A new poll shows that a substantial majority of voters in Scotland want another independence referendum. 63% of the Scottish public want to see another independence referendum, only 34% are oppose to another referendum. The 34% is that majority that the British nationalists are always telling us that they speak for in a perfect example of British exceptionalism, where 1/3 is bigger than 2/3. More details of the poll are given here – http://scotgoespop.blogspot.com/2020/05/stunning-telephone-poll-finds-almost.html
It’s a remarkable finding, given that we’re currently in the middle of the biggest international crisis since WW2 and we’ve been deluged in British nationalist propaganda from the media dressed up as VE Day nostalgia and lies about how we’re all in this pandemic together. Although someone clearly forgot to make sure that Dominic Cummings and the Conservative party understood the message.
Usually in times of crisis there is a “rally round the flag” effect, this happens in every country. However it’s striking that in Scotland, despite the best efforts of the British nationalist media, that effect is benefiting the Scottish Government, not the British one. Although given how god-awful the Conservative administration in Westminster has been, that’s perhaps not surprising. The UK now has the highest absolute death toll in Europe, and the highest per capital death toll in the world. This tragedy was avoidable, but the British Government has failed at every turn.
In their predictable attempts to find some SNPbad to get them through the week, the British nationalist parties and press in Scotland have had to resort to criticising the Scottish Government for not diverging from the policies of the British Government more rapidly and more assertively. That alone tells you just how dreadfully the British Government has performed. For the SNP to be attacked by British nationalists for not diverging more from Westminster is like getting a lecture on public health from Harold Shipman.
The poll shows unequivocally that people in Scotland regard the independence question as unfinished business. Far from the epidemic destroying the argument for independence, the shortcomings and lamentable performance of the British Government has only helped to focus people’s minds on the possibility that for Scotland it doesn’t have to be this way. As Scotland slowly and cautiously starts to come out of lockdown, the clamour for another independence vote is only going to grow.
Yet despite their best, or rather worst, efforts, and the constant fixation upon a Nike Conference attended by 70 people while ignoring the British Government’s decision to allow the Cheltenham Festival to go ahead a week later, the Scottish population continues to trust in the Scottish Government. Public trust in the Scottish Government, and in the First Minister in particular, is at 82%, according to another opinion poll conducted recently. Polling clearly finds that people in Scotland expect and want the Scottish Government to take the lead in fighting the virus, and trust in its judgement in doing so in a way that they’d don’t trust the British Government. It shows that there’s an expectation in Scotland that Scotland could and should formulate its own distinctive response to an international crisis.
What people in Scotland most definitely do not want is what Alister Jack and the Scottish Conservatives have been preaching, that Scotland acts in lockstep with Westminster. Which in practice means that Westminster takes all the decisions and Scotland tags along obediently. Alister Jack, supposedly the voice of Scotland in the British Government, has been noticeably absent during this crisis. He’s even more of a part time performer than the Prime Minister. The lesson that’s being drawn from this is that it’s Holyrood which speaks for Scotland, not the Scotland Office.
Equally Alister’s colleagues in Holyrood are struggling politically. They have been damaged by Surname Surname’s pitiable reluctance to say anything critical about Dominic Cummings breaking lockdown rules, when he was all over the airwaves and the press demanding the resignation of the Scottish Chief Medical Officer for a similar, although lesser, breach. Despite the vigorous defence by senior figures in the British Government, Durham Police have concluded that Cummings did potentially break the law. Cummings either broke the rules by doing on a family outing during the lockdown, or he broke the rules by putting other road users at risk by driving while he thought he might be unfit to do so. It’s one or the other, and either constitutes a sacking offence in a senior government advisor who has been forming the rules that the rest of us must abide by. Surname Surname has done his best to keep his head down because criticising Number 10 is way above his paygrade. He might not have been noticed in the media, but his hypocrisy and the hypocrisy of his party has most certainly been noticed by the public.
We are now in a Scotland which expects that the independence question should be revisited. Moreover we are in a Scotland where there is also an expectation that Scotland should make important decisions for itself, including decisions about how to respond during an international crisis. The Scottish Government enjoys huge public trust, while the British Government stands exposed as a bunch of self-serving liars and charlatans who have traduced any faith that the people might once have placed in them and whose incompetence and successive failures have led to the UK being the worst affected place in the world.
No British nationalist can now go to the Scottish public in a second referendum and seriously argue that Scotland depends upon the British Government to keep it safe. No one can now plausibly assert that Scotland is more secure and better protected by Westminster than it could be as an independent nation. We only have to point to the British Government’s record in mishandling the coronavirus epidemic.
There is now a willingness in Scotland to listen to and accept pro-independence messages that didn’t exist in 2014. There is now a lack of trust and faith in the institutions of the British state that didn’t exist in 2014. And above all we enter a new independence referendum campaign with the idea of independence a normal topic in Scottish political discourse, and with the support of half the population. Once we are through this crisis and out the other side of it, independence is ours for the taking.
For the grassroots movement coming out of lockdown means that we can, tentatively, begin once again to build upon our local networks of activists and activities. We can once again start to debate and discuss the arguments that we will need to persuade undecided voters to our cause. But we’re now pushing at an open door. What we need to see from the Scottish Government is the same determination to pursue the goal of self-determination for Scotland as it has done to ensure that we’re kept safe during the epidemic, because a British state that knows it will lose the independence vote is a British state that’s going to be unwilling to cooperate in delivering a referendum. We must not ask for a referendum, we must demand one, take one, and make one happen regardless.
James Kelly (no not that one) of the opinion poll analyst blog Scot Goes Pop is crowdfunding to commission a new opinion poll on the independence question in the post-Barnard Castle era of British government. It’s not an easy decision to crowdfund right now as we’re still in lockdown and many people are facing uncertain futures, but this is a good cause and it’s certainly worth your while sending a couple of quid his way. He’ll put the money to good use.
And finally, because we could all do with a laugh during these difficult times …
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