Interesting piece in the Economist on the changing state of Scottish politics, which notes that “in the aftermath of the referendum on independence in 2014, seismic shifts are everyday stuff.”
It contains a pretty good historical briefing of the development of Scottish politics, not least how a small stream from the old Tory Unionist Party broke away to form the Scottish Party (which advocated Dominion states for Scotland inside the Commonwealth).
But the core observation for me is how the SNP bet too heavily on the EU as a banker for garnering votes for independence. In fact, the few apparent effects it has had have been pretty neutral…
The SNP’s support in Scotland’s central belt means it will still have the vast majority of seats after June 8th. But the shifts suggest that Nicola Sturgeon, the party’s leader, has misjudged the effects of the EU referendum. Expecting it to boost support for independence, she has called for a second plebiscite on secession. In fact, the net effect of the EU vote has been nil (see chart).
Some Remainers who voted No to independence in 2014 would now vote Yes, seeing secession from Britain as a way back into the EU. But a similar number of Leavers who voted Yes in 2014 have switched to No, in order to protect Brexit. One Aberdeenshire fisherman says he voted for independence to get a better deal on EU fishing quotas, but now prefers Brexit, which he hopes will mean no quotas at all.
So what’s the driver behind the consolidation under the Scottish Conservatives? Euan McColm reckons it’s largely a secondary fallout from independence referendum.
In choosing to push a re-run of what was a very deeply unpopular referendum amongst those on the winning side (that No, in case you’d forgotten) in many parts of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon has forced the Noes to consolidate:
Campaigners for both unionist parties and the SNP tell me that they detect, if not growing, strengthening opposition to Sturgeon. The more the First Minister talks up the prospect of a second referendum, the more she angers a substantial section of the electorate.
This is all anecdotal stuff, of course, but when even SNP campaigners highlight the issue, I’m inclined to think there may be something in it. Doubtless, as a young politician with a bright future ahead, Sturgeon’s dreams of leadership cast her as a unifying figure, but the reality of referendum politics makes that an impossibility.
Al of which is interesting in terms of the likelihood of a second Scottish Referendum, but the SNP will remain for the foreseeable future the major force in Scottish politics,
Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty