BY EFFIE DEANS
Like everyone else I did not pay much attention to the SNP conference which took place nearby me in Aberdeen. The turnout was poor with plenty of empty seats. But this isn’t the SNP’s main problem, nor indeed is Humza Yousaf. The real problem is Scottish nationalism has become a movement of fantasists.
In 1989 two million people in what are now Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia joined hands to mark the 50th anniversary of the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact which led to them being annexed by the Soviet Union. The human chain stretched for 430 miles. Last Saturday Scottish nationalists tried to re-enact this.
There is something deeply offensive about comparing Scotland with the Baltic states. Scotland was never annexed. The Kingdom of Scotland merged with the Kingdom of England primarily because a Scottish King became heir to the English crown and a political merger followed.
Scotland is part of a fully democratic UK rather than a Soviet tyranny. The Red Army did not invade Scotland in 1939, rather huge numbers of Scots volunteered to fight for Britain.
Comparing Scotland with a Soviet Republic is itself absurd, but what is still more risible is the paltry numbers that the organisers could find to actually make up their chain. They chose the narrowest possible point of Scotland between the Clyde at Bowling and the Forth at Falkirk. The links between the people involved linking flags rather than hands, which added at least an extra person’s width to each link. Even then only in a few stretches was there actually a chain at all.
This ably illustrates the delusion.
The organisers of the Baltic Way in 1989 knew that there was popular support for leaving the Soviet Union. They knew that they could get two million people to link hands. The organisers of the Scottish pale imitation don’t seem to realise that there is not popular support for Scotland leaving the UK. There is no mass movement willing to demonstrate.
There was a time just after the referendum when Scottish nationalism looked like it might become a mass movement. Twelve thousand people were willing to go to the Glasgow Hydro to hear Nicola Sturgeon. The SNP got very close to 50% of the vote in 2015. Some of the marches attracted quite a lot of support. But to Scottish nationalists it’s as if this year never happened. Nicola Sturgeon hasn’t resigned, and Labour didn’t win Rutherglen and Hamilton by a landslide. They are all stuck in those heady days of ten years ago.
I actually think that Nicola Sturgeon’s de facto referendum scheme if successful would have put the UK Government under enormous pressure. If the SNP had been able to win more than 50% at a General Election, it would have been difficult to refuse a second referendum. Of course, a General Election is not a referendum, of course no party can hijack a General Election. But that is not the point.
David Cameron felt compelled to give Alex Salmond a referendum because the SNP won an overall majority at Holyrood. Cameron could and indeed should have said to Salmond you only won 45% of the vote, but Cameron didn’t think he could say No.
An SNP majority in a Holyrood election need not have triggered a referendum, nor need getting 50% in a General Election, but British Prime Ministers are unwilling to say that the UK is one nation indivisible, and that secession is illegal, so they have to at least pretend that the SNP goal is possible. If getting half the votes doesn’t make it possible what does?
But this is all beside the point now. It was just about possible to believe that the SNP would win 50% of the vote a year ago. I think the de facto referendum plan would have cost SNP votes. Most Scots don’t want independence and certainly don’t want it now. The support for independence in polls is massively inflated. It only shows Scots who want independence theoretically rather than actually.
Under Sturgeon the SNP would have retained most of its seats but with much less than 50% of the vote. At this point the British Prime Minister could have said you’ve had your second referendum and lost twice. Don’t speak of independence again.
But Humza Yousaf’s scheme which no one understands puts the SNP in an even worse position. Yousaf thinks that if the SNP wins a majority of seats (i.e., 29) then he can immediately begin negotiations for independence with the British Government.
But the SNP could easily win 29 seats with around 35% of the vote. Humza Yousaf wouldn’t even be an MP. He would merely be First Minister of a devolved Parliament that has no say over constitutional matters. How does he expect to negotiate anything?
But while there might have been pressure on a British Prime Minister if the SNP won more than 50% of the vote, there would be none whatsoever if it won 35% of the vote.
Worse, what if the SNP wins only 28 seats? Once more the British Prime Minister says you’ve lost twice so never speak of independence again.
But this is where the fantasists take over. Scottish nationalism doesn’t have the numbers. The last year has seen support for the SNP fall to the extent that it loses a safe seat. A few thousand turn up for a march in the sunshine a few hundred try to join hands across Scotland. Yet Scottish nationalists think that Scotland is ready for rebellion.
Scotland can become independent either with the cooperation of the British Government or without it. The problem with all of the SNP schemes is that it cannot force the British Government to either agree to a referendum or to negotiate independence. So, what do you do if it doesn’t cooperate?
We found out from an SNP delegate.
We must become ungovernable, we must make the economic and social cost of keeping Scotland in the union greater than the cost of letting us go. In short, we must be willing to adopt a fully treasonous attitude towards Westminster.
But I’m sorry if you cannot get more than a few hundred to turn up to the SNP conference, if you cannot link hands across the narrowest part of Scotland, the idea that you can hold a successful rebellion is preposterous.
There is support for independence, but only on condition that we keep our jobs, our standard of living, the pound and the ability to live and work in other parts of the UK. The treasonous attitude would become markedly less treasonous if the UK Government decided to abolish the Barnett Formula. Would we then rebel until it gave it back?
Achieving independence without UK cooperation, or through treasonous rebellion, would mean no international recognition, no EU membership and quite probably no food in the shops and no money in our bank accounts.
There are fewer Scots who want that than are present at the SNP conference.