The SNP won’t take ‘No’ for an answer – how could it?

One of the most interesting aspects of Scottish and other nationalism is that failures are never taken at face value. Faced with those who deny their nation, the instinct of the nationalist is to retreat inwardly to search once more for self and “nation.”

Because a true nationalist knows not defeat, but future revival.

Think of Nigel Farage, who made seven unsuccessful bids for election to the House of Commons before securing a referendum on leaving the EU.

Consider the 1979 Scottish devolution referendum, which technically lost, but culminated a year later in the formation of the highly influential ‘Campaign for a Scottish Assembly’.


Entries are now open for BASC classes at Crufts 2023


Phoenix Insights: The ‘Big Retirement’ isn’t just about health

And consider the failed Scottish independence referendum in 2014, which led directly to the SNP’s success in the 2015 general election.

History tells us that the SNP is more inclined to think ideologically than to prevail at the hands of England’s highest court on Wednesday. The party will use the split created by the Court’s decision to be more diligent in preparing the case for independence.

So if unionists were hoping this ruling would herald a change in Scotland’s political landscape, they will be disappointed.

The constitutional struggle will intensify.

The ultimate disgrace

Wednesday at least started with certainty. The Supreme Court has ruled that the Scottish Parliament cannot legislate for a second independence referendum without the consent of the UK government.

The decision came sooner than expected, but the result itself was not at all surprising.

The SNP, which contributed as a “third party” to the legal proceedings (officially the dispute was launched by the Scottish Government, not the SNP), argued that because Scotland was “a nation” it had a “right to self-determination”. international law.

The Chief Justice, Lord Reed, rejected this argument in the measured, gentle manner that only a lawyer can do. He ruled that regardless of his politics, Scotland had no judicial right to self-determination under international law – which he said only applied to “former colonies” or places under “foreign military occupation”.

“That is not the position in Scotland,” he said.

The court also disagreed with Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain’s argument on behalf of the Scottish Government that such a referendum would be merely “advisory”.

President Lord Reid continued: “A lawful referendum will have important political consequences for the union and the UK Parliament.”


Nicola Sturgeon made the decision at a hastily arranged but quite combative press conference hours after Lord Reid’s statement.

He said that this is “a hard pill to swallow for any supporter of independence, and certainly for any supporter of democracy.” The First Minister also confirmed a threat she made before the Court case: if the party fails to hold a formal referendum on 19 October 2023, the SNP will instead use the next general election as a “de facto” independence referendum.

But there could be no time for defeat – and by Wednesday afternoon the SNP was already dutifully endorsing the demands of the Scottish people.

At Prime Ministers’ Questions, at least seven questions came from the SNP benches.

There were the usual three from SNP Westminster leader and recent party coup survivor Ian Blackford, who claimed after the Court case: “The idea of ​​the UK being a voluntary union of nations is now dead and buried.”

“Democracy itself is now under threat in this community,” Blackford said.

Allan Dorrans MP then summed up the SNP’s wide-ranging contribution to parliamentary work today, saying: Scotland is “chained and imprisoned. [an] involuntary and unequal union”.

Not content with taking most of the PMQ’s order papers, Ian Blackford also asked an urgent question, accusing Scottish Secretary Alistair Jack of “denying democracy”.

It is clear that the seeds of a nationalist revival are already being planted by the SNP.

Government line

But in the face of this unforgiving attack, the government has failed to answer a key question: how best can Scotland show its support for independence if Holyrood cannot legislate for a referendum?

Sunak explained the answer in PMQs. “We respect the clear and decisive decision of the Supreme Court of the United Kingdom. … Now is the time for politicians to work together and this Government will do it,” the prime minister said.

Nevertheless, to the surprise of the SNP benches, Sunak resisted the invitation to rejoice. There was no mention of the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, which previous prime ministers affectionately referred to as a “once-in-a-generation” vote.

It was an attempt to take the heat out of the argument. Certainly, Sunak’s measured response contrasted more with the SNP’s confrontational approach.

The way for Labor in Scotland

Nicola Sturgeon’s pledge to make the next general election, expected in 2024, a “de facto” referendum on independence invites a quagmire of procedural and political difficulties.

The plan would take away the ‘Vote for a strong vote for Scotland’ vote which has proved so effective for the SNP in previous elections. Indeed, on Sturgeon’s terms, a vote for the SNP would mean a vote for independence.

If Sturgeon fails to get 50% of the vote in 2024, the unionist parties could easily argue that Sturgeon had a second referendum on her terms and lost it.

This indy-obsession, crucial to Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar, offers a way forward for Scottish Labour.

Speaking at the post-PMQ press briefing, a spokesman for Keir Starmer reiterated the party’s position on the SNP: “Our position is very clear. We are not in favor of holding a referendum. [and] We will not make deals with the SNP going to the election in any form or withdrawing from the election in any form.”

This strong alliance position will benefit the party significantly in 2024.

The Scottish Conservative Party, which had effectively promoted itself as the “party of the Union” under Ruth Davidson, failed to seize the moment under the stop-start leadership of Douglas Ross. Sensing an opportunity, Labor now wants to position itself as the first choice for unionist voters.

Crucial here will be Gordon Brown’s long-awaited constitutional review, which Keir Starmer’s spokesman confirmed we could see “within weeks”.

The proposals include proposals for more devolution for Scotland and a restructured new upper house. This new second chamber could even take the form of a “senate of the regions”, a plan prominently advocated by Andy Burnham.

If so, the Labor Party threatens to become not only a principled unionist, but also a principled unionist. with ideas.

Indeed, Starmer’s generally patronized constitutional view – despite potential constitutional recommendations – already goes some way to countering the SNP’s argument that the Union is flexible and binding.

Answer to the “Scotland question”.

When it comes to Scottish politics, nothing is going to be resolved in the near future and Sturgeon was right to declare on Wednesday that the current impasse was “unsustainable”.

But the problem for the SNP now is that their response to the impasse has been to double down on the rhetoric and flog the local people. This is not a sustainable strategy for a party without a guaranteed means of delivery.

And could the SNP’s slide into romantic nationalistic tropes threaten their reputation for empowered governance? This – and more – is yet to be seen.