Scotland – Non-Party Road to the Independence?


Paradoxically - the issue of Scotland's independence is experiencing a renaissance of global interest at a time when in practice it is at a crossroads. One wrong decision may postpone regaining Scots’ own country to an undefined future, and the Scots involved in national activities face two major problems: firstly, the extremely unequal political system of the United Kingdom, and secondly, Scottish party system, which is a sensation on a European scale - Scotland is in practice a country without (own) right political wing. And above all, the independence movement will probably be forced to make soon a final self-determination: whether Scotland's national cause is and must necessarily be synonymous with interests of the Scottish National Party, the main power of this tendency, currently ruling the local government.

Trap of the Political System

From the system side, the situation is legally unclear, but politically obvious. The Tories ruling UK refused the Scottish Parliament to vote again under independence question simply because ... they could refuse, understanding that there is no political mechanism to appeal against the bad will of the Westminster. Justifying that position with sentences like "in 2014 it was agreed that the independence referendum can take place once a generation" has obviously no grounds, because such a commitment has never been formalized. Of course, however, Boris Johnson's Government will not agree on a procedure which finally will almost certainly be unfavourable for the Scottish-English union. And the problem is that Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland's First Minister and leader of the Scottish National Party does not seem to know what to do with that.

The SNP (together with the even more radically pro-independence Scottish Greens) has a majority in the Scottish Parliament, Holyrood, but in a system of a state without a written constitution, which is the United Kingdom – hardly nothing comes of it. The Scottish Government will certainly call courts to recognize its right to announce a referendum (based on the Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998, confirmed by the Edinburgh Agreement 2012), but such a decision (otherwise more than likely positive) on a British forum can be postponed until at least next year. 

And yet the SNP promised the Scots to vote in 2020 and with this slogan, the Party was successful in last year's early elections to the House of Commons, gaining 47 MPs (out of 59 Scotland’s seats). Despite of this N. Sturgeon insists on legalism and does not even want to hear about the unilateral announcement of the referendum, which is prompted by a radical part of the independence movement. Because in fact the interests of the main independence party are not necessarily synonymous with the imminent success of the whole Scottish independence cause.

Only One Party for One Issue?

The beginnings of the SNP date back to the 1930s, when two radical groups united - the National Party of Scotland and the Scottish Party, supplemented by representatives of societies working to protect Scottish culture and defend native languages, and dissidents primarily from British left-wing organizations. As national divisions equalled to some extent also class differences - the left-nationalist character of the SNP was visible from the beginning, for decades consolidating its shape as a party of radically nationalist intelligentsia and workers. 

The energy of the national movement increased in the 1960s, when a revival wave passed through Scottish universities. aided by events such as the brave removing in 1950 by a group of Scottish students the Stone of Scone, a traditional regalia of Scottish kings, sneeringly kept down the British throne at Westminster Abbey. In a deep pragmatic Scottish nation - the unexpected layers of romanticism were dozing ...

Scottish nationalists chose not to imitate their Irish colleagues, and any shy attempts to use terrorism as a method of action were quickly and internally suppressed. SNP opted for a long march technique, initially, especially at the turn of the 60s / 70s - very promising. After the success of 1974, when 11 Scottish nationalists were sent to the House of Commons - however, there was a regression, heightened by the neo-liberal strategy of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, which economically and socially demolished the entire British society, but especially murderous turned out to be for poor Scotland. Fortunately, it was then, somewhat along the Bloody Maggie’s war line against English and Welsh miners - that Scotland turned out to have oil ...

The national aspirations of the Scots confirmed then in the belief that they were exploited by the British in a colonial way - were strengthened throughout the 1980s. At the same time, the face of the SNP was crystallizing as a more and more clearly Social-democratic formation. In response to factional activity, represented within the Party on the one hand by the fundamentally leftist Group '79, and on the other by the nationalist Campaign for Nationalism in Scotland - in 1982, the institutionalization of party factions was officially banned. The most radically national circle - Siol nan Gaidheal - has also been removed from the organization.

And although the SNP is still to this day a broad political movement, very diverse even on issues as emblematic as gay marriage (after all, the hallmark of Scottish policy) or even the accession of independent Scotland to the European Union and NATO – however (especially under the leadership of First Minister N. Sturgeon) the Party's unity remains an absolute imperative.

National Cause or Party Cause?

The Party that on the independence side is almost a monopolist, having not only 47 MPs in the House of Commons, but 62 (out of 129) MPs in the Scottish Parliament and 424 (one-third) of all Scottish councillors, as well as around 50 percent support in the polls. Sometimes competition and more often support for SNP are the Scottish Greens, probably the only ones in Europe who are still just a consistent left sensitive to environmental protection, and not the perversion of liberalism, as their namesakes in Germany, France or England. 

All officially 'Scottish' Conservatives and Unionists, 'Scottish' Labour and 'Scottish' Liberal Democrats - are in fact divisions of whole-British parties, whose only sense of existence is to resist the Referendum itself first, and ultimately, of course, to fight against the issue of independence. The Tories are already consistently conducting (against SNP dominance) all election campaigns in Scotland solely under one slogan "Against Referendum, Against Independence, Only WE Can Stop SNP". Labour in the north of Tweed is in complete disarray and although today it declares its support for re-voting for independence, they can hardly deceive anyone. SNP is a more consistent and honest Left (especially in view of the post-Corbyn re-evolution of the Labour Party towards neo-liberal Blairism), and therefore Labour is simply no longer needed in Scotland. Liberal Democrats are only defended by habit, mainly by residents of Shetland and Orkney, who are reluctant to novelties and treat Lib-Dem simply as their own party for over a Century.

So, as you can see – in Scotland there are simply no Scottish parties other than left-wing. In addition, SNP's uniform-frontism practically eliminated even more left-wing groups competing with it at the beginning of the Century. Pro-independence Scottish Socialist Party (having five deputies in Parliament 2003), the Trotskyist Socialist Party - Scotland (actually a branch of one of the UK Trotskyist movements), as well as split formations such as charismatic leader Tommy Sheridan’s Solidarity - despite successful social campaigns are in fact outside of the political game.

In recent years, the attempt to establish a slightly more centrist or even centrist-right formation in the form of the Scottish Democratic Alliance (which a decade ago turned out to be an ephemera of not even local significance) has proved to be a severe failure. The Scottish independence movement remained broadly faithful to the Party that created and organized it - even knowing perfectly well that after the desired regaining of sovereignty - the Party simply cannot maintain unity and must divide according to normal, program criteria. The problem is that the same thing is perfectly understood by the SNP party apparatus ...

Ruling country since 2007 SNP has been doing an excellent business seeking Scotland's independence, but not necessarily in a hurry. To make matters worse, the Party is only a party, so it has a program that is quite concrete by democratic standards, and the Government is a government - so it must not delight everyone, whether by introducing as the first Sugar Tax in Europe or an additional tax on alcohol units, or by finally scarring Scottish roads with an unbelievable number of speed cameras etc., not to mention about its persistent and quite aggressive rainbowphilia. To the surprise of the SNP leadership - even the iron core of this organization's electorate is not even so enthusiastic about the country's pro-immigration policy (well, maybe with the exception of Poles and Hungarians, who even the ordinary Scots seem to be particularly nice ...). However, the Scots vote for their own Party - because it promised them independence. But the question is - how long will these promises last, and what about the remaining votes necessary to secure the small majority shown?

Independence is NOT a Party Matter (Only)

It is no secret that the SNP does not have any agricultural program, lightly giving farmers’ voices to the hated Tories who coarsely lie to Scottish agricultural producers (and fishermen) by promising them protection against foreign competition. Also, tax and wages policy of First Minister N. Sturgeon is not attractive for the hard left and even for the Greens (demanding taxation of the upper-class, both large capitals and huge landowners, with the Queen at the head) and Socialists (fighting, among others, for unilateral increase of the obligatory minimum wage to £ 10 per hour and re-nationalization of public transport) - but at the same time for all those who become middle class, the platform of the ruling Party is also not the peak of dreams, just to take into consideration  a five-degree income tax scale.

Especially for the latter on the Scottish political scene, there is currently no offer, because voting for Conservatives or Liberal Democrats equals betrayal of the national cause. The SNP itself is satisfied with the government of souls over half of the Scots - it seems to abdicate from the fight for the rest. And for a Party - it's a rational tactic, but it is all about independence!

Rational independence activists (at least from defeat in the last referendum) repeat that the matter of independence must be detached from the party interest. The more Scotland's independence is identified with SNP's policy - the more it can cause opposition ("I won't pay more for my favourite Irn-Bru drink just because it's made mostly of sugar!") or just simply fatigue with ineffective until now treatments. Therefore, outside and above party movements, such as the "All Under One Baner" campaign, which conducts thousand people demonstrations through cities and towns of Scotland without party affiliations, are becoming increasingly popular. YES2 or AYE movements function virtually everywhere and although a significant proportion of their activists belong or are voting only for SNP - it is a large part of pre-referendum agitation that focuses precisely on the belief of the Scots that independence does not equal mono-party.

On the other hand, SNP also has strong arguments. Over the Scottish cause for over 30 years have been hanging derisive (then) words of Margaret Thatcher: “Scotland does not need a referendum on independence. She just needs to send a majority of nationalist MPs to Westminster to have a mandate for independence”.  Of course, this stupid woman all her successors lied, this condition was fulfilled a decade ago, and despite strong support for Scottish nationalists, London does not want to give them freedom. However, this contradiction is being used in the current political struggle - in 2021 there will be next elections to the Scottish Parliament and both the SNP and the Tories want to make them a substitute plebiscite for and against independence.

According to all polls the Scottish National Party will crushingly won with an independent majority in Holyrood - but it means that Scots will have to keep SNP in power first, and only then maybe they can talk about the Referendum again ...

Glass Ceiling of SNP

The attitude of First Minister N. Sturgeon and the SNP authorities is criticized not so often, but rather intelligently. The Party leader from the 80s, the author of her strong left turn, Jim Sillarsconsistently expresses his opposition to the clearly anti-BREXIT platform adopted by SNP. It is worth recalling that when in 1975 Great Britain voted in favour of joining the EEC and the European Communities - Scots under the SNP lead voted ... against. So just the opposite to the English... 

Critics of Edinburgh's pro-Brussels policy not only raise an internal contradiction with the postulate of independence that cannot be fully realized in the realities of a European Super-State - but also remind that even a decade ago the inspiration for the Scottish independence movement was the road of Norway remaining outside the EU structures. The opposition is also aroused by attempts to "civilize" SNP to the Euro-Atlantic level, including ideas for moving away from the Party's platform points about the removal of all nuclear weapons from independent Scotland and remaining outside NATO. Unfortunately, even SNP has been infiltrated by such agents of Washington as MP Ian Blackford, leader of a think-tank convincing Americans that after the declaration of independence they will still be able to count on bases in Scottish lochs. All this outrages the old nationalists, paying attention to the circumstances of the Scottish electoral system.

The electoral law in Scotland is a mixed vote for party lists (56 members) and candidates in majority constituencies (73). Although this gives the opportunity to create a relatively stable government by the dominant party, it also creates for the SNP a glass ceiling, especially in agricultural shires traditionally associated with the Tories. So, the Party can win the majority, and it probably will – but it is not known what will happen when it finally bored the voters who do not know reality other than SNP rule, while the cause of independence will remain mostly the Party matter.

And What's Next?

As it is nowadays - not the politicians, but ...bloggers started to look for the answer to this question. The extremely popular Wings Over Scotlandblog, increasingly boldly criticizing Nicola Sturgeon's leadership - even threw the slogan of building a new independence party, with a clearly right-wing ideological and Eurosceptic profile, which would simply complement the electoral offer of the national movement in the upcoming elections. Critics of the SNP line also claim that it has driven the Scottish independence movement into a tactical trap, tying him too strongly with resistance to BREXIT. 

Sturgeon, who looks great in the media, has grown up in the British forum to be the main opponent of Prime Minister B. Johnson, while opposition to leaving the EU became a dominant of SNP propaganda. There was obviously a tactical idea in this: winning for independence all reluctant BREXIT opponents, including immigrants from Eastern Europe. Well, but BREXIT has happened, so far, the country and economy are not collapsing, and support for independence still does not exceed 52 percent (optimistically counting). So, what's next?

The creator of "Wings Over Scotland",Stuart Campbell (just fighting against ritual accusations of ... "homophobia") already in autumn 2019 prompted SNP another solution: an agreement with the weak Governments of Theresa May and then B. Johnson, which were not able to push their EU deal versions through the House of Commons - in exchange for their consent to a referendum in Scotland. However, First Minister Sturgeon's advisors thought it was a dilemma for military food rations, that is, either you have canned food or can openers, never both at the same time.

An agreement with the Tories - according to SNP leaders - would mean that a referendum would take place, but there would be no guarantee that it would be won, because opponents of BREXIT could regard such a deal as treason. Well now the Scottish government can count on a small handicap of support for its lethal battle with the inevitable BREXIT but it will not have where and when to test this advantage - - sceptics like Campbell sum up.

Anyway, London will not sit and sleep, waiting its last colony to be taken away. A stroke to the independence movement is to be starting soon the trial of the former First Minister Alex Salmondaccused – of course! – of sexual harassment of co-workers, and mainly being guilty of promoting Scotland's independence on Russia Today. It would be naive to think that England will easily give up the Scottish oil fields in the North Sea, as well as thousands of hectares of land belonging to Windsor and British aristocracy.In turn, instrumental references to the Scottish cause by European officials, such as Donald Tusk- naturally cools sympathy in some World circles that are otherwise conducive to national ideas. Meanwhile, what a sovereign nation will do with its own freedom - it remains only its matter, and there is enough potential among the Scots to believe that the spirit of Bannockburn had not yet died in them.

Scottish politics will evolve, and the independence movement itself has kept enough freshness there to appreciate its adaptability and ability to respond to the real needs of the nation. So, despite all the mistakes of politicians - Scotland will be independent!