There’s a new Scottish opinion poll out today commissioned by the Sunday Times which must have come as a massive disappointment to the British nationalists who produce that newspaper. The Salmond trial has had precisely zero effect on Scottish voting intentions. Fieldwork for the poll was carried out between 24 and 26 March, after the verdict had been given. All that SNPbaddery has had precisely zero impact. You’d almost think that the British media didn’t understand what’s driving support for independence.
Shock horror as the voters prove themselves to be far more sophisticated in their understanding than the press, and are able to distinguish between the actions of individuals on the one hand and political goals and governance on the other. After all this time, the British media still persists in thinking it’s all about the SNP. It’s not and it never has been. It’s about the British state and the way in which it marginalises Scotland. But for British nationalists grasping that thorn requires a fundamental shift in their own behaviour, views, and outlook. That’s never going to happen.
British nationalism is above all else defined by its exceptionalism and the unshakeable belief that it’s better than all other forms of nationalism by virtue of not being nationalist at all. It is psychically impossible for it to change, because in order to change it must first recognise that it is in fact a form of nationalism. So we’re going to keep on seeing articles like Brian Wilson’s exercise in spittle flecked denunciation of the SNP ship and all those who sail in her which will be hailed by the British metrocommentariat as important and game-changing, but support for independence will continue to rise.
In fact there’s been a slight increase in the number of people who state that they plan to vote SNP in the next Holyrood election, 51% in the constituency vote and 48% in the list. Together with the vote for the Greens who would pick up 3% in the constituency and 6% of the list votes, this would give pro-independence parties a very comfortable majority in the next Scottish Parliament. On the figures in this poll, the SNP alone would take 70 out of the 129 seats in Holyrood and be set for its best ever result in a Scottish election. 54% of voters in Scotland would support pro-independence parties in both the constituency vote and the list vote. The new poll shows that support for independence is up 2% on 49% compared to the last Sunday Times poll on the question. Support for independence is holding up well despite the constant barrage of “we’re all in this together” from the British press.
The reason for the rise in support for the SNP in this poll is because the people of Scotland trust the response of the Scottish Government during this crisis. Despite all the other criticisms which may be levelled against her, Nicola Sturgeon is precisely the kind of leader that a country needs in an emergency of this sort. She exudes calmness and determination, a marked contrast to the bumbling and contradictory statements issuing from Boris Johnson.
A time of crisis is a time for solidarity. The British nationalists may very well think that this means that there’s going to be an increase in opposition to Scottish independence. That’s a facile understanding, but one which they cling on to in comfort. This proves we need the UK, they tell us, more in desperation than anything else. In fact it proves nothing of the sort, what it really proves is that during a national emergency, life and death decisions are made by a British government which isn’t accountable to Scotland and which Scotland has no means to control or punish should it – as it has done so frequently in the past – act in a selfish and incompentent manner.
Even now we see the British government game playing and acting irresponsibly. We also learned from today’s Sunday Times that Boris Johnson was furious when Nicola Sturgeon decided to close Scottish schools and forced his hand. The Sunday Times reports that now the inner members of the British cabinet are making decisions that only go to COBRA at the very last minute, in order to stop the Scottish Government forcing the issue. We also see that they have refused to participate in the EU scheme to provide much needed ventilators, because Brexit. They’re refusing to delay or suspend the trade negotiations with the EU and the UK is still set to crash out with no trade deal in a few short months.
National emergencies are also a time for reflection and thought. That’s doubly true during this crisis as we’re all stuck at home with our fears and our worries. We have plenty of time to think and reflect. This crisis will pass, and the British nationalists are hoping that when it does the people of Scotland will come out of it with a renewed faith in the institutions of the British state. Their hopes will be dashed.
The closest parallel is perhaps WW2, when the entire UK came together and made enormous sacrifices. Yet when the war was over, the sentiment that reigned was not one that rewarded the Conservative party and Winston Churchill, it was a determination that things needed to change. The voters elected the most radical Labour party in history, which introduced the NHS and nationalisation of key industries.
When this current crisis passes there will also be a determination that things need to change. We need to change to ensure that workers and incomes are protected, and that the government must not prioritise the interests of the wealthy under the guise of protecting the economy. We need to think seriously about a basic income scheme in this time of gig jobs and zero hours contracts. We need to ensure that the rich and big business pays its fair share of taxes. We need a government which knows that the economy is a tool to service the people, the people are not a tool to service the economy. But above all we need to ensure that Scotland is governed by a parliament and a political party that the voters of this country can hold to account.
So here’s a prediction. During this crisis support for independence will not shift much – people have other things to worry about right now. But after this crisis is over there will be renewed interest in independence as the realisation dawns that the British state is incapable of reforming itself and if the people of Scotland want the changes that the we all so badly need, there’s only one way that we’re going to get them. We will have that opportunity in the next Scottish elections.
Above all we need an SNP which is brave enough, bold enough, and imaginative enough to seize the opportunity. Many things that we have become used to have been shown to be inadequate in the fires of this crisis. One of those is a party leadership which seeks to manage the independence movement. We don’t need to be managed, we need to be led. Beyond the darkness of this terrible time, there will be the dawning of a better Scotland.
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