The SNP is against national independence

It doesn't want sovereignty for the UK, just as it doesn't want sovereignty for Scotland.

Carlton Brick

Topics Brexit Politics UK

The upcoming General Election has put the question of Scottish independence and, with it, the future of the Union, centre stage. So for the Scottish National Party leader, and Scottish first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, an SNP victory would represent an ‘unequivocal and irresistible demand’ for a second independence vote. She later added that any party wanting SNP support to form a government, shouldn’t ‘pick up the phone’ without first agreeing to a second referendum on Scottish independence. Being the opportunist that he is, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was first to make that call.

The possibility of an SNP-Labour election pact has prompted a social-media frenzy among nationalists on the viability of a Corbyn government as a potential route to independence. No doubt, if Labour fails to get elected, those same nationalists will be the first to vilify those English, Welsh and Northern Irish voters for doing the very thing they themselves do – not vote Labour.

However, a possible deal with a Labour government will do little, if anything, for Scottish independence. The barrier to independence lies much closer to home. If Scottish nationalists are serious about independence, they must reject the SNP’s narrow demand for secession from the Union, and forego their opposition to the result of the 2016 EU referendum, when 52 per cent of the British electorate voted to leave the European Union. The defence of the British Union’s democratic mandate to leave the EU is an essential precondition to any subsequent and meaningful, collective demand for Scottish self-determination. That’s because one cannot deny sovereignty in one instance (Britain), while demanding it in the other (Scotland). The defence of
British sovereignty is the principle from which all other claims to sovereignty follow.

Concerned that Sturgeon is playing fast and loose with the Union by exploiting misgivings towards Brexit, Scots openly in favour of the Union have largely resorted to bouts of anxious handwringing. Their pessimism, however, fails to recognise that the Scottish electorate is far more passionate about the question of the Union than they are about staying in the EU.

Scotland is not the Remainer utopia that Sturgeon would have us believe. The question of the Union is a far more pressing concern for the Scottish electorate than EU membership. In the 2016 referendum, some 1,661,191 Scots voted to remain in the EU. However, in the 2014 Scottish Independence Referendum, 2,001,926 Scottish voters rejected Scottish independence and voted to stay in the Union. As one might expect, however, the SNP claims that somehow the 1.6million Remainers in Scotland trump the two million pro-Unionists.

This claim becomes even more shallow when one considers the respective turnout in both referendums. The 85 per cent turnout for the Scottish Independence Referendum, was, at the time, the highest recorded for an election or referendum in the UK since the 1910 General Election. When compared with the 67 per cent of Scots who turned out to vote in 2016, it illustrates the failure of the SNP and other anti-Union parties to cohere a progressive nationalist vision for Scotland, and underlines that the Union is a far more pressing issue than remaining in the EU. This is further compounded by the fact that a paltry 39 per cent of Scots could be bothered to drag themselves to the polls for the 2019 European Parliament elections.

So, while the SNP leadership might be hot for the EU, the Scottish people are decidedly cooler. Sturgeon’s claim that Scotland is being forced to leave the EU ‘against our will’ is not an entirely accurate assessment. There is a significant minority within the SNP who recognise this. Over a third (36 per cent) of SNP members resisted the official party line and voted for Brexit. YouGov polling suggests that there has been a significant swing among those who voted for independence in 2014, but supported the Leave campaign in 2016, towards support for the Union.

One of the SNP’s major problems is that it is not a nationalist party in any meaningful sense. Sturgeon has admitted as much. In May 2017, she signalled a clear attempt to distance the SNP from a nationalist programme. Acknowledging the ‘hugely, hugely, problematic’ connotations the term has for the SNP project, she expressed a desire to expunge the word ‘national’ from the party name – a telling snapshot of Sturgeon’s very real anti-nationalist agenda.

The SNP consistently foregoes any attempt to formulate a political project around which it could forge a collective sense of Scottish nationhood. Instead, it seems intent on alienating itself from the Scottish population. Its first impulse has long been to attack the freedoms of the Scottish people. The SNP’s anti-smacking legislation is just the latest in a long line of increasingly intrusive, authoritarian legislative attacks on the lives and liberties of ordinary Scottish people. No wonder the SNP is so keen to see an independent Scotland remain in the EU and undermine the political and civil rights of the Scottish people. It does not trust the Scottish people to govern themselves.

In fact, the SNP has no real interest in Scottish claims to independence. Scottish nationalism deserves better. If independence is to have real significance, rejecting the anti-Union, anti-Brexit politics of the SNP would represent the first necessary steps towards a meaningful, people-centred movement for Scottish self-determination.

Carlton Brick is a lecturer in sociology at the school of media, culture and society, University of the West of Scotland.

Picture by: Getty.

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Lord Anubis

16th November 2019 at 1:04 pm

The SNP is a strange beast. It is a socialist, internationalist, pro EU federalist organisation masquerading as nationalists only because of its exploitation and active encouragement of anti-English feeling. under any other circumstances it would be vilified in the media if not a banned organisation outright.

Can you imagine any other mainstream political party being accepted on a platform, the very core of which, is open hatred of Pakistanis or Muslims or whatever?? But open hatred of the English is just peachy! :/

Jim Lawrie

17th November 2019 at 10:39 am

My partner is English. She has, these last 3 years, felt the anti-Englishness being tapped into and stoked up by the SNP, unlike her first 6 years up here, and has become familiar with the expression Southern/English privilege.

Eric Blair

17th November 2019 at 8:53 pm

Absolute and compete utter rubbish. The SNP membership and electorate is full of non-Scots.It is resolutely non-xenophobic.

Lord Anubis

19th November 2019 at 9:48 am

Who said the SNP was Xenophobic? I certainly didn’t. As I said, The SNP is a socialist, internationalist, pro EU federalist organisation. It is perfectly happy to open the floodgates to Poles, Romanians, Africans, Asians and Asiatics and welcome them all with open arms. It is only the English that they rail against.

Marvin Jones

18th November 2019 at 11:26 am

The one extreme enigma I have with the Scots is, where their university tuition fees for all EU students and Scots are free, but the English must pay. Is this not discrimination and racism?

Quentin Vole

15th November 2019 at 9:13 pm

So the SNP wish to leave the United Kingdom, where they are substantially over-represented in government and receive many billions each year in subsidies, yet believe the UK should remain in the EU, where we are significantly under-represented in government, while paying in billions each year. Proper mental.

Eric Blair

18th November 2019 at 10:18 am

Two words. Oil wealth.

Lord Anubis

19th November 2019 at 9:51 am

“Oil Wealth” is a red herring. Discovering Oil, for a nation, is like winning the lottery is for an individual. Unless you are very very careful indeed, it will destroy you. Venezuela is a very good example of what happens when a lottery win in the form of oil and socialism combines and it is not pretty!

Randolph Mcmurphy

15th November 2019 at 8:04 pm

The SNP’s call for independence is laughable what independence , they want to submit themselves instantly to an EU superstate .I think the Scottish electorate would rather battle the English in Westminster than the unaccountable in Brussels on the end of a German leash .

Eric Blair

18th November 2019 at 10:23 am

Yep. JUst like those other vassal states such as the Netherlands (GDP per capita $59,000) or Ireland (GDP per capita $81,000). UK GDP per capita is $47,000>

Forlorn Dream

15th November 2019 at 6:54 pm

I’m English and during my life I have had lots of contact and been friends with Scottish people. First as a soldier and then while working within the building services industry. I like the country and would be very sorry to see it leave the Union.
That said, we need to speak some truth.
First, Commie Corbyn is a proven liar, he would offer any promise to gain power. Remember the student debt promise of the previous election? Don’t rely on Commie Corbyn to keep his promise.
Second, Scotland currently runs at a £17B annual deficit, without England to cover the shortfall there would need to be massive cuts. The kind of cuts that would severely impact on infrastructure and leave people starving in the streets.
Third, the above point would lead to a huge ‘brain drain’ from Scotland as anyone with any marketable skills would flee the country leaving it in an even worse mess.
Fourth, an independent Scotland would not meet the criteria to join the EU, the angry ginger poison dwarf was already told this by the EU but has chosen to keep quiet on that issue.
Fifth, Scotland is the only country in the whole of history to ever vote against it’s own independence. We gave them the chance and they chose to stay. Scotland/England can be likened to a motorbike and sidecar. They’re with us but we’re the ones with the engine and the steering.


17th November 2019 at 7:31 pm

Scotland’s ‘annual deficit’ is a direct consequence of the systematic theft of Scotland’s oil since the 1970s. Had Scotland retained all of its oil revenues as a fully independent state and established a sovereign wealth fund similar to that of Norway, it would now be as rich as Norway. Instead, Scotland’s oil reserves were frittered away on Tory tax cuts for the southern English bourgeoisie. If that’s fiscal prudence, I’m a parrot…


Andrew Mawdsley

20th November 2019 at 1:22 pm

Scotland’s annual deficit is as a result of the SNP refusing to tax the country correctly and blaming the rest of the UK government for their inability to do so. The SNP (and all of the devolved governments) largely have the power to set tax rates as they desire, but this isn’t expedient to the English despising SNP. As a result the SNP are content to sit on their hands, enjoy free education and free prescriptions as a direct consequence of the favourable terms of the Barnet formula whilst at the same time refusing to enact their proper fiscal responsibilities.
As much as I know it wouldn’t happen, a UK wide referendum on whether to allow the Scots to stay within the Union would be a wonderful opportunity to show the SNP how truly unimportant they are in the grand scheme of things.
Independence for Scotland? Yes please. Sooner rather than later thank you.

Allan Sutherland

15th November 2019 at 6:44 pm

Labour’s suicidal announcement of a former SNP member as their candidate against Joanna Cherry surely leaves the field open to the Conservatives gaining the 1,000 votes they need to depose her.

With Labour and Conservative standing aside so the Libdems to win back Ian Blackford’s seat, and Pete Wishart (23) and Stephen Gethins (2) having tiny majorities, the way is open for voters, angered by Nicola Sturgeon’s “Brexit means Scexit” campaign, the SNP’s embarrassing performance in Westminster and division they have created in Scotland, to club together and vote tactically to defeat them so they can join Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson on the list of deposed SNP “big beasts”. A “fourgone” conclusion, perhaps?

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