Thursday 16 May 2024

The SNP is no threat to anyone


There is of course nothing offensive in describing Scottish nationalism as a threat to the UK. Indeed, the UK has never come closer to destruction than in September 2014. If Germany had succeeded in invading the UK in 1940 the UK would still most likely have continued to exist just as France did, but if the SNP ever won a vote on independence the UK would be gone for ever in the same way that there is no longer a country called Prussia or Yugoslavia.

But there are different kinds of threats to a country and the SNP ought not to be compared to the threat of war or terrorism, because it is a peaceful democratic party and so are those who vote for it.

Scotland prior to the merger with England may have decided matters violently and certainly did not have any sort of democracy, but then England prior to the merger tended to decide political matters with civil wars and by chopping people’s heads off. Both together developed our present system of free and fair elections, and the SNP is part of this.

There has been no political violence in Scotland. The SNP does not have an armed wing. Scottish nationalists are as law abiding and peaceful as anyone else.

Despite passions on both sides sometimes going too far, no one has been murdered and few indeed have even been assaulted. There have been nasty words, but few if any nasty deeds.

The threat of insurrection or revolution coming from the SNP is just talk after a few too many frustrations and a few too many drinks. If Scottish independence were ever to happen it would happen democratically.

But all of these things are part of the reason that Scottish independence is not happening. It would have strategically been better if the SNP had had an armed wing carrying out attacks in England. If it had done so for thirty years it would have won independence even if the people of Scotland did not want it. Such a campaign however could not have been sustained because there is almost no one in Scotland who would want to take part in it and almost no one who would support it.

The SNP rightly relied on democracy, but peak independence support in 2014 was 10% short and when it briefly breached 50% at the General Election of 2015 it was too late. It is clear now that the moment has passed, and that Scottish nationalism is no threat at all. There is no need for Rish Sunak to speak luridly about it. This merely shows once more how little he understands Britain.

There have been three serious secession movements in the First World West, Quebec, Catalonia and Scotland. In Canada there were two independence referendums and Quebec came close on the second occasion, but since then support for independence has declined.

There was no referendum in Catalonia, but rather a unilateral declaration of independence and revolt. Spain dealt with the issue with typical brutality and jailed some Catalan nationalists, but recent elections show that support for independence in Catalonia has declined to the extent that the unity of Spain is no longer threatened. Scotland completes the pattern.

This is not accidental. While there were waves of secession in Eastern Europe in the 1990s and while the occasional new country pops up in the Third World, it is quite clearly not straightforward to achieve independence in modern Western Europe, North America, Australia, New Zealand or Japan. If it were someone would have achieved it.

Both Catalonia and Quebec have much better claims to independence than Scotland. Many people in both speak a genuinely different language and are culturally dissimilar to the rest of Spain and Canada in a way Scotland simply is not. Catalonia had the advantage of being wealthier than most of the rest of Spain, while Scotland depends on a subsidy from the UK Treasury.

There are in Western Europe any number of formerly independent countries. There are linguistic divides in countries like Belgium. There are rivalries, hatreds and separate identities. Some Corsicans want to be independent from France, some Venetians want to leave Italy, but none of these things is going to happen, because for a First World market economy it just isn’t worth it.

Quebec found that Canada wasn’t interested in helping it achieve independence and the United States wouldn’t welcome it either. Catalonia discovered that the EU wasn’t interested in helping it achieve independence and that leaving Spain would involve leaving the EU with who knows what consequences for its borders and currency.

Scottish independence appeals to a certain kind of Scot theoretically, but not actually. The SNP always has to unrealistically sugar coat the pill of leaving by pretending that everything would go on as before only we’d be independent and have more money. But this has never been convincing while the SNP government continues to accept 25% per person higher public spending thanks to a grant from London.

The dislocation of breaking up a First World market economy is such that no rational voter would try it. The loss of Scotland would damage the former UK at least as much as the damage it would do to Scotland. Who would want to lend to either? But this loss of confidence would make the brief Liz Truss Prime Ministership look like a ripple compared to a storm. Who knows what would happen to the UK economy if the UK broke up? It’s all very well saying Scotland could be like Denmark, it’s just as likely that it could become Nouvelle-Cal√©donie and the former UK might end up not much better.

In Redgauntlet Scott imagines a third Jacobite rebellion in 1765 with an aging and less Bonnie Prince Charlie allowed by the British to depart in peace because his rebellion had failed so pathetically that Jacobitism was no longer a threat. This is where we now are with Scottish nationalism. The Bonnie Prince might have won a kingdom if he had continued to march from Derby to London, but years later he is as bald and old as John Swinney and it is ludicrous to call him threat.

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