We’ve turned the corner. A new opinion poll out this weekend confirms that support for independence is at 54%, meaning that the previous poll showing support at that level was not a flash in the pan. It’s a real phenomenon and not a blip or a statistical outlier. We now live in a Scotland where support for independence is the established will of the people of Scotland. That’s a historic first. Even John Curtis, the world’s only polling expert according to the BBC, has stated that this is the first time that independence has enjoyed a consistent lead in the polls, and added that “never have the foundations of public support for the union looked so weak.”
The same poll also shows a historic high level in support for the SNP and the Greens at the next Holyrood election. The SNP would hoover up 55% of the votes in the constituency ballot, and 50% on the list. The Greens would take 3% in the constituency vote and 8% on the list. That would translate into 74 MSPs for the SNP, plus 9 for the Greens, giving pro-independence parties 83 seats in Scotland’s 129 seat Parliament. Parties of independence would secure a majority of seats and a majority of the popular vote in both the constituency ballot and the list ballot.
Scotland is on track for independence, in a way that it wasn’t even during the 2014 independence referendum campaign. This is now a country where a consistent majority are in support of indpendence, and where the long term demographic changes in the country only point to that support increasing over time. Brexit remains hypothetical for most people, especially the majority who don’t follow politics closely. Support for independence will only increase once the reality of Brexit starts to make itself felt. Importantly, now that independence is the majority view, there will be a tendency for people to align themselves with the winning side. Crucially there are now large and significant numbers former no voters in Scotland who support independence. This cohort is the best placed to convert other soft no and wavering voters to support for independence as they have made the same journey themselves. When someone on the fence sees that others that the know who were also previously on the fence have now come out in support for independence, they too will be more likely to embrace independence. The dam is breaking and it’s washing away support for British nationalism.
Westminster saying “no” is not solution to this problem. It’s simply a delaying tactic. Yet the longer that Westminster continues to deny the democratic right of Scotland to have a say on its own future, the more that support for independence is going to increase. It’s not politically sustainable indefinitely.
What makes it worse for the Tories is that there is a large and significant body of support within their own party for Scotland to go its own way. A recent poll found that 49% of Conservative voters in England would prefer English independence. They believe the stories that Scotland is economically dependent upon “English taxes”, and they believe that they’d be better off without a nation which resents Brexit and which in their eyes constantly seeks to undermine the purity of their sunlit uplands, bunting, and British nationalist nostalgia. This means that Conservative opposition to another independence referendum is not as solid and unyielding as the Conservatives want us to believe it is. Don’t allow yourself to be fooled by them. Their opposition is hollow and fragile.
This is easily the biggest political story in the UK just now. It’s a story which spells the eventual demise of the UK in its current form, but it’s scarcely registering in Westminster. It is clear now that the events of the past few months have convinced people in Scotland that this country could do far better as an independent country and that our interests are only being damaged by a chaotic and incompetent British government which is fixated on Brexit at all costs and which has been responsible for allowing the UK to become the European state which has suffered the highest death toll from the virus combined with the greatest economic damage.
Of course it’s not just because of the coronavirus epidemic that support for independence is growing. It’s also because it’s becoming increasingly clear to everyone, especially to many of those who voted no in 2014, that the UK we were told that Scotland could be a part of is a UK that does not exist. We were promised a strengthened and entrenched devolution, instead we see a Conservative government which has always been hostile to devolution which is using Brexit as a weapon to undermine the devolution settlement. Instead of being a secure part of the EU Scotland has been torn out of it against its will and without being allowed any influence into shaping the form that Brexit takes. The promise that Scotland depended upon the UK to guarantee tolerance, moderation, and the highest democratic standards is left in tatters in a UK dominated by a right wing populist Conservative party whose actions only serve to empower and embolden the British nationalist extremists who created violent havoc in Glasgow’s streets. We were told in 2014 that this was a debate between nationalists who wanted independence and non-nationalists who opposed it. We now see that the most dangerous and intolerant form of nationalism in Scotland is British nationalism.
A Labour party which imagines that all the above can be fixed by insisting that Scotland cannot be allowed to decide upon its own future is a Labour party which is not reading the room. A large number of Labour voters in Scotland would back independence, they’re not going to be won back to a Labour party which doubles down on opposition to independence and opposition to allowing the people of Scotland to express their views democratically.
Everything is starting to fall into place for a referendum where 60% support independence. That’s never happened before. As the people of Scotland become bolder and more convinced that independence is the way forward for this country, so the SNP leadership will become more assertive and confident in pursuing independence. After all, there’s little point in demanding an independence referendum if you’re only going to lose it. Scotland is now in a place where we’re going to win, and that’s before an official campaign has even started, before many people in Scotland have started to engage with the issues. And we’re up against a British government whose denials and noes are merely a cover for its own fragility and hollowness. Our time is coming.
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My new book has just been published by Vagabond Voices. Containing the best articles from The National from 2016 to date. Weighing in at over 350 pages, this is the biggest and best anthology of Wee Gingerisms yet. This collection of pieces covers the increasingly demented Brexit years, and the continuing presence and strength of Scotland’s independence movement.
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