Monday 28 August 2023

The SNP is not playing. It's taking it's ball away


The SNP has always had a problem with grief. It’s reaction to losing the referendum in 2014 was like the loss of a close relative, but it has never even after nearly ten years reached the acceptance stage. Sometimes it seems as if Scottish nationalism is still in denial.

Something changed this year. Did you notice? Scottish elections have become competitive again. The SNP is on 36% Labour is a little behind. But latest predictions are that the SNP might lose half its MPs and Labour might beat it.

To be honest I totally didn’t see this coming. So, I can understand why SNP politicians are still in denial. But why are they debating what to do if they win 50% and one vote? It’s like the whole year never happened.

The latest plan is as follows.

A mandate for Scotland to become ­independent “with immediate effect” will be ­secured if the SNP and other pro-independence parties secure 50% plus one of votes in a national election. But if the UK Government does not “meaningfully engage” with the Scottish Government over negotiations within 90 days, it says MPs will be withdrawn from Westminster and a National Assembly will take forward the establishment of Scotland as an ­independent nation.

But this is just the de facto referendum at a General Election plan that Sturgeon put forward and which was generally ridiculed. It now perhaps includes also Holyrood elections. But how can an election to a devolved parliament constitute a mandate for independence? Why not local government elections too? Can the Orkney council really vote to join Norway?

What matters in a General Election is seats won. Let’s take the example of the Rutherglen by-election. Both the SNP and the Greens are standing. If the SNP wins the seat with 10,000 votes it cannot also count the 5000 votes that went to the Greens. That would be counting both the winning votes and the losing votes. It would be counting voters twice or more times depending on how many pro-independence parties stood.

How would you count the votes that went to a candidate wishing to protect a local hospital? How would you count the votes for an officially Pro UK party where the candidate is sympathetic to independence? How indeed count votes for the Monster Raving Looney Party?

The illegitimacy of this method is that we vote don’t vote to achieve a certain percentage for a party, nor do we vote for single issues. Some people vote Scottish Green because they care about the environment. Some people vote SNP because they hope it will lead to more UK money going to Scotland.

But let’s assume the Scottish nationalists get their 50% plus one. What then? Nothing much. The SNP could withdraw all of its MPs like Sinn Féin. But no one actually notices the absence of Sinn Féin and its not clear that anyone would notice the absence of the SNP. There might be some consequences for MP salaries if they didn’t turn up to work and I’m not sure Scottish voters would be happy about it, but otherwise who cares if the SNP doesn’t send MPs to Westminster?

What does meaningfully engage with the Scottish Government mean? Sorry dear Scottish nationalists but the Scottish Government is a devolved parliament it has no mandate to negotiate independence, because constitutional matters are reserved. It is once again the equivalent of the British Government trying to negotiate with Orkney County Council.

It is assumed that the Scottish Government will be controlled by the SNP. But what if it isn’t? Does a Labour Government in Westminster negotiate with a Labour Lib Dem coalition in Holyrood about Scottish independence which neither side wants?

What is the National Assembly that is mentioned? It would be filled one assumes with all the SNP MPs who no longer worked at Westminster. Meanwhile the Conservatives Labour and Lib Dem MPs would continue their jobs in the House of Commons. It doesn’t look much like a National Assembly. Rather it looks like a Nationalist Assembly.

But what legitimacy would such an assembly have? Each of the SNP MPs would have been elected to Westminster. None would have been elected to a National Assembly. There would indeed have been no National Assembly elections at all.

It is perfectly possible for Scotland to become an independent state by a variant on one of these schemes. But they all share the following feature. They are unauthorised. The SNP is setting out a path to rebellion. Lots of countries have become independent by declaring themselves to be such. Scotland could do the same. But it isn’t necessary to have a de facto referendum at a General Election. This is an attempt to give legitimacy to the illegitimate. My guess is that a declaration of independence at Holyrood would succeed. We are not Spain.

But what the SNP does not explain is the consequences of a unilateral declaration of independence. Depending on circumstances these could be anything from relatively benign to completely devastating. The best-case scenario would be that the UK Government accepted Scottish independence and cooperated with it. The worst-case scenario would be that the UK Government immediately pulled the plug on Treasury money going to Scotland and made everyone dependent on it instantly unemployed.

So, the day after the General Election the UK Government says OK you are now independent. We will not try to stop you, but neither will we recognise you, nor will anyone else. You will have zero chance of joining the EU as the precedent of achieving independence unilaterally will prevent you joining. You now have to immediately borrow sufficient money to cover your deficit. Where are you going to borrow it? Ah London.

So, an independent Scotland might start life with a no deal Scexit. There would then be no negotiations. There would be no trade deals with the former UK nor with the EU nor with anyone else. The border might be closed. Your bank card might not work, and your bank might inform you that I’m terribly sorry, but the bank is bust, and you just lost all of your savings. Ask the Scottish Government to give it back. Oh, tough luck the Financial Services Compensation Scheme only applied when you were part of the UK. Under these circumstances the SNP MPs at their National Assembly would be lucky to escape with merely being tarred and feathered.

Oh, none of that would happen the Scottish nationalists tell us. The UK Government would be nice and give us all we want. That too is possible. Crashing the Scottish economy might have nasty consequences for not only the former UK but the western world in general. It is not a game which is why such foolishness about UDI needs to stop.

The SNP is on 36% yet debating what it will do when it wins 50%. Unless you do what we want we’ll take our ball away. This is the bargaining stage of grief.

There have been some scandals this year. There has been some embarrassment about party finances. But it could have been worse. What if it does get worse?  It might you know? Yes that.

Perhaps the SNP might fall to 20% then. Do you keep bargaining, do you keep telling us what you’ll do when you really shake them up or do you finally get to the depression stage. It’s not happening. There will be no second referendum. Scotland will always be part of the UK.

Finally does Scottish nationalism get to the acceptance stage? Some Scots dream of independence, but only under the best of circumstances, life goes on just like now or a little better, but we are independent and there are no Tories. But the number of Scots who would choose what UDI would involve is trivial.

SNP polling numbers are always inflated with fantasists who would squeal with horror if independence brought with it the least inconvenience to their holidays or their benefits. It is for this reason that SNP MPs are invariably fantasists too.

By all means take your ball away.