biggest detractors have to recognise this.

Cameron stated in May 2014 that “‘I think it [a referendum of Scottish independence] is the right thing to do for this reason. The Scottish people elected in 2011 a Scottish National Party government in Edinburgh… One of their policies was to have a referendum on the future of Scotland being a part of the UK. I felt, as the prime minister of the UK, I had a choice. I could either say to them ‘well you can’t have your referendum, it is for us to decide whether you should have one.’ I think that would have led to an almighty and disastrous battle between the Westminster parliament and the UK government and the Scottish government and the Scottish first minister”.

He has also commented that the Scottish people’s decision must be respected and pledged his commitment to cement the Scottish Parliament.  However these comments will perhaps paint himself or his unsuspecting successor into a corner. If the Scottish people return the SNP as Holyrood’s premier party in 2016, as they are expected to do and potentially dwarfing the SNP victory in 2011, Westminster leaders might have no choice but to offer a second referendum.  Surely as Mr Cameron previously stated the voice of the Scottish people has to be recognised. Something even the Better Together campaign figurehead, Alistair Darling, has suggested.

David Cameron has put the Union in jeopardy, and another referendum is likely because of his government’s actions. His now infamous speech on the steps of Downing Street less than 12 hours after the polls had closed presented Cameron with the opportunity to reaffirm the union and reconciliate with those who voted both for and against independence.  Instead, with the 2015 general election in mind, he went for political gains.  He dismissed the Scottish debate that had developed and progressed for several years and hastily put English Votes for English Laws as his main concern. He appealed to the Tory voting base, while giving Scotland even further encouragement to vote SNP, to the detriment of Labour nationally.

He had manipulated the Scottish electorate like a stock market swindle masterminded by the rapacious Gordon Gekko. Cameron may as well have delivered that speech in a pin stripped shirt partly covered by red braces.

Now, with Gordon Brown confirming what most of Scotland realised – that he has now turned his back on the ‘vow’, the grovelling promise he made to Scotland in the desperate final knockings of the campaign, as it looked the tide may of turned terminally against him and the union. The combination of SNP domination in Westminster elections amongst an overall Tory victory has left the Union on life support.

Now, ironically, it has come to this!  The man that could potentially save the union is an anti-establishment political outlander. Out of the wilderness like a popular vigilante, Corbyn is the principled left wing politician Scotland has been crying out for. A recent poll suggested that Corbyn can retrieve voters back into the red corner as the SNP is ready to deliver the knockout blow. The problem is that if he fails – and with his potential demise already being mapped out by his own party – the political establishment and Fleet Street could see it as the signal for writing the Unions eulogy.

Nationalists argue that Westminster politics as all the same. They don’t represent Scottish values and ideals. Corbyn addresses that, however his removal or defeat in favour of a robotic career politician (see many of the Labour MPS that stepped aside following Corbyn’s coronation) as leader will see Scotland become completely disenfranchised from Westminster and its historical primary parties, opening the door even wider for independence.

A key issue in any independence debate will see oil at its centre. The diminishing oil price has led to critiques that an independent Scotland would struggle in the current climate. This despite the oil companies being well versed in the volatile nature of the industry, and the fact that Scotland, even if it had voted yes, would have not become independent until 2016. The same analysis appeared in dispatches when the discussion of a potential referendum surfaced again, yet the SNP will campaign on oil as they did in 2014, if not even more.

Ever since the North Sea downturn, the Scottish Government and various political representatives across the political spectrum have called on the Tory government to do more, although tax breaks and new licences have been granted, detractors still think not enough has, or is, being done. The SNP knows that promising to protect a fragile industry, as well as renewable energy sources that the Tories have not allowed to prosper they can tap into those negatively affected by the oil downturn.

Looking objectively, which seems to be impossible for the majority when it comes to this topic, another Scottish independence referendum is likely to be inevitably.  The debate has ignited a movement and an examination of Scotland’s future, which is something that will rumble on for generations. Cameron and the unionist parties must make sure that with their actions and rhetoric they do not deliver independence to the SNP, at the very least they should be made to work for it.

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About Adam Kelvin Fletcher 7 Articles
Adam is a freelance writer and journalist focusing on politics, international affairs and sports. He has a first class MSc in Political Science and currently works within Scottish politics. ​

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