It doesn’t look like The Scottish National Party’s plans to hold a referendum in 2010 and let Scots decide whether or not to split from England and the United Kingdom are going to become a reality — despite their impressive victory in the Scottish elections. Nobody knows whether the estimated 140,000 votes being scrapped because they were improperly filled out or otherwise inadmissible would have changed the overall result. I for one don’t want to see an independent Scotland. After all, if something ain’t broke don’t fix it, so I am rather glad hopes of such a vote are at least postponed.
My reasoning for fearing independence is not based solely on that old proverb, but on listening to countless debates in the run up to both the 2003 and the recent election, where Labour and other anti-independence MP’s made the nationalist policies sound unworkable and the ministers foolish.
Also, though I can not speak for all nationalists, all the people I have spoken to who are in favour of an independent Scotland don’t care whether the policies of the SNP are workable, or whether the Scottish economy can survive alone, or that the EU might reject our application for membership, or if the whole nation collapses into anarchy and poverty — as long as it’s independent chaos.
Their desire for an independent Scotland has been passed down through the generations, and comes from a Braveheart-like patriotism, mistrust of English rule and more often than not hatred for the — stereotypical — “English”. Don’t get me wrong, if I lived in Scotland during those times I would have been at Wallace’s right shoulder with whatever I could lay my hands on as a weapon, but times have changed. My dad is English and my mum Scottish so I have relations on both sides, I have also lived on both sides of the border.
In England, when Scotland is playing in the football World Cup qualifiers on pub TVs, most of the English people in the pub are supporting Scotland, as part of the U.K.. The same goes when Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland or Wales are playing. Obviously this would change in the later stages if one of the other sides were competing for the same place as England. But in Scotland, if England is playing on pub TVs, there is raucous support for whatever side is against England and abuse is hurled at the English side from the first game — even after Scotland is out of the competition.
It was the same when I moved back to Scotland from England and went to a Scottish primary school, complete with the strong Yorkshire accent I had picked up. There was one boy who openly agreed with me that we should support all teams from the U.K. in the world cup, including England — all the rest said they would support any team but England. I have lived in Scotland for most of my life including currently, but I am happy to be part of the United Kingdom and enjoy easy access and shared currencies when visiting relations over the border — and all the other advantages unity brings. So, when I heard that the SNP had won the most seats in the recent election I was decidedly worried.
Thankfully, Scotland’s electoral system is proportional representation. So, although the SNP had the most seats outright with 47 out of 129, 20 more than 2003 and one more than Labour with 46, with the Conservatives only managing 17, the SNP needed to form a coalition with one of the other parties with 18 seats or more. A coalition was quickly agreed between the SNP and Scotland’s other pro-independence party — the Green party –, who had secured two seats in the election. But the SNP needed another 16 to form a majority government.
The SNP began to approach the Liberal Democrats with 16 seats, seeking a coalition with them, which would have given the SNP a majority government by 1 seat. However, the SNP wanted the coalition on the grounds that the independence referendum was guaranteed. The Lib Dem’s said they would not meet to discuss such a coalition unless the SNP dropped the plans for the independence referendum. As the SNP attempted to lure the Lib Dem’s to the table with offers to be flexible over the issue, refusing outright to drop the policy before talks were held, all hopes fizzled out.
The SNP has retired — on the surface quite happily — to set up a minority government with the Greens.
As a minority, the SNP would be presenting the plan for a referendum to the house, almost guaranteed to get 49 votes for and 80 against. Suffice to say an independence referendum won’t be held anytime soon. But given the growth of the SNP’s vote, as feverous nationalism is passed down through generations of families growing larger and living longer, I fear that the longer the other parties can hold the SNP’s plans at bay, the more likely that Scotland will become independent if a vote is ever held.