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The SNP are falling apart faster than the Union Nicola Sturgeon’s embattled administration is besieged within and without

Alex Salmond is still looming over Nicola Sturgeon. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Alex Salmond is still looming over Nicola Sturgeon. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)


December 8, 2020   5 mins

In an admittedly not very crowded field, the Scottish National Party stands out as far and away the most effective campaigning machine in British politics.

They have been blessed (or so it seemed until recently) to have had two extremely capable and charismatic leaders in succession. Alex Salmond took them first to a supposedly-impossible overall majority in Holyrood, and then to the cusp of breaking up the United Kingdom in 2014. Nicola Sturgeon, his anointed successor, helped to transform the referendum’s Yes Movement into a standing Nationalist army that swept all before it at the 2015 general election.

They have benefited, of course, from outside assistance. David Cameron’s extraordinary complacency ahead of the independence referendum handed them a long campaign and a favourable question. His needless invocation of English Votes for English Laws the morning after the vote poisoned the well of Better Together’s victory. Boris Johnson is deeply unpopular north of the border. And let’s not forget the generations of devolutionaries who have systematically handed the separatists vast constitutional arsenals, treasuries, and pulpits, while rendering the Union practically non-functional across vast areas of policy, including key bread-and-butter areas such as education and health.

But beneath all of this, the SNP’s real secret sauce has been its extraordinary discipline. After years as an enthusiastic but rabblesome force, Salmond forged the Nationalists into a veritable phalanx. Largely freed from the need to bargain with the base, the SNP leadership won extraordinary freedom of political manoeuvre and has used it to build a hegemonic position as ‘the party of Scotland’.

After 13 years in office – long enough to have seen off New Labour and reduced the Conservatives, in their Thatcherian pomp, to a morbid state – the Nationalists look set to remain comfortably the largest party at next year’s Scottish Parliament elections. With the support of their separatist foederati, the Greens, they also seem (almost) certain to retain control of the Scottish Government. But not even the luckiest and most capable politicians can outrun time forever, and beneath the SNP’s perfumed poll ratings it isn’t difficult to detect the stench of decay. Sturgeon’s embattled administration is besieged within and without.

On the outside, MSPs investigating the Scottish Government’s botched investigation into sexual misconduct allegations against Salmond are on the warpath. The former First Minister’s successful legal challenge against the handling of his case ended up costing more than £500,000 of taxpayers’ money, and the central question now is what Sturgeon knew and when. Her predecessor alleges the original investigation was stacked against him; her own sequence of events has been called into question; crucial meetings with senior civil servants weren’t minuted; and Scottish ministers have twice defied votes by the Scottish Parliament for them to release the legal advice they received during the Salmond case. Opposition MSPs scent blood.

But it isn’t only opposition MSPs. Linda Fabiani, a Nationalist and convenor of the Holyrood inquiry into the Salmond affair, has been as vocal a critic as anyone of the Scottish Government’s response – and this is just one of the fast-growing spiderweb of cracks in the SNPs seemingly perfect façade.

At the centre of this web is Salmond himself. The one-time darling of the separatist movement may be a diminished figure, dogged by the sexual misconduct allegations and hosting a talk show on Kremlin propaganda network RT, but he remains a capable operator and commands a loyal following among the Nationalist grassroots. Feeling that his hand-picked successor at best tried to hang him out to dry — and at worst actively designed the Scottish Government’s anti-harassment policies with him in mind — Salmond is on the warpath.

Unhelpful interventions in the battle between Sturgeon and the inquiry MSPs are the least of it. The split between the SNP’s two titans, personal as it is, reflects growing divisions in the wider party, and Salmond has not been shy about exploiting this. His pose as the Nationalists’ radical conscience well-positions him to exploit activists’ unease about the potential softening of the party’s totemic commitment to unilateral nuclear disarmament, independence strategy, and much else.

Meanwhile, Joanna Cherry, a high-profile MP and close ally of Salmond’s, has risen to prominence as a vocal critic of Sturgeon’s approach to gender issues, adding social policy to the growing list of axes  the SNP phalanx is turning on itself. She has made headlines with a plea to Sturgeon to condemn the vicious social media attacks she endures from parts of the nationalist movement for her positions on transgender issues.

She has also spoken out against the party’s “cult of the leader”, a rallying cry to those growing increasingly frustrated with the command-and-control culture which has helped the SNP ride so high for so long. And it is slipping: at their recent conference, one in four delegates backed Craig Murray, a former ambassador sacked by Tony Blair who has previously been barred from standing for election as an SNP candidate, to be party president.

For their part, the Nationalist leadership clearly think Cherry sufficiently threatening that they shamelessly changed the party’s selection rules to prevent her contesting a Scottish Parliament seat at next year’s elections.

A charismatic leader out for revenge; a devoted base of energetic partisans; a strong clutch of emotive ‘wedge issues’ in divisions over separatist strategy and gender; and a tired, over-centralised opposition fighting fires on multiple fronts – the Salmondites have all the raw materials for a sustained political insurgency.

Even those who don’t agree with them might wish them well. It is past time that Scotland was rid of the SNP’s hyper-disciplined politics, the upshot of which is that parties elected by a diverse range of voters end up reflecting only a narrow band of officially-sanctioned views. It was good that the Scottish Conservatives’ attempt to operate as a Westminster ‘bloc’ failed, and the fracturing of the Nationalists into a more chaotic, democratic, indeed normal party would be welcome. The fact it would almost certainly hasten the end of their extraordinary winning streak is, for unionists, simply a bonus.

Yet there is one thing that still binds the Nationalists’ increasingly unhappy alliance together: the imminence of next year’s Holyrood elections, and beyond them the chance of a swift re-run of the 2014 vote.

The Tories should understand this. It wasn’t all that long ago that Brexit was working a similar magic on their own fortunes, holding Theresa May’s Government’s poll ratings above 40% even as it shed Cabinet ministers almost monthly – and while the Fixed-term Parliaments Act, by removing the threat of an election, reduced Conservative internal discipline to rubble. As she learned, these peculiar conditions do not endure forever.

Sturgeon is key to the SNP’s current moment: new research from These Islands reveals the extraordinary hold she has on swing voters. But the First Minister is no political immortal and the magic is starting to slip. Even her much-vaunted handling of the pandemic has been called into question by new data, and an attempt to whip up anger at Westminster over a bung for NHS employees has been slated both by the Fraser of Allender Institute (‘Scotland’s leading economic think-tank’) and now by doctors themselves.

This is why Boris Johnson needs to defy the defeatists in his Government and stand by his refusal to grant the SNP another independence referendum in this Parliament.

There are plenty of good arguments for doing so, but on a purely tactical level it would almost certainly place a future vote beyond the end of Sturgeon’s leadership, and there isn’t another politician of her calibre waiting in the wings. It would also give the Nationalists the space to have the civil war they’re spoiling for.

The Prime Minister should let them fight it out, and then give battle to the survivors.


Henry Hill is Deputy Editor of ConservativeHome.

HCH_Hill

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G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago

Mainly wishful thinking this piece, given the current apparent clamour for independence in Scotland, Scottish unionists in perpetual disarray and the much hated by those north of the border, goto bogeyman Boris Johnson, the convenient lightning rod for all their ills, real or imagined, in charge south of it.

The SNP, or more specifically the Teflon coated Sturgeon, bizarrely can do no wrong in many Scottish voters’ eyes despite their and her as their leader’s consistently dreadful record in day to day government spanning many years and across a range of devolved issues from education, justice and healthcare to their own pretty lamentable handling of Scotland’s economy….still, that’s when Westminster and the wicked Tories south of border always comes in handy.

All this must be a mighty reassuring feeling to have when you’re essentially a single issue party.

Similarly, covid has been the gift that keeps on giving to the SNP and Ms Sturgeon certainly hasn’t let the proverbial crisis go to waste in this instance.

Her performance, flattered in no small part by an uncritical domestic media and a quietly determined refusal on her part to engage with the parts that might be and, once again, despite the actual record to date that often contradicts the SNP narrative carefully spun for the benefit of the terminally credulous.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago
Reply to  G Harris

Yes, Alex Massie refers to al this as ‘the Sturgeon paradox’ i.e. the worse she and her administration perform, on every measure, the more popular she becomes.

G Harris
G Harris
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It basically suggests, if polls are to be believed that is, that the post-Brexit majority desire for ‘independence’ in Scotland far exceeds any current desire for a remotely competent government, yes, and maybe, given the lamentable alternatives, the SNP is Hobson’s Choice so wins by default.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Fraser Bailey

It isn’t a paradox: it depends on the MSM boosting her, as they do Welsh Stasiman, to damage the PM. The Welsh and Scottish media fawn on these two jumped up town councillors in a way which sounds quite bonkers to the English ear, more used as it is to the PM and Government being daily sabotaged.

Richard Norris
Richard Norris
3 years ago

I keep reading everywhere that the majority in Scotland now favour independence. Not true. Firstly, these polls have a high degree (25% in the last one) of ‘don’t knows’.

Secondly, it’s worth remembering that the polls that supposedly find a majority for Scottish Independence use the biased yes/no question set in 2014, and are funded by pro-Independence organisations. There is no case for another referendum anytime soon but if there is, you can bet your boots it won’t use the same question, as the UK Govt will be in a position to insist on a fairer question (after all, the UK Govt has to give its consent). Most likely is that the question will follow the Brexit question as in ‘leave/remain’? Significantly a poll that framed the question this way found a majority (56%) in favour of remaining in the UK.

There is an awful lot of propaganda that masquerades as polling these days …

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Norris

who you trying to convince?

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
3 years ago
Reply to  Richard Norris

It would be interesting to know what the polls would produce if the question of independence was asked: Do you want to be ruled by Westminster where you have representation – or by Brussels where you have none?

Stephen Tye
Stephen Tye
3 years ago

Watching slippery Salmond, and ‘something fishy’ Sturgeon fighting very publicly is a small ray of sunshine in the otherwise unremitting gloom of 2020. Let’s hope they both fight to the death – the world would be a better place without them.

John K
John K
3 years ago

The time for another referendum on Scottish independence is the year after the next UK General Election. By then the disruption from Covid and Brexit will have evaporated and the voters will be in a better position to make an informed judgement.

Not before.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  John K

Still too soon. Let a generation pass, as is normal.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago

How is a generation normal? There was a fundamental change when UK voted for Brexit. Scotland has s right to choose.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

Brexit is just an excuse, albeit a good one. Should that not work they would start complaininging about the kind of handkerchiefs used by the PM.
In any case, Scotland was willing to leave the EU anyway had they got their way with the referendum, so no big deal, really.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

More Scots voted for Brexit than voted for the Scottish National Socialists.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago

To suggest Brexit has no impact on the forward trajectory of indy is just plain denialism. Brexit was a sudden stark and sobering awaking for the average Scottish voter. To be told in no uncertain terms that an independent Scotland would be cast out of the EU, and that the only way to stay within the EU was to vote NO to indy…only to then have a referendum where English and Welsh votes result in Scotland being brought out of the EU…
I mean you can’t make this stuff up.
It matters

imagearc
imagearc
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

How many YES voters decided that being independent was better than being in the EU?

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  imagearc

I’m sorry I’m confused as to what you are asking me.. do you want to know the number of people who voted yes to indy and also voted to leave the EU?

I don’t have that number lol, but according to a post above 33% of SNP members voted for Brexit. Personally I find that to be a bit high although traditionally older SNP members like Sillars who is now in his 80s preferred complete sovereignty out with the UK and EU. As I mentioned above I think younger members are far more aligned with the EU, Erasmus etc,

David J
David J
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

How many Scottish voters are happy for the SNP to give away fishing all over again?
Especially when Shetland and islands leave Scotland, and keep their own fishing rights.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  David J

Probably quite a large number as we Scots are quite a canny bunch, and as fishing only represents 0.2% of our economy I think your point, though emotive, is not one the vast number of Scots worry about.

As for Orkney and Shetland, who wish to become a Crown Dependency and not as has been suggested repatriated to Norway :0 this always makes me smile, my Grandad lived on Shetland as a lot of Sasanachs do… :0 it’s up to the locals to decide 😉

Robin Lambert
Robin Lambert
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

33% of SNP party members Voted to leave EU… Scottish fisherman have suffered under CFP

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Robin Lambert

Fishing accounts for 0.2% of Scottish economy. As for the 33% you quote, I think that’s probably a bit high but it would be interesting to break that down further into age group. Older SNP members like Jim Sillars have always been aligned to complete sovereignty out with UK and EU. Younger members, I would argue, are not so bothered, having been brought up in the EU they are not so sceptical. Also the way I see it Scotland always had close ties to Europe, the auld alliance and all that. Scotland is a small country and is not afraid to have close ties with its neighbours!

Ian Moore
Ian Moore
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

Neighbours, except the UK apparently? Also, how do you reconcile the notion of “independence” with membership of the EU? There is NO independence there.

tim cole
tim cole
3 years ago
Reply to  John K

Let them go. No point keeping them if they want to.

SUSAN GRAHAM
SUSAN GRAHAM
3 years ago
Reply to  tim cole

If the English had a vote it would be a shoo-in….

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

The comparison with the May government is interesting, BUT that government was operating to uphold a referendum that was won. She didn’t try (or had time) to govern as the government “dealt” only with Brexit.
Instead in Scotland we are in a neverendum situation. Say there is indyref2 and they lose, no sooner are the results declared than we will be on the warpath for indyref3. Here the SG pretends to be governing, but all it does is furthering their agenda. And the public doesn’t care, nay, it likes it. It doesn’t matter that the SNP moves from fiasco to fiasco in a whole range of matters (some Covid related, some not); NOBODY cares.
Education is the perfect examples. Even on education the SNP polls better than anyone else, including the Tories.
NOBODY cares!

The problem the Tories have is that I do not know what the stand for. The SNP are good at sowing division and little else. They haven’t made my life (or my children’s) better in my way, but how will the Tories accomplish that?

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I agree with you up to a point.

However for those of us in Scotland there are signs that this *nobody cares* attitude is finally changing.

The article points out how awful the Cameron and Osborne non-campaign in 2014 was, and even since the UK government has been almost entirely absent from the social media arena.

For far too long the platforms that have created, or helped to create, the world’s largest companies have been derided by the Conservatives, and the opposition in the space left to small grass roots organisations, and basically, just ordinary people.

In recent months there is far more evidence that the cyber space is now far more effectively contested. Social media lead what used to call themselves Mainstream media by the nose, and especially broadcasters whether radio or (steam)TV.

We are hearing on twitter…on twitter… there are calls for resignations across social media…. these phrases describe a reality in which (pace the *Russian Bots* and Huawei) the Conservative party is finally wakening upto the power of the internet.

I agree a commentator abovge who said Covid19 and Bexit need to be allowed to settle…Brexit expecially has been used relentlessly by the SNP as the camouflage issue in every vote since the referendum.

Nicola Strugeon has repeatedly and explicitly said a vote for her and a vote for the SNP is not a vote a independence…and when people began to get angry about her hijacking the votes immediately AS a vote for independence..in 2017…the SNP saw many seats lost and big names ejected from Parliament as their vote fell to under 39%.

Running with Remainers has helped them, but absent that, and Present a truly disasterous record in which Scotland’s health and education has slipped alarmingly, in which two ferries costing £97M were *launched* three years ago (with painted on windows on the bridge)..sit three years later with the yard bust and taken into public ownership but with teh ferries sitting unfinished, rusting and now with estimates to finish topping £300M and rising…if they can be finished.

A engineering firm taken over by the government to make giant wind turbine supports, complete with the bombastic rhetorical speech in which Sturgeon specialises, has gone bust in a year with all jobs lost.

A bridge opened by her across the Forth that would *never be shut* was repeatedly shut and after further work and further boasting…only last week was shut again.

The shameless bung of £500 bonuses..even yesterday’s whinge by the FM and backed up by the increasingly hapless scientific adviser Devi Sridhar…these things are no unravelling. The magic or the drugs or both are starting not to work…and that isn’t happening by accident, it is happening because for the first time in 10 years somebody (I don’t know who) finally seems to have a clue about what they’re doing in the UK govt.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Will your children benefit from a free university education?

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

Well, they are a few years away from Uni, so who knows what things will be like then. But the way I see it, as Glasgow and Edinburgh are both far too close to home, if I were them I would go to uni in England, especially if they can go to a good Uni.
I am really unconcerned with tuition fees as they are not really an issue.
If Scotland became independent, all the more reason to go elsewhere, then they can come to quaint old Scotland for a semester or something, like an Erasmus kind of exchange.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

Andrea to say they can return to quaint old Scotland, a surprising turn of phrase for a native Scot to use….

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

I think that may have been tongue in cheek Isla, but the views of many young Scots regarding Independence and politics in general, could properly be called “Quaint”

Janetta McGuigan
Janetta McGuigan
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

How does the Erasmus programme work next year? I know it still helps non-EU students , under specific circumstances.
Good luck to your children with whatever university they decide upon.
I thought initially that you were American, as we usually divide the academic year into “terms”. Quaint little Scotland and England.
Semester is so very American.

Janetta McGuigan
Janetta McGuigan
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

I’m not getting mired in this but am finding you quite interesting Andrea.

If money is really not an issue the brilliant Gordonstoun!, board your children there tout suite, not for the chicken hearted. Tough place!
Fettes even? Yuk. Blair.
St. Andrews? Now that’s a favourite too with royalty. The aristocracy, new money too.
Just pointing out that the cream of England send their offspring to Scotland to be educated.
(Maybe Oxbridge is a bit too much for some people, academically speaking. What do you think?)

We use the word “term” as a division of the academic year in the UK. “Semester” is more American.

Talking of the Erasmus exchange programme IF Scotland becomes independent (your words), and she reunites with the rest of Europe, do you think your children will be eligible?
I know that Erasmus+ has opportunities for students but am wondering if maybe England might NOT be eligible to participate in the required exchange. Surely that won’t come to pass though. Bit petty of the EU?

I’m also not sure but maybe you need to study for a fullq year, or more, in the Erasmus exchange programme. I know my Irish daughter in law did in Spain.
Not sure about a semester, anyway, the very best of luck to your children when the time comes.
I’d go for Oxbridge Andrea.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago

Jannetta I like your style.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago

Money is not the issue because tuition fees are just a smoke screen. What one has to look at (at the moment) is maintenance costs.

Harry Powell
Harry Powell
3 years ago

A post-independence Scotland will be a political struggle for who will be the Fine Gael of Scotland. Since the existing parties can’t seem to manage it, the SNP will split and create its own opposition over trivial differences. If you want a vision of the nationalist future just think of Charles Haughey’s Ireland: smug, mediocre, complacent, corrupt and authoritarian.

Jonathan Ellman
Jonathan Ellman
3 years ago

This probably won’t be relevant until Scotland separates and the real nastiness begins.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago

The SNP can’t guarantee that Scotland will easily join the EU. Or the English won’t have tariffs along with people and goods checks on their border. Particularly if it somehow got into the EU. Neither can the SNP guarantee that Scots will have the same right to work, health care and right to work in rUK.

The SNP can’t guarantee that Scotland would have any say in setting monetary policy if it used the rUK pound. It can’t guarantee that Scotland will be wealthier.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

All of these assertions are true. Independence is reckless fantasy land delusion. The EU may be many things, but it isn’t going to roll out the red carpet for another economic basket case; even if a majority of its members were crazy enough to do otherwise, countries like Spain and Belgium – who will hardly wish to establish precedent for breakaway regions – would veto Scotland, which wouldn’t qualify anyway given its deficit. Dream on SNP! Actually don’t: start telling the truth – you can’t afford it and the EU couldn’t care less. Even lemmings would pause to reconsider, but not the one trick SNP.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

I agree Terry and it is also to be noted that Scotland in recent history (last few hundred years) has been in fact two separate nations , the Gaels and the Lowland Scots who historically hated and abused each other more viciously than they did the English. Scratch the surface of Scottish culture and that fault line is still evident and may after the proposed independence, become a chasm.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago

Why has Ms Sturgeon singularly failed to dismiss the odious Corvid violator, Margaret Ferrier MP?

She seems even worse than that dreadful MP for Peterborough, who hung on to her job like a limpet mine, until eventually prised free!

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Mark I know Margaret having worked with her during the indy ref, she is one of the most dedicated and hardworking of People that I met during that time. I can only assume that she had a momentary lapse into madness. I honestly feel for her, she has lost everything she worked so hard for and dedicated her life to. Trust me her every waking moment was given to the SNP.

Sadly now she has lost all credibility, her constituents don’t want her and she should stand down.

Another victim of COVID 🙁

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

“Caesar’s wife must be above suspicion”

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

An interesting view however I prefer
“Let he who is without sin cast the first stone”

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

That doesn’t apply if you are “Caesar’s wife” I’m afraid.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Sad face 🙁

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

The next line was “Go, and sin no more.”

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago

As it should be, we should all have the capacity to learn from our mistakes 🙂

Ian Moore
Ian Moore
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

Out of curiosity – what is your opinion on Dominic Cummings.

Andrew Baldwin
Andrew Baldwin
3 years ago

I’m Canadian and I don’t claim to know anything about Scottish politics, but I am well-acquainted with independence referenda, as there were Quebec referenda on sovereignty twice in my lifetime. There are two things the Canadian experience should teach British people. First, since these are hugely divisive things, they shouldn’t happen often. The referenda in Canada were 15 years apart, which should be a minimum. A waiting period of 20 years between referenda would be better. Second, a simple majority vote in favour of independence should not be accepted as binding. The 2000 Clarity Act passed by the Chrétien government sought to avoid the same perilous state Canada found itself in at the time of the 1995 referendum, where Quebeckers were ever so close to giving a simple majority of votes in favour of sovereignty. This would have been a result the separatist Parti Québecois government considered binding, while the federal government didn’t. The Clarity Act said that a referendum must pass with a qualified majority not a simple majority to be binding. However, it did not state what a qualified majority would be, which has been a source of controversy ever since. I tend to think it should be high, at least 60%. The 55% barrier set for the referendum on Montenegrin independence, barely cleared, was, to my mind, ridiculously low, and recreated a country that should never have been revived. On the other hand, if you set a particular barrier there is always the risk that the voters will play silly buggers, thinking they are just registering their opposition to the way things are going, and end up with an independence they never really wanted. So there is an argument for keeping the limit undefined and letting the courts decide. Whatever the rules set out, respect for democracy demands that they be followed. It was quite insane to allow something as important as withdrawal from the EU be determined by a simple majority vote, but given those were the rules, Brexiteers had every right to be angry when it appeared that the rules would not be followed.

Albert Kensington
Albert Kensington
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

. It was quite insane to allow something as important as withdrawal from the EU be determined by a simple majority vote,”

Old Etonian hubris

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrew Baldwin

The courts should most definitely not decide. Not this compromised generation of judges.

monkwell7
monkwell7
3 years ago

It now appears that a majority of Scots favour independence. Since the SNP is the sole vehicle for achieving this, they will continue to benefit, despite the SNP’s actual performance.

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago

The SNP are the victim of the same disease that afflicts every party which has the misfortune to become the establishment in their respective countries – entryism, either of relentlessly driven people with their own political agenda which has nothing to do with the ostensible aims of the party, or, more commonly, of people who are simply career driven and join because it’s the quickest way up. I suspect with the SNP, it’s much more a case of the former than the latter.

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

The rise of the SNP is basically the story of the fall of Labour.

The Hatton militant 80’s types and the Novara fake-journalist-activist graduate types today all decamped into the party because they see an independent Scotland as an easier place to get the Socialist Republic up and running, than the UK.

So as well as the Salmond /Sturgeon personal split there’s a simmering tension between some supporters, who aren’t actually full-on for independence but think the SNP *bats best for Scotland*…and the usual mouthy nasty faction permanently ready for the revolution that will usher in their version of the brave new world.

One massive difference now is for really the first time the UK govt seem to have somebody who not only gets that politics is *The internet, stupid* and the TV and Radio, as well as papers, follow social media now, and that’s the arena where things are decided, but knows how to be more effective in that space.

The sheer nastiness of many in the very extreme edges of the Nationalist movement…i.e. the noisiest and most active, is a weakness just as it was for Corbyn.

the staggeringly low wattage of many nationalist MPs and MSPs is another endless supply of self damaging material previously left unexpoited.

And the record that is at best average and in areas, at worst, truly abysmal is starting to emerge from the shadow of *Brexit* and *Covid*…indeed lies and glib ellisions around how well Scotland has done are coming home to roost as the truth emerges.

So I would add these specific manifestions to the general tone of your post, with which I definitely agree. Because of these things, and the final removal of Brexit as camouflage and distraction (smoke and mnirrors if you like) I feel the best course for the UK is for the UK govt to keep doing what they are doing but for the most wait for SNP cracks to widen and the seawater start flooding in, and not give ground to hectoring demands on the referendum timing next year or any year after that.

Alexander D Macmillan
Alexander D Macmillan
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

Yes, entryists attach themselves to establishment parties like sea lice on salmon.

Peter KE
Peter KE
3 years ago

There is no time in the foreseeable future for a further independence referendum.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago

No country in EU would allow any part of their territories to secede.

Nor would the USA. As blogger Effie Dean points out “If the people of Alaska expressed a wish to rejoin Russia or if the people of Louisiana wanted to revert to being French or if California, New Mexico and other states wished to return to Mexico the United States would prevent them if necessary, by armed force.”

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

In those cases, they probably have armed forces capable of actually doing that. It’s also the case that Scotland is not “part of their territories” (although it’s a common and generally unquestioned assumption among English people). It’s a nation which is, for the present, in union with England, not owned by it.

Roger Inkpen
Roger Inkpen
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

The US is composed to 50 states unified into one country. Is that much different to how England and Scotland unified? In either case. what has that got to do with ‘ownership’?

To secede, Scotland needs Westminster to approve before another referendum can go ahead, just as any US state wishing to break away would need Congress to agree.

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Roger Inkpen

What about Germany or Italy? They are a collection of miniatures. Shall we split them all up too?

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  ard10027

What do you mean by “nation”? In particular the Scottish “nation”?

(Edited)

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

Scotland was an independent country, nation, people whatever you wish to call it, with its own monarchy, parliament, legal, educational, religious institutions. The Act of Union in 1707 brought together Scottish and English parliaments. Scotland still kept its independent legal, religious and educational institutions.
The history here is important as it was an act of Union, not an invasion or occupation, where one country enslaved another. Two people coming together.
It has to be noted that the reason Scotland voted to join in the Union was due to its near bankruptcy, not a solid foundation on which to build s Union.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

Scotland still kept its independent legal, religious and educational institutions.

Louisiana has its own law system inherited from France and Spain. It has its own bicameral legislature. US won’t let it secede.

Nor will Germany let Bavaria secede.either. (After German federation, Bavaria continued with its monarchy, army, railways, postal service and diplomatic service. It has a majority Catholic population as distinct from Protestants in the north.

“Whenever Scottish nationalists argue that it is unfair that Scotland should not be given a referendum on independence because we are supposed to be a union of equals, I always reply that we are not a union at all. The Union of 1707 created a single child called Great Britain. There is no union now in the same way a child of a marriage (a union) is not itself a union. The United Kingdom is one nation. We are as united as France, or Germany or the USA.” (Effie Deans)

That 303 years ago Scotland was nearly bankrupt is neither here nor there. Scots fully participated in the Empire.

(I note that the kilt was invented by an Englishman!)

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

We are a Union, you can deny it but that doesn’t change the facts.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

Not denying the United Kingdom is a union. So is the United States. Texas won’t be seceding to Mexico.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

Terry the clue is in the name.. United States, United Kingdom, two different things, it’s like comparing apples and pears.. it’s not pedantics, it’s quite fundamental.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

The clue is in the word “United”.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

Doh!

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

Is that an argument?

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

It’s an exclamation…

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

It is the union of two kingdoms, each retaining its own crown.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago

Rosie I have no idea what the heck you are on about ,,, sorry :0

ard10027
ard10027
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

Scotland was not bankrupt. The idiot Scottish nobles were bankrupt, but that’s not the same thing at all. Scotland’s treasury was in perfect order in 1701.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

As Mr Burns put it so succinctly “bought and sold for English gold”.
You say there was ” not a invasion or occupation “, which was perfectly true for 1707.
However as you may know there were three subsequent invasions, followed by occupation, notably in 1715, 1719, and the ‘big one’ 1746.

Thus the combination of the golden guinea and the Brown Bess musket brought recalcitrant Scotland to heel.

More tea Vicar?
.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

Coffee is my beverage of choice, thank you.

As I say your Anglophile sentiments are quite endearing, to abide in a world of past conquest and glories. I suppose one must prefer to indulge in the past than live in the present little England of today.

I myself enjoy the glimpses you give of your world view, makes me smile 😉

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

At my age the future is either a soggy hole in the ground or the oven.

What many Englishmen are astonished by is the ungrateful behaviour of many (not all I’ll grant you) Scots. Talk about “biting the hand that feeds you”, this really is off the Richter scale for ungratefulness don’t you think?

Anyway that aside, when you get Independence, will it not be a return to 1707?

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Mark Corby

With Nicola Sturgeon at the helm, the hate crime bill, education system going down the drain, etc, etc, I think we will be aiming more for the dark ages…

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
3 years ago
Reply to  Isla C

Well, if it is of any comfort, England will be close behind you, on present form.

joe_falconer
joe_falconer
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

Remember, it is a union, a voluntary union of nations.

You need to find better examples.

Terry Mushroom
Terry Mushroom
3 years ago
Reply to  joe_falconer

Define nation!

Ted Ditchburn
Ted Ditchburn
3 years ago
Reply to  Terry Mushroom

Effie Deansis one of what have been basically ordinary people carrying much of the fight to keep telling simple although inconvenient truths in the face of the usual blustering rhetoric used by nationalists.

There are others, Kevin hague, Jill Stephenson..many of whom get regular and casual abuse for their trouble, and often vile and extremely nasty abuse (of the we know where you live type) . However very recently it seems someone in the UK govt set up has finally realised the central importance of the social media space, and there is far more activity…and far more effective activity from the UK govt to dismantle the cliams.

One example was the £500 to NHS workers, with gratuitious tax whinge added. A swift observation from the Treasury that this income tax would go to the SNP anyway and the whinge was absolutely gratutious gave pro union people some easy material to reply with and the tactic quickly backfired.

As has the one just today around the Wales’s train trip to visit the *unsung heroes*, a perfectly valid thing for people representing the head of state to do (as she herself isn’t doing so much or obvious reasons these days.)

An ill judged dog whistle attempt by Ms Sturgeon, backed up by tweets from her increasingly political supposed scienctific advisor Devi Sridhar, has also unravelled and backfired..and again the UK govt have been active in rebuttal arguments that have been well calibrated and give pro union bloggers and ordinary people material to use.

I think this is a good thing…and, predictably…hasn’t been picked up on yet by the fanboys and fangirls of the Main TV news channels who still see the SNP as nothing more than a source of anti-Brexit soundbites for them to use.

However the MSM are nothing if not conformist these days and I do expect to see the SNP and FM Sturgeon given far more of a similar treatment to PM Johnson and the Conservatives when they finally realise they’re behind *social*…if there is one single commandment the MSM must follow these days it is to never get too far behind social media trends…and #Snpout gets up the trending list more often these days.

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago

Headline should read”‘The SNP are falling apart but nowhere near as cataclysmically as the English Tory Party’

Andrea X
Andrea X
3 years ago
Reply to  Nun Yerbizness

Huh?

Nun Yerbizness
Nun Yerbizness
3 years ago
Reply to  Andrea X

yup!

paulwalkerdunfermline
paulwalkerdunfermline
3 years ago

It’s getting quite predictable that unheard will take the British nationalist line when it comes to Scotland. There is a conservative viewpoint that supports taking responsibility for your own country and not having it governed from elsewhere. In Scotland we don’t have conservatives we have people who tell us we’re subsidy junkies and we should bed down in our rut and take handouts from our neighbours. They’re closer to benefit scroungers than conservatives.
Independence is the natural state of affairs we simply want that for ourselves and the young, like other Scots haven’t been brainwashed they’ve simply woken up. Seeing the comments here reminds us how out of touch, self-obsessed and petty so many unionists are they don’t have a case and they know it. So continue with the separatist claptrap but when your nationalism trumps democracy I suppose you need to pretend there’s no good reason for independence otherwise the paucity of your argument is obvious.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
3 years ago

“Woken up” that Paul is the problem and the reason I returned my membership. What is the point of a Nationalism ruled by a committee of nonentities. Since the departure of Alex there is more spirit in a Gregg’s mince pie, Nationalism used to be about giving people pride in the nation, about work and contribution, not a downward spiral of obeisance to every and any political or social minority…….You see before you the foetus of a Marxist state.

paulwalkerdunfermline
paulwalkerdunfermline
3 years ago
Reply to  Alex Tickell

I didn’t mean “woke” Alex I meant that people realise you have to take responsibility and that’s what independence means to me and many others. it’s not about hate or England. Granted the nonsense coming from the SNP is straight out of the woke handbook but that’s a problem for the west in general. A managerial/officer class that are insulated from the experience of real peoples lives and who stand for nothing. They certainly aren’t interested in seeing working people prosper or making any meaningful change. When Scotland is independent we’ll have some proper conservatives who believe in deferred gratification and personal responsibility because that is still present in our society. We’ll not be indulging the marxists then we’ll do to them what we did to the Labour party and the sooner the better.

Alex Tickell
Alex Tickell
3 years ago

Sorry P I was being a bit facetious there, but can’t agree that it will all be fixed “When we get independence” The values that we agree upon should be part of the Nationalist message not simply a wish list. I think it far more likely that the commissars will indoctrinate the young into the equality, diversity cull de sac and our history/ heritage will end up in the bin, The Nationalist of the fifties were known in the media of the time as Tartan Tories, simply because they had a pride in Scotland’s culture history and heritage, not for them any invasion into social engineering, or attacks on traditional values like marriage or fixed gender. Today’s Nationalist is a very different and more dangerous beast…..opportunists to a man.

Last Jacobin
Last Jacobin
3 years ago

If you read some of the below the line comments on yesterday’s Unherd piece on Taking the Knee and the rights of free born Englishmen compared to ‘Mongrel’ British it might also give an insight into the reasons for the sustained popularity of the SNP.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Last Jacobin

Do you mean the SNP, despite all their virtue signalling about open borders, are capitalising on Scottish xenophobia – by contrast with tolerant and welcoming England? Scots, like the French, can be startlingly frank on this subject, and there are harrowing tales of refugees having to be brought back down to England after being beaten up in Scotland.

Fraser Bailey
Fraser Bailey
3 years ago

They’re fighting like Nats in a sack.

Andrew Gibbons
Andrew Gibbons
3 years ago

We need to reverse the Brexit playbook of Vote first, details later.

When the SNP win their Holyrood landslide next May, Boris Johnson should immediately offer to start negotiations with the Scottish government to produce a draft withdrawal agreement, to be put to the Scottish people in an official referendum once finalised.

https://brightblue.org.uk/how-boris-johnson-could-stall-scottish-independence/

Muscleguy
Muscleguy
3 years ago

I might also ask Henry Hills when the Scottish Tories are going to get a credible leader? Douglas Ross is a laughing stock here in Scotland.

Annabell Goldie seems a lifetime ago now. She looms over the Scots Tories like a colossus. Her successors haven’t a bar of her stature, or the respect she commanded from opposition politicians. Ah how the mighty have fallen.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Muscleguy

She is still impressive in the House of Lords. An antidote to many in there.

I agree Douglas Ross wasn’t the best choice though no doubt a decent man. I like John Lamont and Alister Jack but I think I’d go for Andrew Bowie as the best bet all round and more than a match for the likes of Wee Nicola.

andrewpurkis
andrewpurkis
3 years ago

can we have a english ref to get rid of the scotch parasites

let the EUSSR have them

theyre gonna love another greece

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  andrewpurkis

Sit down John silly boy, the adults are talking…

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  andrewpurkis

‘Scotch’?! You’re showing your vintage, not to mention your ignorance…

Stensh-Brown
Stensh-Brown
3 years ago

A very interesting article from a very reliable commentator. The conclusion is right, Ii am sure, but standing back a bit, the most important thing to understand is the SNP are a bunch of HATERS (like the Soviet revolutionaries in 1917). And the haters hating each other is the story of the decade.
I have explored this is a short video I made as part of my new book recommendations channel on YouTube. Nicola Sturgeon herself confessed to Mandy Rhodes, in a book called “Scottish National Party Leaders” (2016), that hatred has been “the motivation for my entire political career” (p. 358). This is an essentially negative position, and it springs from a psychological rather than a political root. It is that which gives the venom to the party which its supporters love. It is a very dangerous emotion. You can see the video here: https://www.youtube.com/wat
More substantially, there is a book describes the threats to the rule of law from a clash between judges and politicians in Scotland. I believe it will have interest for all countries facing a similarly emerging democratic deficit. It is called “The Justice Factory: Can the Rule of Law Survive in 21st Century Scotland?”
The Foreword is written by Lord Hope of Craighead, ex-Deputy President of the UK Supreme Court and the Professor of Public Law who is author “Constitutional Law of Scotland” has written an Introduction to Part II. The lessons are universal for all democratic countries. I hope that it, too, will sit on the desks of all important political commentators because it is an as yet untold story, but a very, very important one if the British state is to survive with the ideals has embraced about civic government roughly since the Act of Union. You can get details of the book here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/dp

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Stensh-Brown

Michael the SNP are not “a bunch of HATERS”, that is to misunderstand them.
They are ideologues, which makes them far more dangerous and fanatical.

Andy Duncan
Andy Duncan
3 years ago

The sheer ignorance and prejudice on display in this comments section is staggering.

Isla C
Isla C
3 years ago
Reply to  Andy Duncan

How so Andy?

David Foot
David Foot
3 years ago

What I find interesting in this petty debate by the Nats is the position of the Islands which seem to be the sensible part of Scotland, and without them Scotand loses a lot of everything.
Engand should ensure that the Islands get to have self determination

Muscleguy
Muscleguy
3 years ago

Ah yes, a Tory spinning fantasy lines about how he desperately wants things to turn out.

Nobody to take over from sainted Nicola? Well there’s Ms Cherry MP who is now elected to the very NEC which blocked her candidacy, along with a bevy of sensible grownups ousting a lot of petulant trans supporting children to put it mildly.

I would not bet against Cherry getting the ban on MP’s standing removed as it is ridiculous. But candidates have been chosen you say, well people can be persuaded to step aside. it’s happened before, it was how former MEP and Trans doyen Alyn Smith became an MP, Parachuted into the Stirling seat.

Then there’s Mr Salmond himself, the wider Yes movement would LOVE that. Hypothetical polls show him heading another party would garner at least 40% of the vote. He would be popular as leader again, another comeback. Still possible. He may be more a marmite politician than Sturgeon but he is a far far better political operator and persuader. He is also much bolder.

Be afraid, be very afraid, FM Salmond would take us to Indy by hook or by crook.

BTW Mr sneering Tory, his show is no RT because no other broadcaster would take it AND he secured editorial control which I understand the station has agreed to. He is far from the only Brit on the channel as well as you well know. It employs quite a few British journos and presenters.

As for the SNP splitting well we’ll see what the new NEC and other sensible convenors have been elected. The silly cleaving on currency is likely to go as well. That’s a policy I will be happy to sell on the doorsteps next indyref.

Let’s see how you like it when our oil and gas reserves, exports, alcohol duties, fishing resources, 90% of the UK’s fresh water etc. etc is removed from the Sterling zone. I think we should peg the Scot£ to a basket of currencies, not just Sterling which is likely to be rather volatile with both Brexit and Scexit impacting on it.

Who will you blame when the hole in the UK’s budget our contribution makes is removed? Immigrants won’t work twice and the EU won’t be credible. You might have to fess up, we will be crowing it, how much we have subsidised the UK over the last 3 decades or more.

The SNP will hang together this side of Indy at least, the coalition may not hold post but the party will continue in some form. A mass exodus to take back SLAB is long planned. So it might fight the Tories for the Centre Right post indy.

Duncan Hunter
Duncan Hunter
3 years ago
Reply to  Muscleguy

Oil & Gas reserves? Dwindling, dependent on foreign capital and expertise and fast approaching lack of economic viability unless new and accessible deposits can be discovered. Which is highly unlikely. Besides, predicating Scotland’s future on less than 15 years’ of proven reserves is not only reckless and irresponsible, but hardly sits with the SNP’s supposed green agenda.
Fishing and whisky duty – fair enough, but the current Brexit wrangling provides enough warning signs about the attitude of the EU to fishing in British waters. They act like the fish are theirs! The delusional fantasy peddled by those wanting independence that the EU would welcome an economic basket case like Scotland is, well, just that: a delusional fantasy. What’s the strategy? Let the EU hoover up fish from Scottish waters willy nilly? And don’t even think Scotland could negotiate on this basis: at the very least, Spain and Belgium would veto Scottish membership.
And what is the connection of fresh water to a currency zone? Maybe you mean dilution, for that is what will happen to whatever currency Scotland might have as it becomes one of the poorest countries in Europe.
If there is to be 2nd referendum (a breach of a pledge btw), then unlike 2014 everything must be negotiated and agreed up front before any vote so that the electorate can decide on the basis of fact & reality, not the fantasy or downright untruths from last time.
There can be no grey areas. While of course Scotland would be entitled to a proportional share of U.K. PLC assets, it will also have to assume a similar proportion of national debt. How that will be repaid without raising taxes even higher and charging for education and prescriptions should be interesting. Scotland will have to produce its own currency backed currency capital of its own national bank – which like a post office, social security system and so many other Institutions will have to be created from scratch. Scotland would also have to borrow heavily to finance its currently generous benefits; without the credit rating or creditworthiness of the UK, its cost of capital will be extremely high – think junk bonds or worse.
Moreover, who would Scotland have to blame for the debacle and penury that will surely follow independence?
50 years ago, as the McGlone Report showed, yes Scotland could have become independent and prospered – McGlone predicted the hardest currency in Europe, similar to Norway and with ample sovereign wealth and a generous system of state benefits. Unfortunately, after Wilson slapped the Official Secrets Act on it (its existence was therefore hidden before that referendum) and 5 decades down the track the only thing that has become true is the generosity of the benefits, with oil & gas reserves depleted (see above).
As for Scotland’s economic and fiscal contribution to the UK, I am afraid you are overblowing it. I’d refer you to the Barnett Formula for the real state of play.

rosie mackenzie
rosie mackenzie
3 years ago
Reply to  Muscleguy

Salmond would do far better than Wee Nicola.

Jonathan Weil
Jonathan Weil
3 years ago
Reply to  Muscleguy

“His show is on RT because no other broadcaster would take it.”

And this adds to his credibility how?

Robb Maclean
Robb Maclean
3 years ago
Reply to  Muscleguy

Just a slight problem here, Muscleman.
Can you guarantee that Shetland and Orkney will follow you into iScotland?
Also you may have trouble taking the border constituencies with you.
You will quickly disillusion the Highlands and Islands, leaving you with the Central belt.

Remember, Saint Nicola snaffled a large amount of EU cash, (returning pounds), destined for the Highlands and Islands when she was Finance Minister.
Her concern for the Highlands and Islands is artificial, a mere front to keep the SNP in favour.

Remember the Shetland Isles were threatened with zero investment by the Scottish Government if they failed to return an SNP MSP in 2019.
Shetland held their nerve and returned a Lib Dem, Beatrice Wishart.

Where are all the distilleries?
Where are all the major fishing grounds?
Where are all the oil fields?

Billy Connolly once said he had much more in common with a welder from Liverpool than he had with anybody from the Highlands.