Nationalist movements always face a dilemma with devolution, to reject it or work it. All the elected nationalist parties in the UK have opted for working it in the hope their good governance leads to increased support for secession. However, they run the risk of being used by voters who in an unitary state seek a ‘local hero’ against the central government but baulk at the final step e.g. Quebec. The 2007 Scottish Social Attitudes Survey shows support for independence at its lowest level for over 10 years following a peak in 2004-2006. It indicates the SNP’s popularity is driven by Alex Salmond rather than a desire for independence and a reason the Labour party suffered is it was deemed to be failing as a champion for Scotland.
According to Professor John Curtice of Strathclyde University, the May elections for Holyrood were determined more than before by how much people felt politicians were willing to stand up for Scotland. Labour did poorly in that.
Professor Curtice, a co-director of the study, summarised the main outcome: “The SNP’s victory in May was a success for the party rather than the cause of independence that it espouses. It had a popular leader and tapped a feeling that Holyrood should put Scotland, rather than partnership with London, first.