IT has been two days since the First Minister announced a referendum on Scottish independence and the madness has already begun.
Tories and Labour politicians alike, including Mundell and Dugdale, are claiming that the First Minister does not speak for Scotland whilst in the same breath are claiming that they themselves speak for Scotland by saying Scotland doesn’t want another referendum. What they mean is that they, the Unionist politicians, do not want one. There has been a major failure to separate the issues of whether there should be another referendum and how you would vote in it.
Putting aside the fact that Nicola Sturgeon is in fact the First Minister of Scotland elected on a huge democratic mandate of 47% and on a manifesto pledge that promised another referendum in the event of a “material change in circumstances”, you would be mistaken for thinking this epitomises Unionist arrogance or how out of touch with reality they are. In actual fact, it represents their fear. It’s palpable. The Tories and Scottish Labour in particular, already having shovel after shovel of soil poured over their heads, know that if an independence referendum is called, the Union is over. If you think the last Union campaign was based on fear, the fear they are already portraying will taint every part of their campaign. Democratic process is already being labelled “divisive”.
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Organisationally speaking, what will be different between this referendum and the last one is the starting point. Independence has a base of 45% plus; 56 of the 59 MPs are pro-independence; the SNP still holds the Scottish Government and are also likely to sweep local elections this May. Most importantly, the Yes networks and groups are still semi-functional at least. And the burning desire for an independent Scotland has persisted.
But what hasn’t changed is the hypocrisy and arrogance of the Unionist side, particularly in London, following statements by Remain politicians of their supposed love of democratic and liberal values while discussing whether or Scotland should be “given” a second referendum as though the decision is theirs to take. There was even a claim today from BBC reporter Christian Fraser that Theresa May is considering demanding the SNP achieve an outright majority in a 2021 Scottish election. This shows their disdain Westminster has for the Scottish electorate which already voted in the Scottish Government and a pro-independence Parliament in 2016.
It’s clear that Unionist politicians are dreading the thought of another independence campaign. Our campaign never ended.
Rory Steel is the SNP Youth National Vice Convener