The case for independence is becoming harder to makeby Alex Renton / August 18, 2016 / Leave a comment
On a wall on the old railway line—now a bike path—near my house in Leith someone has splashed “SNLA” in primrose paint. The acronym is that of the Scottish National Liberation Army, a small organisation that grabbed headlines in the 1990s, when several SNLA men were jailed for acts of minor and incompetent terrorism. Its last recorded coup was in 2002 when a teenager sent a bottle of drain cleaner to Cherie Blair at 10 Downing Street, relabelled “Aromatherapy Massage Oil.”
The graffiti is old and dead and buried—fingers crossed—along with any notion that violence might liberate Scotland. But what tool might do that job? Today the Scottish National Party (SNP) is the most successful political party in Britain in terms of both popularity and longevity in power. But it is harder than ever to see how it can gain the independent nation that is its brand promise.
Nationalism has peaked. Even in the bitter aftermath of the Brexit vote, in which Scotland voted by 62 per cent to remain, Scots were hardly warmer to the idea of independence, even within the European Union. Nicola Sturgeon reacted gamely, floating the idea of Scotland negotiating its own deal with the EU, in or out of the UK. But by August the polls showed that between 47-52 per cent of Scots favoured independence, a whisker more than the 45 per cent who voted to leave the UK in the 2014 referendum. Sturgeon has consistently said that there is no point taking the notion back to the voters without at least 60 per cent backing independence.
That’s not to say Scots aren’t strongly pro-EU: I’ve spoken to Hebridean crofters and Perthshire land-owners who are just as aghast at the prospect of being cut-off from Europe as are the Edinburgh sophisticates, though for somewhat different reasons. We are not frightened by immigration (we hardly have it) and, after the Brexit vote, we’re more disgusted by Westminster than ever: we just don’t see how independence places us in the EU in any attractive way. Neither, with Sturgeon’s approaches to European leaders in July roundly rebuffed, does the government. “Greece without the sunshine” is how one (Tory) economic think-tank pictured our prospects in Europe without the UK.…