Sorry, but unilaterally declaring independence is still bonkers
In February there was a spate of articles suggesting that the answer to Scotland’s constitutional crisis was for a majority to Scottish MPs just to make a unilateral declaration of independence(UDI). At the time we wrote that this idea was bonkers.
One of my first thoughts yesterday was that, now that May has called a snap General Election, perhaps UDI has a bit more plausibility about it. It is certainly once again a popular subject being touted on many pro-independence social media sites and the usual suspects have blogged about it.
I sat down to write about how it may be a possibility but after a few minutes of contemplation I realised that it’s still bonkers.
So, here in bullet points is why I think it’s still a daft idea to make this election a proxy independence referendum.
It puts at risk our pro-independence, anti-hard-Brexit seats in Scotland.
- As things stand, in this snap election the SNP will win a big majority of seats. This is because most remainers and most independence supporters will vote SNP. However, making the vote solely about independence will change that.
- In the last election the SNP got 49.9% of the vote. However, some of that vote would have come from people who don’t support independence but think the SNP do a competent job running the country.
- It will also have been made up of independence supporters who believe that independence should only happen if a clear majority of Scottish people want it. These people would be put off by UDI on the back of a UK election victory. Especially as many of them only lend their vote to the SNP for tactical purposes. They know there is no point voting Green/Rise in general elections so SNP is the next best option for them.
- If you make this election about independence the SNP will lose some of this support reducing their percentage of the popular vote.
- In turn you would also engineer a situation where the anti-independence vote will organise. This will result in a lot more people voting Tory. Incidentally, this is what might happen to Theresa May in June, except it won’t be No voters voting tactically against her it will be remain voters.
- So, making this election all about declaring UDI might lead to a situation where the SNP lose a lot of seats and the Tories gain a lot of seats. You might even end up with a Tory majority in Scotland. So a situation could occur in which we are still getting a hard-Brexit but the majority of Scottish MPs actually support it.
- However, more likely the threat of UDI will lead to a smaller SNP majority. This reduced majority would be used to call into question the legitimacy of any attempt to declare independence.
There are democratic issues with the concept.
- If the SNP won a majority, it would be a majority won under a voting system whereby a party can rule with a small percentage of the popular vote.
- Due to the factors above the SNP are highly unlikely to get more than 50 percent of the vote if they promised to declare UDI if victorious.
- Currently, as measured over many years, a lot of polls and one referendum, more than half of Scotland is not in favour of independence.
- It would be immoral for an SNP government with less than half of the popular vote to declare independence when half of the country consistently say they don’t want it.
- Lets say they did just that. What would then happen would be years of legal wrangling. The pro UK side would argue that it is illegitimate because in poll after poll, Scots have shown that they don’t want to be independent. They would argue a slim majority in a UK general election is not a mandate for independence.
- If the independence side won the long legal battle, what would then happen would be years and years of animosity and potential civil unrest from the large section of society who felt aggrieved that they were being removed from the UK against their will. This unrest would come at a time when the Scottish government would be negotiating with both the UK and the EU. These are not conditions in which negotiating a good deal will be easy.
- In the unlikely event it worked, and we voted for an SNP majority who declared independence, then we got past the legal wranglings, then the public settled down and got behind it, then we managed to get good deals with the EU and the UK, there is still one other minor issue.
- That issue is Hypocrisy. We spend a lot of time in the independence movement talking about fairness, better political systems and being dragged out of the EU against our will. Starting a country off in this fashion would taint the progressive aims of the movement. Even if we got over all the obvious hurdles there would still be a stench about how it all began.
Let us know what you think about UDI below.
You can also help by sharing the blogs and joining our newsletter.