By Eszter Tarnai
Scottish Independence has been a divisive issue in British politics for almost a decade now and is still a relevant debate five years after the Independence Referendum and approaching a General Election. Since then, the Brexit vote has came and gone, but how has it affected the attitudes towards independence? How will that pan out during the General Election? What are the parties saying? And will there ever be another referendum?
Dr Murray Leith, Reader in Politics at UWS says “Roughly about a third of the SNP supporters and roughly a third of their membership are Brexiteers. But, the issue is nationalism first and the issue of Europe second. There are plenty of people who are prepared to cast their vote on the issue of Scottish Independence and they make that decision rather than pro-Brexit or pro-European Union.”
Independence is clearly an important concern for this election, so where do the parties stand on it?
The SNP is the only party who are pushing for a second Referendum and are hoping to enjoy the effects of it, and Dr Leith believes Nicola Sturgeon’s popularity has an impact on voting numbers. “She managed to present the SNP in a very different light than her predecessor, but she now stands as the storm for those people who can’t stand the idea of independence, can’t stand the SNP, but on the whole, she is very positive as far as leaders go.” – he added.
In terms of supporting IndyRef2, “Labour has already in many respect has lost that decision”, – Dr Leith explained- “because whilst they were the pro-devolution party and they were never necessarily in support of independence, but of course several of their members and lots of their supporters and voters were, and they have already been stolen by the SNP.”
“The biggest problem that the Labour Party and the SNP have according to political experts, is that they are fishing for the same kind of voters, centre, left-of-centre Scottish votes. The SNP have managed to convince enough people that independence is the way forward and they will push forward and the Labour Party won’t. If the Labour party suddenly turned around and said actually, we are in favour of holding another Referendum, it wouldn’t necessarily do them any good whatsoever.”
Dr Leith says, if Labour had a chance to form a government with the support of the SNP, it would present a number of issues. “The two red lines that Nicola Sturgeon has made to support a minority Labour Government in any sense would be one, get an agreement to the right to hold a referendum and two, getting rid of trident, which is a problem for the Labour party, because official Labour party documents support nuclear deterrent.”
As for the Conservative party, they do not support another referendum and are not likely to back down. “People who are going to vote to support the Conservatives in Scotland are anti-independence” – Dr Leith says. “If on Thursday, we get a Conservatives majority, which looks likely, based on current polling, I wouldn’t bet on a second referendum of Scottish independence before 2021, but I would be on one after 2021. If there is a majority of Conservatives in Westminster after Thursday, that only adds more fuel to the fire of Scotland arguing for a new referendum.”
Dr Leith added, “There will clearly have to be another referendum of Scottish Independence because the SNP are not going to go away and they are not going to lie down and stop talking about it.”
If IndyRef2 happened in the future, there is no guarantee it would be a yes vote. “The polling indicates that there may have been some shift and I have seen some recent figures that said it would be 55 yes and 45 no, that is the outline. Most polls indicate that it would still be close and it would still be a no vote.”