Advertisement

Scotland still wants independence

Scotland still wants independence
From Al Jazeera - November 28, 2017

It seemed that 2017 should have killed the campaign for Scottish independence stone dead.

At the UK general election in June, the pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) lost a third of its Westminster seats, forcing SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon to "reset" her plans for a second independence referendum. Then, in August, new analysis showed that an independent Scotland would face a projected budget deficit of8.3 percent- the largest of any EU state. And on top of that, major splits have begun to emerge within the "Yes" base, as younger, more radical activists sympathetic to Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour Party have clashed with older, more conservative nationalists loyal to the SNP.

These setbacks have occurred after a decade of nearly uninterrupted progress for independence supporters. The SNP first took control of Holyrood, Scotland's devolved national parliament, in 2007. In 2011, it won an overall majority of the parliament's seats. In 2014, it staged (and narrowly failed to win) a landmark vote on the break-up of Britain. So the rapid loss of momentum that has taken place this year has been profoundly disconcerting for a movement that had come to view independence as a cast-iron certainty.

Supporters of the UK, of course, are delighted, and many of them are now convinced that the separatist tide has peaked. "IndyRef2 is dead," Ruth Davidson, the leader of a freshly revived Scottish Conservative Party,announcedin the aftermath of June's vote. "Now it's time to get back to what matters to the people of Scotland - that's sorting out our schools, growing our economy and looking at our public services."

There is, however, one sizeable flaw in this analysis: Despite suffering a series of potentially terminal defeats, the Scottish "Yes"campaign remains in surprisingly good shape, and the appeal of independence is proving much more resilient than unionists seem willing to admit.

Scottish nationalism is alive and well

The baseline numbers tell their own story. Apoll from Septemberput backing for independence at 46 percent - one point higher than it was at the same stage in 2014. Other surveys suggest it might be slightly lower than that, but few indicate that it has fallen far below the symbolic 40-percent mark. Similarly, the SNP - which is now in its 11th year of office - continues to register double-digit leads over Labour and the Conservatives at both thedevolved ScottishandUK parliamentarylevels.

Until quite recently, polling of this sort would have been unthinkable for nationalists. Throughout the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, barely a quarter of the Scottish electorate wanted Scotland to leave the UK. Today, it's cited as evidence that the independence movement has stalled and that the SNP is spiralling into decline.

In reality, unionism faces a crisis of its own.

A toxic combination of austerity and Brexit has rendered Britain, once again, the veritable economic 'sick man of Europe', plagued by rising inflation, falling real-terms earnings, flatlining growth, and a political class that has absolutely no idea how to fix the mess it has created.

Since the 2014 referendum, the case against independence has rested almost exclusively on the claim that Britain insulates Scotland from economic pain. In the absence of English public subsidies, unionists argue, Scotland would be a financial basket case, incapable of covering the basic costs of self-government. Even Jeremy Corbyn - who otherwise vigorously insists that spending cuts are an ideological choice rather than a fiscal necessity -has suggestedthat independence would mean "turbo-charged austerity" for the Scots.

The ruinous effects of Brexit

Challenges to the 'Yes' campaign

Advertisement

Continue reading at Al Jazeera »