Friday 23 April 2021

The Scottish trenches

Scotland since 2014 reminds me of the trench warfare of the Western Front. On the one side we have the Germans led by Nicola von Stürgeon on the other we have the French (Labour), the British (Conservatives) and the Belgians (Lib Dems) who each have territories they defend, who each need the others to defeat the Germans, but who are unwilling to merge their forces into one army. The result is stalemate.  

I have minimal trust in opinion polling, and I have even less now that we discover that Savanta Comres mucked up its calculations so that it overstated support for independence during the winter. But for all inability of polls to predict, they are the only way we have of gauging opinion between elections. So we are stuck with them like the Romans with chicken entrails until someone invents a better way of predicting the future.  

The latest constituency polling is as follows: 

 SNP     Con        Lab     Lib Dem 


46%     25%     20%     6% (Comres) 

49%     21%     21%     6% ((Yougov) 

 Some people think that it is impossible for the Pro UK parties to work together. They have different interests, appeal to different types of voter. Labour and Lib Dems it is argued would prefer to vote SNP than vote Tory. But this is really the argument that we will continue to charge at barbed wire even when we know we can’t win that way, just for the sake of it.  

If the Pro UK parties only minimally cooperated by standing down their candidates where they have no chance of winning, it would give the voter a clear choice either back the separatist, back the Pro UK party or stay at home. It would be better still if the forces merged. The Pro UK vote would then be 51% (Comres) or 48% (Yougov). This would either beat the SNP or be very close to doing so.  

We are told that a single Pro UK party in Scotland could never happen, nor that parties can cooperate because it would alienate their own support and give ammunition to the SNP. But voters in Northern Ireland tend to support the Unionist or Nationalist party that has the best chance of winning in each constituency. Each side of the constitutional argument works out how best to maximise its vote and usually succeeds in doing so.  

There is a ceiling of support for both Labour and the Conservatives. Neither can rise much about 25%. It is simply to accept defeat or at best stalemate not to change tactics.  

But von Stürgeon when contemplating her attack looks out from her dugout at barbed wire and shell holes filled with Yellow Cross (mustard) and Green Cross (Phosgene) gas. The problem she has is not so much gaining a majority at the Scottish Parliament. The SNP may not gain an overall majority in May, but they are still on course to gain a working majority with the help of the Greens.  

The problem for the SNP is that while they can win elections, it is not at all clear that they can use that to win independence. 

Polling for independence is as follows: 

 Yes     No     Undecided 


45%     48%     8% (Comres) 

39%     45%     10% (Yougov) 

It is extraordinary that so many Scottish voters vote for the SNP even though they don’t want independence. The same poll by Yougov suggests that 10% of SNP voters don’t want independence. Are they somehow unaware that the SNP are campaigning for this? It might be possible for a Pro UK voter to choose the SNP on the grounds that it is good at extorting money from the British Government by continually threatening independence. But this only works if you think that the SNP doesn’t mean it, that talk of indyref2 is merely a bluff and that von Stürgeon doesn’t actually want to make the attack for independence, because she knows it would leave her and Scotland hanging on the old, barbed wire of austerity, high taxes and spending cuts. But even so Pro UK voters choosing the SNP is a brave strategy as it is the equivalent of the Billy Boys voting for Sinn Féin. 

The problem the SNP has is that every time there is an election it has to avoid as much as possible talking about the only thing most of its supporters are interested in. But if independence is a vote loser and motivates Pro UK people to vote, then how is the SNP to win an independence referendum when it would hardly be possible to avoid talking about independence? 

If it is true that even with the most favourable question “Should Scotland be an independent country?” Yes has the support of only 39% of voters, how much lower would it be if the question was fairer such as “Should Scotland remain in the UK or leave the UK?” If that question is considered too close to the EU referendum question it could be reworded using “depart” and “stay” or some other synonym.  

The problem the SNP faces is that Scottish voters may say that they support independence when there isn’t going to be an election anytime soon, but as soon as minds are concentrated, and the prospect becomes serious they back away. They want independence in theory but not in practice.  

There has been some talk mainly from commentators based in England of Boris Johnson allowing a snap indyref2 sometime soon. It is very easy if you wouldn’t have to live through it to play around with such ideas. No Pro UK person in Scotland would want to go through the threat to our country that we faced in 2014.  

Who would win such a referendum? I have no idea. We’d have a chance, so would the SNP. But we lack anyone to lead the campaign. We have the arguments, but I would not want to rely on Sarwar, Ross and Rennie to make them.

But if you are in stalemate situation, why give your opponent the chance to win? Giving von Stürgeon a referendum merely allows her to bypass our trenches and shell holes so that she can attack us in the rear.  

The Scottish nationalist forces are now divided, but the latest polling suggest that Alba will not add anything to von Stürgeon’s forces. Even if it did, Alba is the equivalent of a movement with premature ejaculation. It has lost all patience and wants to attack now immediately, without any preliminary foreplay or barrage. This is neither to be a considerate lover nor a sensible strategist.  

The SNP had united forces in 2014 but still failed in the race to the sea. It is for this reason that we ended up in Scotland’s version of trench warfare. Alba’s appeal to the medieval is the equivalent of bringing a trebuchet to an artillery fight. The combination of Green Cross & Yellow Cross gas may give Scottish nationalism a majority in Parliament, but it is not enough to win a referendum and certainly not enough to win an Alba style revolt or illegal referendum.

In the absence of anything better to do we continue to lob shells at each other during the present campaigning season, but the Spring Offensive will gain neither side much ground, no breakthrough for the cavalry to exploit and with the prospect of the same mud and barbed wire limiting all our horizons.  

Goodbye Bon Accord Street 

Farewell Union Square  

Scotland once was less divided, and my heart lies there.