What next for Scottish nationalism?

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'Saltire' / Julien Ortet / CC
'Saltire' / Julien Ortet / CC

Now that the SNP summer of love has slowly been segueing into an autumn of Amour has this beautiful lovefest changed my opinion on Scottish Independence? Have the SNP’s flirtatious glances at me caught my attention and caused me to gaze furtively at their beautiful dream? Have they made me giddy and light headed when they whisper sweet nothings to me? The answer to this would be no, but the nationalists sure do know how to pull off a ‘Rough Wooing.’

First off the bat, the SNP have postponed their entire independence campaign. What was looking likely to start during Summer 2016 has been pushed further and further back, until it probably won’t start until 2017. Of course, the idea that this was an entirely new campaign is something of a misnomer anyway.

The campaign for a second independence referendum started on the 19th of September 2014. Rather than calm the situation, former First Minister Alec Salmond stated that: ‘Scotland has by a majority decided, at this stage, not to become an independent country.’ The emphasis on the fact that Scottish independence was inevitable at some unknowable future date, regardless of the result the day before.

Demands for a rerun and allegations of fraud and mismanagement were rife in the hours, days and months after, despite the Electoral Commission stating that the referendum adhered to all the relevant legislation and was fair and unbiased.

One young girl was filmed outside the parliament claiming that the new powers promised in the last few days before the referendum in the Vow had not been granted to the Scottish Parliament, only after a few months, even before the Smith Commission had published its report.

I know we increasingly live in a fast paced world, but to effect and implement constitutional and legislative change in the UK can take years, not months. As earnest as this young woman was, she was protesting for the speedy introduction of new powers to the Scottish Parliament in the same time it would take to switch your broadband provider. The issue was not this young woman’s enthusiasm, but the fact that no one tried to correct her at the rally.

Of course, only a few months ago we had the referendum on if the UK should leave the European Union. The nationalists have forgotten that this was a UK-wide vote and the SNP have totally ignored over 1 million people in Scotland who voted to leave, just like they have ignored the 2.4 million who voted No. They have done this as these people don’t fit into the divisive SNP rhetoric of England bad, Scotland good and to further reinforce their prevalent notion that the SNP are the avatar of Scotland. The large majority of the Scottish electorate viewed this referendum for what it was; a vote on UK membership of the E.U. Not another vote on Scottish Independence.

Regardless, straight out of the gate, Nicola Sturgeon held a press conference, even before the then Prime Minister David Cameron. Again, much like her predecessor in 2014, she claimed that any and all options were on the table including a second independence referendum. Rather than calming an already uncertain situation at a critical juncture, it was again inflamed immediately by unnecessary rhetoric and bluster. This allowed her to act like an efficient statesman in contrast with the then paralysed British establishment still reeling from shock at the unexpected Leave vote.

Even after one referendum, it looked highly likely that Scotland would have another one foisted upon it again. One which the majority of us, regardless of your political leanings, have no stomach for, with Scotland suffering from political fatigue from the sheer number of referendums and elections, this isn’t surprising.

Rather than leading to certainty and stability, Nicola Sturgeon’s speech led to a feeling of despondency, as I’m sure was the intention. It probably had the exact opposite effect on the ardent, nationalist fringe who had been brought one step closer to indyref2.

Although some may have looked to Nicola Sturgeon and her party for leadership in the uncertain days following mass resignations from the Leave side and instability within the Labour and Conservatives party, the dust soon settled, the pound rebounded and politics and life returned to its natural equilibrium.

However, the Scottish First Minister then spent the intervening months travelling through European Capitals like she was on the ‘Grand Tour’, beloved by Georgian and Victorian aristocrats. During her excursions and busy rounds of talks with European civil servants and low ranking politicians she had time to report back plans about making deals with other cities and regions of the UK that had voted to remain, ultimately trying to overturn the democratic will of the entire British people. This was well out with her remit as the elected head of a devolved parliament and as an elected leader of an administrative and political division within the United Kingdom.

Included in this busy itinerary was the ‘foreign’ leader, British Prime Minister, Theresa May as well. ‘Two flags’ Sturgeon had procured twin saltires just to remind Theresa May where she was. At times it looked like she was greeting an enemy belligerent for a peace conference.

Back on the Home Front, the attempt to make me change my mind on Scottish Independence is becoming further unstuck. For a start, the cybernats are still at their abusive best. I was informed that ‘We don’t want your kind here.’ This was because I had the audacity to suggest that after nearly ten years in power, the SNP have not turned Scotland into a healthy nation, culturally and politically. The commentator recommended that the only way to remedy the situation was for me to ’emigrate’. After pointing out that the SNP control almost every political lever in Scotland, another gentleman informed me, ‘that’s the way we like it’. Unfortunately, this is the mass, admittedly private and uncontrolled, army of the SNP. The ones that should be persuading me to vote for their cause the next time round.

To be fair they have their work cut out for them. With the GERS report suggesting that Scotland spends almost £14 billion more than it raises in taxes, it can be hard to argue that the people of Scotland will be better off after independence. All governments run deficits, but Scotland’s would be nearly 10% and double the one for the U.K. as a whole.

It is very revealing that no one who believes in Scottish independence is now trying to refute the claim that Scotland would be a land of milk and honey, post independence.

Rather than challenging these horrendous statistics, the SNP have now embarked on a new and noble tactic: the truth. According to the First Minister: ‘The case for full self-government ultimately transcends the issues of Brexit, of oil, of national wealth and balance sheets and of passing political fads and trends.’

This is partly true. I might be far worse off as a citizen of an independent nation, but I might be emotionally happier. I might be closer to my parliament and its representatives. Perhaps I would have a better sense of community with my fellow citizens and be more engaged in politics. I doubt this, though. For a start, most indicators of happiness start with a certain level of income that is deemed necessary, not just for survival but for a decent quality of life as well. In general, the electorate tends to vote for what party and set of policies will benefit them, economically and socially. Those nations with a poor economy and less money tend to have less happy people. If you have less money, you have a lower tax base and thus less efficient or even non-existent public services.

The people of Scotland still have an important choice to make. They can either go on believing the nationalists, in that they will live in a state resembling the ‘Nordic’ model with excellent good public services but with low taxes, rather than punishingly high ones. This was certainly the idea that was falsely sold to the Scottish people in the ‘Yes to everything’ campaign of 2014. Alternatively, Scotland could resemble the Baltic states that are buffeted by the winds of globalisation and try to anchor themselves to a larger political and economic union, mainly the E.U., with all the potential restrictions and limited sovereignty that this can entail.

In more bad news for the nationalists, the predicted Brexit bump is no longer inflamed and has returned to the exact same place as it was pre-Brexit. Also, according to all opinion polls, there is little demand for another independence referendum, with the majority of Scottish people recognising the tiring, blunt and divisive nature of their use in politics.

Despite the people of Scotland voting against independence, the primary raison d’etre of the SNP will always be the separation of Scotland from the UK at any cost. Even their party leader has acknowledged this fact, as well as unintentionally acknowledging the reality of the economic benefits of being part of the U.K.

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About David Bone 19 Articles
David is a graduate of the University of Stirling and holds a BA (Hons) in politics. Since graduating he has been employed in the third sector. His writing interests include Scottish and British politics, international relations, ideologies and megatrends.

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