Theresa May has called the election to give her a proper Brexit mandate. If the Tories are as successful as the polls suggest, then she’ll get what she wants. That mandate will of course come entirely from England (and Wales). Michael Gove, hoping for a government job after the election, was going about today saying that this England-provided mandate will also apply to the issue of Scottish independence, but of course he knows that’s daft. It was a token effort and he knew it.
In the end, when it comes to contested constitutions, democratic leaders have to pay some attention to credibility and to what the international community thinks. So just as the international community will see the sense of May getting a proper mandate from England on Brexit, it’ll unequivocally accept that on exactly the same basis an SNP winning the majority of seats in Scotland again gets it’s mandate for a new referendum on its own terms. Theresa may will accept this. Most Tory MPs really aren’t bothered about Scotland in any case. For them, it’s all about the EU and a place in English history. That’s just the way it is.
Some SNP folk are a bit nervous that they might lose a seat or two and this might somehow enable a Tory Party with a seat or two in Scotland to continue to prevent a referendum, but it really won’t. Imagine a UK prime minister saying – ‘the people of Scotland have spoken. We have one seat, the SNP has 50-odd. So, no mandate for a referendum, then’. That would of course hamper her own post-election claim for a new Brexit mandate with, perhaps, 40% of the vote. So it won’t happen.
Understandable pre-election nervousness is leading some SNP supporters to argue that there’s no need for an independence referendum – just a majority of Scotland MPs. But this would confuse support for the SNP with support for independence, thereby ignoring and alienating a fair minority of independence supporters. And if the SNP wins most seats but with less than 50% of the vote, it would mean that a UK government could legitimately say that a minority was dictating to a majority (because on those terms only SNP voters would count).
So independence-supporters need to stay calm. There’s no reason to imagine, in any case, that there’ll be much action in Scotland. If Labour keeps up its ultra-unionist position, it’ll likely lose Edinburgh South since Tories there aren’t going to vote for Corbyn to balance out the votes lost to the SNP. The Tories might improve their share of the popular vote, which will concentrate the minds of non-Tories about exactly who the enemy is. Alistair Carmichael might be the beneficiary of a wee Lib Dem resurgence? There might be a wee change somewhere or other due to local circumstances, but otherwise there really isn’t much room for change.
Scottish Labour should rid itself of the Daily Mail stamp and reject its ultra-unionism. It’s unbecoming, frankly, that the party should be so in the debt of a right-wing, Greater-Englander paper which is going to spend the whole campaign kicking Labour’s head in. Labour should encourage candidates to take their own position on an independence referendum. That might not help much for now, but it might help set up a reasonably coherent raison d’etre in an independent Scotland. Yet as long as it has a Daily Mail guy calling the shots in the press office, along with former press guys/Gordon Brown staffer taking Daily Mail money today, it’s hard to see how that can happen. For now, in any case, the pollsters say that just a sideshow.
For independence supporters, it’s essential to keep the eyes on the prize. Most are SNP folk of course, and it’s only natural that they shout for their party for the next few weeks. There won’t be independence without a referendum, though. And that few extra percent needed at the referendum will come from non-SNP folk who want the best for Scotland and aren’t put off independence by unreasonable aggression (cough, cough…) just because they might support another party in June.
Well, here goes anyway. There’ll be short posts here each day here for the duration of the election period. Do check them out!