Don’t let Indyref2 be nothing but yellow and black ribbons and rosettes
By Aidan Bridgeman
Image courtesy of Tom Clearwood
The coronavirus pandemic and the fallout of Brexit have, in recent times, accelerated the Scottish nationalist cause. As much as unionists will argue that bigger issues at hand mean that independence is a discussion for the future, they seem to do so while ignoring the fact that these very issues are the reason why the ‘Yes’ vote has increased.
It may surprise you to know the ‘YesScotland’ movement is not solely led by the Scottish National Party (SNP). The alliance also involves the Scottish Green Party and the Scottish Socialist Party, as well as some other minor groups and figures. Their website, however, plasters Nicola Sturgeon as the banner image and makes sure to include a big SNP logo in the bottom left. The contact address is also the SNP headquarters, and the ‘shop’ link takes you directly to the SNP website.
The problem I’m getting at here is that the Scottish independence movement is too interlinked with the SNP. While this may seem pretty obvious, considering they’re the largest party and hold the seats of power in Scotland, it’s not without its problems. Firstly, anything the SNP does wrong reflects badly on the entire cause: a slip up by the party could mean the movement becomes an easy target for unionists. Secondly, it gives the SNP a monopoly for what an independent Scotland would look like, and you might be surprised to know that they’re not as progressive as they claim. Lastly, much of the SNP’s approach to garnering independence support is ineffective and wrong.
Take, for instance, the fact that the party has been accused of being the ‘hub of transphobia in Scotland’, according to Teddy Hope (I guess when you’re a “catch-all, big tent” party, you catch some bigots in your tent). After a deep internal divide in the party over gender recognition rights, many young SNP members left, disavowing the party. Or what about Sturgeon’s own controversy with Alex Salmond and his sexual harassment court case? The allegations that she purposefully misled the public by denying she knew anything of the Salmond sexual misconduct accusations?
I’m not sure I want a “broad church” government, as MSP Kate Forbes would claim. After all, she is personally against gay marriage, and she’s in the cabinet! Does a “broad church” government include having people that make sweeping budgetary cuts, akin to the Conservative UK government, I wonder? Another recent controversy concerns Scotland’s enormously high drug death rate. Which, when you learn that the SNP cut millions from drug treatment services just two years ago, you may not find so surprising. Additionally, nearly a quarter of a million Scottish children live in poverty at the moment. Sure, the party may claim to be making million-pound investments, but ultimately that comes after billion-pound cuts.
Oh, but university tuition fees? The SNP scrapped those, right? The SNP only scrapped the graduate endowment fee (a fee that half of students didn’t have to pay anyway). A Labour-LibDem coalition scrapped tuition fees in 2001. Prescriptions? Sure, the SNP did well here. But only after Wales and Northern Ireland implemented that policy years before. The SNP may say it’s progressive, but they’re certainly not progressive enough… or at all. The SNP reminds me of “Cleggmania”: a few progressive policies on top, but under the surface, they’re ultimately in the pockets of big business.
There are still many undecided voters in Scotland. Winning them over to the pro-indy side is crucial. For independence to really work, you need a good majority of Scots on board. This is the biggest constitutional decision a country can make. Constitutional decisions of even minor importance require qualified majorities around the world, and though this would not be the case in Scotland, it’s important to have as much support as possible.
The SNP will describe themselves as nationalists with a small-n, as in they’re more “civic nationalists” who care about political reasons for independence. Though, many of us will agree this simply isn’t true. No, they’re not big-N Nationalists; SNP nationalism isn’t one where it thinks Scotland is better than every other country, it’s a secessionist kind of movement. However, the SNP cannot help themselves but to try win over Scots with the same tactics as nasty English nationalists, boasting about historical, cultural, and sometimes ethnic differences.
In the long run, this could be incredibly harmful. Culture is important, granted, but political and economic reasons will always be more important: ones that make a difference to the citizens of Scotland. We’ve seen countless examples over the years of the SNP being accused of being “anti-English” too, no matter Sturgeon underlining her inhospitality towards xenophobia in the party. People are sick to the teeth of identity politics. Stick to the reasons that make it easily legitimate for all voters, and let other pro-independence parties be heard.