Three days after the polls opened, results are in for the 2021 elections to the Scottish Parliament. Unlike previous elections when a diversity of policies brought in a variety of parties, this result—and the tactical voting that led to it—split along independence vs union lines.
Pro-indy parties—72 seats (3 more)
SNP: 64 (+1)
Green: 8 (+2)
Pro-union parties—57 seats (3 fewer)
Cons: 31 (n.c.)
Labour: 22 (-2)
Lib-Den: 4 (-1)
What is decisive about this is not just the numbers. The Conservatives made opposition to any referendum their main policy and repeated it ad infinitum. Both the SNP and Greens had other policies, starting with dealing with Covidm but clearly stating their intention to call a referendum during the term of the parliament (i.e. by 2026).
Though the unionists are spinning away big-time that this is not the time to choose, that the SNP received no overall majority, that the SNP ‘only’ received 48% of the vote, the smell of fear and sense of desperation from them is in the air. And, as the NYT says, Boris and the Tories being implacably against any referendum, let alone allowing Scotland to become independent is putting up backs among people who are not SNP voters but resent being told what to do by a distant and largely unsympathetic Westminster.
It has become a question of democracy. A majority of 15 in the Scottish Parliament were elected on the pledge to ask the people whether they wanted independence or to stay in the union. To refuse that begs the question how the Scottish people could ever achieve that if electing such a majority in their parliament is not enough. The idea that we would need over 50% of the 650-seat UK parliament to approve it is ludicrous, not least because only 57 of those MPs are from Scotland (almost all SNP). The Tories used a 52%-to-48% UK vote to leave the EU, even though 62% of Scotland voted to stay. With Scottish seafood exporters to the EU now being crippled by red tape, circumstances since the 2014 referendum have changed dramatically.
If American readers were to imagine if California wanted to secede but the other 49 sates were all Republican and wanted to retain CA for their own purposes and much of the Central Valley produce lay rotting at the border as a result. If any union is being held together by mutual agreement becomes one held together by coercion, the question becomes not whether but when it will fall apart.
As Boris’ great hero Churchill once said:
“This is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end. But it may be the end of the beginning.”
Unfortunately for all of us, Boris Johnson is no Churchill, displaying little of either his steadfastness or his vision. Rather his style has been characterised by what has been described as “a vacuum f integrity”. Seen from a Scottish perspective, he seems less to be channeling his hero than George III, who caused the first fragmentation of the English Empire. Boris is bidding fair to go down in history as being similarly instrumental in causing the last.