By Ollie Campbell
Support for Scottish independence suffers as the Union campaign gains momentum.
For the last few months, the SNP and independence campaign have been kept under the radar as support seems to dwindle since the fallout between Sturgeon and Salmond. Although the SNP gained several seats in Holyrood at the May elections, the polls suggest a majority would vote ‘No’ in a Scottish independence election. This is the first time Remain has been projected over 50% of the vote since early 2020. However, Sturgeon is likely to come back with a bang, as she attempts to muscle Scottish independence back to the top of the agenda.
As the SNP are only one seat off a majority, the current expectation is an informal coalition with the Scottish Greens, creating an overarching majority for Nicola Sturgeon. Once this has taken place, the introduction of an Independence Bill is inevitable. This will create a real headache for the Prime Minister who has announced his strong support for the Unionist campaign, although will lose large amounts of popularity should he undermine devolved powers.
The constitution is firmly in Westminster’s hands, henceforth it is pretty hard to see a situation where the SNP manage to call a second independence referendum themselves. However, with the results the polls are suggesting, is it worth the Conservatives accepting the bid for a referendum to silence the SNP completely. Presumably, David Cameron has something to say about this tactic.
The best thing for the Government, should a Bill make it through, is to stay calm and allow the SNP to act as they wish, because any denouncement of Nationalist behaviour - now or in the near future - will allow for Nationalists to force errors as the Prime Minister may overreact to any attempts of a Bill.
Sturgeon wants there to be a fight between Holyrood and Westminster as this would create a common enemy in the Conservatives. Currently, Nationalists are split in their views over how to achieve their goal, whereas if they rallied together against the Prime Minister and the UK Government, their goal of independence will become much more achievable. In the past, the Nationalists have been very successful in creating proxy battles that unite supporters of independence to the Scottish flag.
A Bill making it through Holyrood will divert attention almost solely onto independence, avoiding the scandals that the SNP are remarkably good at getting involved in. Currently, a police investigation is looking into money raised by the SNP for an independence referendum. Surely Sturgeon will harness the opportunity of having a Bill pass through Holyrood in order to push priorities away from the SNP’s spending habits, as they illegally funnel funds into office upgrades rather than independence campaigns.
Furthermore, the Prime Minister could gain a lot from disregarding the pushy attempts from the Nationalists, which labels Sturgeon as obsessive when the damage of Covid should surely take precedence. When the country is sitting in a recession, with a flailing health system and courts with a backlog of multiple years, prioritising an independence referendum may turn the swing voters away that Nationalists so desperately need in order to make an impact.
In the coming months, long-term work is required to rebuild the union up to a sustainable level. There is very strong potential in the Prime Minister’s support for devolution as this will remove the stigma of a quasi-English Parliament. Since the pandemic, a few blurred lines have been highlighted where it isn’t too clear as to the powers Westminster has and the powers left to the devolved bodies. It's almost as if giving more power to Scotland will prevent them from creating arguments with Westminster hoping to pressure the Government into giving them more force overtime, almost creating independence without a referendum.
Nicola Sturgeon has an important move to make, no doubt it will be a forceful push over Autumn towards a referendum. However, Westminster’s response will undoubtedly hold more influence over whether a referendum will happen in the next lustrum. The Prime Minister needs to avoid the fight that the Nationalists desire. If Johnson can hold his ground, it doesn’t look good for Scottish independence.
Image credit: Scottish Government