Thursday, 9 January 2020

The self-defeating strategy of the unionists

The logic of the SNP’s position in demanding a second independence referendum is clear and irrefutable: under the rules which govern UK elections, they won a clear – overwhelming, even – majority of Scottish seats in last month’s elections, on a platform of calling for a second referendum to be held this year.  I’m less convinced about the wisdom of an early referendum, to be honest, given that the polls suggest that opinion remains finely balanced and that a second defeat would almost certainly postpone the question for some years.  Whilst it’s possible that the campaign itself would move opinion (which clearly happened during the last referendum), it is by no means certain.  But given their previous statements, their platform for the last election, and the outcome of that election, they have little choice but to pursue the demand for a second referendum as vigorously as they can.
The position of the unionists, including both the current government and the potential new leaders of the Labour Party (who seem to be lining up to explain why the rules governing a mandate in the UK parliament don’t apply to the outcome in Scottish seats, where a majority of the votes is also required, for reasons which they are unable to explain in rational terms) is rather harder to fathom.  Accepting that a mandate exists and allowing the SNP to honour it by holding a referendum is probably their best chance of defeating the independence movement for some years to come; allowing themselves to be seen to be applying different rules in Scotland than they apply to themselves, and using a veto over whether Scotland can even ask itself the question seems almost designed to undermine their message about a ‘union of equals’.  I suspect that it’s based – in Labour’s case particularly – on a belief that support for the SNP is an aberration, and that, given the right leadership and policies, the Scots will eventually return to what the unionists see as their natural political homes. It’s not wholly inconceivable that they are correct, although after a series of successive SNP election victories it’s looking increasingly unlikely.  I suppose, though, for leaders of parties who still believe that they have some sort of right to expect Scots to support them, it’s a perception which they find it hard to escape.
Paradoxically, it means that the SNP is inevitably committed to pursuing a path which has a high risk, if it succeeds, of significantly postponing independence, whilst the unionists are committed to pursuing a path which is likely to persuade ever more Scots of the merits of independence and thus lead to the break-up of the union.  It has long been believed by many independentistas that the demise of the union would ultimately be brought about by the arrogance and intransigence of the unionists in their response to demands from Scotland and Wales, and they seem determined to prove us correct.  I almost find myself egging them on.


Anonymous said...

Boris Johnson has no interst in keeping Scotland within the Union, the Union has no value if it is not prized by its constituent members. All he's doing here is playing for time, England will shortly re-gain full sovereign control over its borders.

Once the Scots realise that in an independent Scotland they too will need to apply for immigrant status prior to entering England, irrespective of family connections/associations, the numbers voting any form of independence will plummet dramatically.

It's all a load of hot air, just as it is in Wales!

John Dixon said...

Obviously, I overlooked the fact that England is the centre of the universe and the chief desire of all Scots is to emigrate to England; how silly of me - how could I have got it so wrong?