Dogs wore saltire bandanas, while people carried placards calling out ‘Ruth Davidson’ (Leader of the Scottish Conservatives), questioning her comments about there being “No Appetite” for a second referendum on Scottish independence. ‘Look around’ one sign demanded, ‘We are here and we are hungry. #it is time’
It was May, in Glasgow and the latest march for Scottish independence had attracted an estimated 30-35,000 die hard separatists. The National, Scotland’s staunchly pro-independence newspaper, suggested that the number attending the May march might have been as high as 90,000 (but I am basing my number on, and sticking with, the official police estimate).
The march, itself, had been organised by Scottish pro-independence movement ‘All Under One Banner’, formed on 12th October, 2014 by Neil McKay. McKay had formed the group in the slipstream of the support gathered to campaign for independence at the 2014 referendum.
Of those who voted in the Scottish independence referendum of Thursday, September 18, 2014 – and the turnout proved to be a credible 84.59 per cent – 55.3 per cent voted to stay in the union with 44.7 per cent wanting to leave. Ironically, at the time, Scots were warned that a vote to leave the United Kingdom would mean Scotland would be forced to leave the European Union. No one, of course, bargained on a UK Prime Minister going to the country two years later with yet another referendum, this time on leaving or staying in Europe.
David Cameron, some say bullied by his own party into holding the referendum, presided over a British electorate who, to many people’s astonishment – and especially that of the incumbent prime minister – voted to leave the European Union. Now, ‘Brexit’ (British exit), as it has come to be known, effectively threatens to take Scotland (as part of the United Kingdom) out of the European Union, even though the Scots voted by 62 per cent to 38 per cent to remain.
Prime Minister Theresa May has played European shuttle in a failing effort to secure her leaving deal. Three times she has attempted and failed to take her negotiated deal through parliament. May is now on her way out, making way for a multiple candidate battle for her job – there were, after all it seems, many knives ready to be plunged into her leadership.
Nostrils flaring, Scotland’s SNP (Scottish National Party) First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has smelled the scent of the possibility of independence wafting up again from the ashes of 2014. Helped, considerably, by the debacle that has followed in the wake of the European referendum vote and the British government’s inability to get a deal over the line, Sturgeon is picking up on what she believes is a change of mood in her own nation.
Meanwhile, Theresa May having agreed to stand aside, the scrum for her place is already underway with Boris Johnson the favourite to replace her. Johnson would not, however, be a popular choice in Scotland. One, formerly committed unionist and disenchanted Labour party supporter, who didn’t want to be named, told us he had resigned as a member of the party, dismayed by their handling of the Brexit situation. He also told that if Johnson became prime minister then even he ‘might’ vote for independence.
Now the SNP government in Scotland have published a second referendum bill as Sturgeon argues that another vote before 2021 would give the Scots a chance to stand alone as an independent nation or have Brexit imposed on it against its will. The framework published on Wednesday 29 May, follows in the wake of the SNP securing three MEP’s, from a possible six, elected to the European parliament while pulling in its highest ever European vote with 38 per cent of those who took part.
“The bill has just been introduced,” Michael Russell, the SNP government’s minister for constitutional relations told to InsideOver. “It will, I hope, be enacted at the turn of the year but we have made no decision as yet about the formal request for a Section 30 order. That process is the one in which the question would be set.” The section 30 request, of course, could be the biggest stumbling block to the Scots having another referendum on independence. It effectively means that the UK government would have to give the final nod to allow such a vote.
To hold a referendum without the agreement of the Westminster parliament would mean the devolved Scottish government in Edinburgh going it alone Catalonian-style, not something many commentators see happening. “The Scottish Government has made it clear that it intends to ensure full observance of the constitution in order to place beyond doubt the result of such a referendum,” Michael Russell is unequivocal. “That is also the best way to secure full international recognition of Scotland’s choice. It is untenable, for any UK Government to refuse the right of Scotland to choose its own future, and that point will be accepted by all democrats.” In truth it might be the ineptitude of the two main parties, Conservatives and Labour, in the face of Brexit that pushes the Scots into independence. Who could have predicted these vicissitudes of history? Will the Scots have the ‘appetite’ to say yes to self-determination at the second time of asking? It will depend on a number of factors. Who the new leader of the Conservative Party is and how they deal with Brexit. If a general election is held and what the result from that throws up. If a second European Union referendum is held and the result of that. These are strange times in the United Kingdom, and it just might be that the future of Scotland as an independent nation or, indeed, not, might rest with decisions to be made in the UK in the next six months.