The SNP should not change their stance on indyref2
Post General Election there is speculation that the SNP will put indyref2 on the back burner due to them losing a third of their Westminster seats.
This would be an understandable position to take as holding a referendum when your popularity is in decline and there has been no indication of a rise in support for independence is a risky strategy. The SNP could use the election result as a way to step back and reassess their position.
I would argue that this would be a bad idea.
First of all, a u-turn would alienate those who have remained loyal to the SNP. This is a support base already frustrated by what they see as a party that is too moderate for their tastes. For a while now the SNP have been trying to be everything to every-person and it has worked because many were willing to cut them slack for the greater goal of independence.
The SNP have already lost the bulk of their right wing followers. Those who really don’t see the point of being independent while remaining in the EU. Those that see Brexit as a sound economic move that shouldn’t be undone by an independent Scotland bending over for Brussels.
The last thing the SNP want to do now is push away those who remain loyal. The progressives who see independence as a means to create a fairer country. These people have already started to lose faith. We saw many of them moving to Labour just before the election as the program offered by Corbyn chimed more with their political ideology. If Scottish Labour had possessed the tactical nous to be more supportive of Corbyn and more agnostic on the independence question then SNP losses could have been much worse.
Yet it is not the threat of independence that is pushing people away, it is policy. Independence is as popular as ever and by listening the SNP can win these people back.
Many of the pro-indy Brexiteers could be wooed by the SNP ditching full EU membership and instead chasing an EFTA type solution. Many of those drawn to Corbyn’s Labour could be won back by the SNP actually following up with the radical policies they once flirted with. What happened to Council Tax reform, the National Investment Bank, stronger local government and radical land reform?
That said, this election result has produced a situation whereby the SNP might not need to change much to win back lost support and make independence the most popular option. The alternative to independence is about to get a whole lot less appealing.
The funny thing about the election is that the result in Scotland put the union in more trouble than it would have been in if things had remained the same. As we argued previously, if the SNP had held ground then Corbyn would be PM. This would have led to a situation that would be bad for die hard independence supporters. The politics of the UK would have swung to the left making the country a fairer place. A hard Brexit would have been most likely avoided and UK constitutional reform would have been on the agenda. All three of these things would have decreased support for independence.
In focusing solely on independence the unionists made some short term gains but missed the elephant in the room.
The policy of defeating the SNP at all costs has plunged UK politics even deeper into the mire. For a very rare occasion, votes in Scotland mattered. Instead of Corbyn reforming the system we now have a Prime Minister about to commence Brexit negotiations with such a slim majority that she will be held hostage from all sides of the political spectrum. A Prime Minister who threw away power and is perceived as a laughing stock and a weak touch by the 27 countries she will be negotiating with.
Contrast this with the SNP who are entitled to hold an independence referendum by any standard of democracy.
They are by far the most popular political force in Scotland at all levels and they passed a bill in the Scottish parliament pledging to hold a referendum. They are in my opinion obliged to hold one but they may try to wriggle out of it for fear of losing.
Yet the beauty of the post General Election climate is that the SNP no longer have to worry about losing the referendum as the UK government will not allow it to happen.
They will use the reduced SNP majority as a justification to put indyref2 on hold. This blatant act of sabotaging democracy will in the long term be the straw that breaks back of the union. The SNP would be mad to reject a referendum themselves when they can get the UK government to do it for them.
Like Theresa May and Ruth Davidson we have never believed that Brexit was a good idea.
However a Brexit negotiated by a weak Tory government propped up by Ulster Unionists is surely going to be an absolute disaster. If the pro-indy Brexiteers and those who want to avoid independence at all costs don’t realise this now then they soon will.
Only this week UK business leaders have expressed their fears about the rudderless direction in which the country is heading.
Credit reference agencies have warned about UK growth and fiscal stability. In the next few years we will likely see economic confidence dive, the pound will collapse further, tariffs and non-tariff barriers will come into force, consumers will pay a lot more for imported goods. We will have large scale skill shortages due to falling migration and the cost of paying for pensions and essential services will rise. Powers will be centralised, the cost of air travel will be prohibitive, Northern Ireland will be destabilised, Human Rights will be diminished, freedom of expression will be curtailed, the NHS will be gradually privatised and austerity will continue to grow. Those in Scotland who voted Tory are about to reap what they sowed.
These symptoms of Brexit and more will push people towards the cause of Scottish independence. At that point, the SNP will be able to say we tried to offer you the option of avoiding this but Ruth Davidson, Theresa May, Kezia Dugdale and the Ulster Unionists conspired to subvert the will of the Scottish parliament.
This rejection of the will of Holyrood will be a democratic outrage but only a small proportional of the population will be angered by it when it happens.
The anger will be deferred till the realities of Brexit start to hit. All the SNP need to do is wait, embrace the EFTA solution and be a bit more radical at Holyrood. When the shit hits the fan the SNP are going to look like the only party that had a realistic plan to prevent the carnage. Then will be the time to hold another referendum regardless of whether Westminster is prepared to permit one or not.
Image via @Defiaye
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