By Benjamin Martin
Scottish independence has remained at the forefront of national politics for almost a decade, but is there really a valid argument for IndyRef2?
Scotland. The land of batter, cross-dressing and surprisingly delicious orange drinks. Stereotypes aside, the northernmost component of the United Kingdom is without a doubt one of the most quintessentially beautiful and awe-inspiring aspects of our nation. Throughout its long and affluent history, Scotland has, perhaps more often than not, come into some form of conflict with their southern neighbours. Fortunately, this trend has subsided, insofar that there is no longer constant plundering on the border. Yet, a certain degree of animosity still lingers amongst die-hard Scottish patriots. But is it really enough to justify separation?
Since the Act of Union was ratified in 1707, needless to say through bribery, political blackmail and coercion, relations between the two fundamental corners of the UK have been quite harmonious. Granted, there has been the odd blip here and there, but time has certainly resolved many past woes. This begs the question as to why in 2021 the Scottish Government is now insistent on dissolving this centuries old Union.
It was announced recently by Nicola Sturgeon, the face of tartan hearted, independence championing Scots, that the Holyrood administration has plans to consolidate Scotland’s departure from the UK by 2023. This is a fact which, upon discovering this morning, seemed like nothing out of the ordinary. It was more of a ‘there she goes again’ moment than a sudden realisation that the constitutional integrity of our nation is doomed.
The reason for this is simply down to the fact that the SNP has been reduced to nothing more than a broken record player. To be honest, this is an analogy which I find to be grossly overused, especially within politics. After all, what’s wrong with a broken record if the song’s good? But imagine that one song which you hate more than any other in the world, that one track which causes you to be overcome with a passionate hatred and rage. Consider that being played on a constant loop and you have a summary of the SNP’s relentless rhetoric.
Now it may seem quite obvious that a party which is designed around the basis of achieving an independent Scotland will continue to harp on about it. However, it gets to the point where everyone would just rather they quiet down and focus on the more important issues, like the fact we’re witnessing the worst public health crisis in living memory. It isn’t simply that this isn’t the time nor place to be advocating for such, but moreover it is even less pertinent seeing as independence is, by any sane account, a dead issue.
In 2014, the Scottish electorate were told by former First Minister Alex Salmond that they had a ‘once in a generation’ opportunity to determine their nation’s fate. They chose not to follow him off the cliff-edge, and by quite a considerable margin for such a binary issue.
If you were to approach this from an outsider’s perspective, the matter would seem pretty settled, right? Try again. Unfortunately, First Minister Jimmy Krankie and her cohorts of unshaken nationalists do not seem to care about the fact that the people of Scotland do not want to become an independent, sovereign state. Indeed, it took less than two years after the referendum for them to once again start publicly pursuing this end goal.
I should also clarify by this point that I am not writing this article to simply debunk and discard the validity of any argument in favour of independence. I may not be Scottish myself, but I do recognise that the existence of our United Kingdom relies upon each integral corner of it remaining intact. The dissolution of our nation would be enough for me to oppose independence on a personal level. But that is not an objective reason for the people of Scotland to share my belief.
Frankly, I probably could spend the remainder of my time writing this outlining a series of reasons of why X, Y and Z would lead to worse conditions for Scotland as an independent state. However, it would not change the pivotal facts of the matter, the main one being that, as previously mentioned, the Scottish electorate has already expressed an opinion in line with my own. So then why is the question of independence still looming? Why do some of its most eager advocates believe that what failed in 2014 will suddenly succeed in 2023?
I believe the two factors which answer both of these questions can be summarised by phrases which we have become all too familiar with in recent years: Brexit and the SNP’s increasing support. To deal with the first, I can obviously recognise how Brexit may have an impact on the mind of the Scottish electorate. But even if it hypothetically has boosted a desire for independence in the past several years, it would not be logical to use this as justification for a second referendum. Firstly, we have to consider how the UK has only been fully withdrawn from the EU for less than a year. This is not enough time by any means for Scotland to determine whether or not its long term future would be stronger as part of a Britain outside of the EU, or as a part of the EU outside of Britain.
Furthermore, if we were to grant an independence referendum on the basis of Brexit being a significant constitutional and political crisis, then what’s stopping Scottish nationalists from using any such change in the national political landscape as an excuse for another referendum if the next one were to fail? To be honest, nothing is. In essence, I don’t believe for a moment that the SNP really keep themselves up at night fearing the fallout of Brexit. Rather, they see this as an opportunity to pursue their withering dream of revisiting the themes of MacBeth and Braveheart. At the end of the day, the SNP are nothing more than blatant and unscrupulous political opportunists.
So what about the party themselves? Surely the fact that they have performed consistently well even since the 2014 poll would suggest that public opinion has shifted to their favour on the issue of independence? It is a fair assumption to make, because at the end of the day, this notion is the driving force behind their party. But I believe it would be unequivocally wrong for anyone to make this conclusion based on their electoral performance alone.
When an individual votes for a party, it can be for a multitude of reasons. It would be a grave mistake to say that, for instance, every person who voted for the Conservatives in 2019 supported leaving the EU. Even though pro-Brexit policies formed the basis of the Tory manifesto in the last General Election, it would be plainly foolish to suggest that they achieved such a strong majority solely from individuals who voted Leave in 2016, especially when the issue of Brexit remained so divisive. Indeed, there were a variety of reasons as for why someone may have voted to return a Conservative Government in that election.
The same factors are at play when it comes to the SNP. Perhaps the Scottish public overwhelmingly support the policies implemented by SNP governments outside of advancing independence? Maybe their support stems from the fact that they are the largest regionally-specific party in Scotland? As a consequence the electorate may feel more satisfied with a party focused 100% on their interests representing them. I have not conducted mass-surveying and polling, so I cannot pinpoint the exact causation of their support. No one could, without having conducted such a process. Therefore, while this is admittedly speculation, so is the assumption that a vote for the SNP translates into a person’s support for an independent Scotland.
In fact, I would actually argue that the statistical evidence available concludes that the SNP’s support amounts primarily from other factors. This is due to them witnessing their best performance in a Westminster election less than a year after the same electorate voted to reject independence. In this respect, it could also be a product of the pro-Union vote being split across the board. But I digress, it remains the case that the SNP’s popularity should not be construed as a correlation with support for independence. Nor should Brexit be used so prematurely to justify a paradigm shift in public opinion.
So when we hear the SNP chirp on about how there is now an irrefutable “appetite” for Scottish independence, rest assured, this is nothing outside of their usual, baseless drivel. The only viable arguments which they can throw behind the need for a second referendum are those which they themselves desperately attempt to twist from something trivial to being of far greater concern than they ever possibly could be. In reality, a second referendum would only increase division and tensions after some of the most tumultuous years in our national history, in doing so setting a new precedent in British politics: if you cry loud enough you will always get your way no matter how foolish you sound.
Image credit: Scottish Government