Closer to independence?

After the recent election victory by the Scottish Nationalist Party, a referendum looks likely by 2015

by Alasdair Soussi

Closer to independence?

Andrew Milligan/PA Wire/PA Photos/KEYSTONE Press

Look at the political map of Scotland today and, but for a smattering of red, blue and orange, the land screams nationalist bright yellow. The scale of the Scottish National Party’s victory in the parliamentary elections of May 5 was nothing short of historic. Having secured their first ever parliamentary election triumph in 2007 over their bitter rivals Labour by a narrow 47 seats to 46, the SNP, after a four-year term as a minority government, was handed a stunning 69 seats by the Scottish electorate. That pushed Labour, seen by many as the natural governing party of Scotland, into a distant second place with 37, and gave the nationalists a majority in the 129-seat parliament with which to pursue their much-coveted referendum on independence.

Despite being ahead in the polls for some weeks prior to the election, SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond was himself taken aback by the nationalists’ margin of victory—which has shaken the very foundations of the United Kingdom. “It’s unprecedented, and it’s given the SNP a whole list of opportunities and challenges,” says Gerry Hassan, a Scottish-based writer and commentator. “They’ve got the potential for an independence referendum, and they’ve got an agenda to begin dismantling the Labour apparatchik state in Scotland, which was gatekeeping, stopping things from happening, that was looking after their own.”

On the independence question, analysts like Hassan believe that in building up to a referendum—likely in 2015—the SNP must make clear what independence, currently supported by just under 40 per cent of Scots, really means in a modern context. “The SNP are not going to galvanize Scottish public opinion by talking about border controls,” explains Hassan. “They have to talk about what kind of Scotland we want that fleshes out this concept of independence, which I think will be a very different kind of independence.” This “different kind of independence” will likely be less of a tearing up of the 300-year-old union with England, and more renegotiating the terms of the union—the “united kingdoms rather than the United Kingdom,” as Mike Russell, a SNP minister, told the Times.

Salmond, ever the canny operator and widely regarded as one of the most gifted politicians of his generation, knows he has time on his side. This parliamentary term will last for five years rather than the usual four, in order to avoid a clash with the next Westminster election. Meanwhile, he has already started pushing for greater financial powers for the Scottish parliament, which he hopes will make that leap into independence a little less foreboding for an electorate that has always fiercely protected its Scottish national identity within Britain.

So while introducing a new minimum price for alcohol in order to tackle the country’s boozy culture is one of the headline policies of this second-term nationalist administration, it is, as Scottish political commentator Iain Macwhirter wrote in Glasgow’s Herald, the battle for Scotland’s constitutional future that looks set to dominate the political landscape of this most ancient of nations. “Mr. Salmond wants to put Scots in the position where remaining in the Union becomes more hassle than leaving it,” Macwhirter said. “Unionists have four years or so to prove him wrong.”




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Closer to independence?

  1. “Despite being ahead in the polls for some weeks prior to the election” at the start of para 2 is incorrect.

    Without some additional information, the SNP wins are understated.

    Labour had a lead of around 15 points in the polls in the run up to the election.
    Labour ended up with 37 seats, courtesy of the dual voting system of Holyrood, designed to reflect proportional representation (and as a contrived barrier to the SNP ever winning control). Labour lost all but 17 seats in the direct contests for constituencies.
    Across Scotland the pro-SNP vote ran at around 51% of the turnout.

    Newsflash
    Since the election, the SNP have won a local by-election in Aberdeen, again around 51% of the turnout and taking voting share off all the three major opposition parties., giving it majority control of the city council for the first time. The newly elected SNP leader set another record. He is 26 years of age. There is a Westminster by-election due in Inverclyde which will indicate ongoing momentum.

  2. your hanging on too tight, how much do you people want to pay so the royals can feel mighty, they practically have to completely demoralize everyone just to stay relevant, just gauge how demoralized the people in the U.K. are (see where it says freedom means 100% 24/7 cctv surveillance)

  3. They get 70% of their GDP from the British gov’t.
    Welfare, unemployment, pensions and subsides to business.
    Sound like a recipe for success; NOT.
    Unless of course they plan on the English continuing to pay the bills.
    To have your haggis and eat it too.

    So, a big THANK YOU to my grand parents for leaving Glasgow in the 1920′s.

  4. Dear DT_in_GT,

    Too many people like your grandparents left Scotland due to the blandishments of Canada and Australia and so forth, which obliged England by reducing the Scottish population while drawing away people who would have been valuable to the Scottish economy if Scotland had had control over it in a way which is only possible with a constitutional arrangement very different from that which was in place then and from the one which is in place now.

    Since oil was discovered in the Scottish sector of the North Sea in the 1970s Scotland has not benefited much from it, as the revenue bypasses it, heading straight for the UK Treasury. It is not the UK which subsidizes Scotland. Scotland subsidizes the UK, as the national accounts for Scotland, GERS (Government Expenditure and Revenue for Scotland) indicate. They are online. Look them up.              

    90% of the net volume of crude oil produced in the UK is extracted from the Scottish sector of the North Sea. Scotland’s oil deposits are the second largest in Europe (after Norway) – they make up over 50% of the EU’s net oil deposits. According to some unofficial data, over the last 30 years the UK has earned over £200 billion on crude-oil production.

    No wonder that for 30 years the UK government concealed from the public the real volume of oil stored in Scotland’s oilfields in the North Sea and is continuing to be disingenuous about what remains, which is in fact an enormous quantity. They were and are terrified of the rise of Scottish nationalism, which would hardly be the case if Scotland had been or if it were now a burden to it. On the contrary, the UK, whose economy now suffers from serious structural imbalances and which is burdened by unsustainable levels of public debt, is very arguably a quite intolerable burden for a country such as Scotland to have to carry.

    It is said that for Scotland the anglo-union is like being in bed with an elephant. Actually, it is more like carrying an elephant on your back.

    Your grandparents would have been of more use to Scotland if they had remained there and contributed to restoring its independence. However, one respects their decision, although one would be hard put to it to respect your ignorance of their country.

    For more on this and related topics: http://bit.ly/e2FWtS

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