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Even the SNP won’t talk about independence anymore

Why won't the Nats talk about nationalism? Credit: Getty

June 13, 2024 - 7:00am

During this election campaign, SNP politicians have largely put the independence question on the backburner. “I don’t ever remember seeing an SNP campaign like it where basically hardly anybody mentions the ‘I’ word,” declared Laura Kuenssberg in an interview with the party’s Westminster leader Stephen Flynn on Sunday.

She’s right and it is all very strange. Just over a year ago, Nicola Sturgeon was vowing to turn this election campaign in Scotland into a “de facto” referendum. Yet here we are at the sharp-end of the election and, as Flynn replied to Kuenssberg, it turns out that “we are in a general election campaign and that means we need to focus on the biggest issues at Westminster.” These, according to the SNP, are austerity, Brexit and the cost of living. Independence: not so much.

Focus groups conducted in Scotland during this campaign perhaps hint at the reason. It’s not so much that SNP voters have stopped backing independence, as polls still find support at around 45%. It’s that, at this election, independence is viewed by these voters as totally irrelevant. They are bewildered by initial attempts to crowbar the issue into an election that is palpably about the bigger UK-wide picture. It appears Flynn and new SNP leader John Swinney have admitted the facts and decided to go with the flow.

In truth, that decision isn’t so different from the way the party has run campaigns over the last few years. As opponents have long noticed, the SNP would focus on independence to begin with, to make sure its base was engaged. Then, nearer election day, the party tended to shift its focus to whatever bigger issues were engaging the country at large. In 2019, it was Brexit — and the SNP scooped the field as a result.

Five years on, however, and the signs are that the SNP’s independence shuffle has passed its sell-by date. Firstly, and after more than a decade of promises, core voters are rightly fed up with the SNP’s failure to advance independence one iota. As one strong pro-independence friend told me recently: “For the first time in my life, I don’t know who to vote for.” And secondly, mainstream Middle Scotland has noticed the SNP’s underwhelming domestic record and has begun to discover that other options are available, most notably a repolished Labour Party.

The SNP’s former leader Alex Salmond is turning his fire on his former colleagues. Now heading up the tiny independence-ultra party Alba, he noted acidly that he had been sent a “begging letter” over the weekend from SNP headquarters asking for money, which mentioned independence no fewer than seven times in four paragraphs. “When they’re looking for money from independence supporters,” he said with relish, “they talk about nothing else but independence, but when they go on TV debates the word never passes their lips.”

Alba won’t pick up any seats from the SNP. Rather, it may be the case that on 4 July Scotland’s “grumpy Nats” stay at home, or even lend their vote to Labour.

Swinney has now opened the possibility of Sturgeon returning to the campaigning fold in the coming weeks, despite the criminal investigation into the party’s finances hanging over her and her husband. It adds to the impression that, for the SNP, this campaign is less about strategy than it is about chucking what’s left of the kitchen sink at the Scottish public in the hope the voting muscle memory of the last decade kicks in.

But the bond that the party once had with voters has been weakened by the last 18 months of scandal and misfortune. And simply not mentioning the “I” word won’t make up for that.


Eddie Barnes is director of the Our Scottish Future think tank.

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AC Harper
AC Harper
1 month ago

However genuine, Independence without detailing the consequences for people was a scam. Promising ‘Freedom’ but at what cost?
People have seen through the scam, for now, but it will still work sometime in the future.

Harry Child
Harry Child
1 month ago

Still no mention of the £41 billion Scotland receives under the Barnett formulae from mostly English taxpayers, nor how the SNP would cope after independence when this would cease immediately. Perhaps they are hoping Russia would make up the difference. Nor do they explain that after independence all the banks and financial service industry based in Scotland would have to relocate into England to continue their service to their majority of English customers.

Anthony Roe
Anthony Roe
1 month ago
Reply to  Harry Child

Never wise to underestimate the generosity of the UK government in respect of other peoples money.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
1 month ago
Reply to  Anthony Roe

Exactly. It doesn’t cost the politicians a cent.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago
Reply to  Harry Child

The Scots have a keen appreciation of cash in the pocket, you have to give them that.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
1 month ago
Reply to  Harry Child

You need to take the pork chop necklace off. Buying cohesion just means they can go on the pogey and not develop their resources or human capital.

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
1 month ago

Have you also noticed that the Greens don’t talk about climate change and Net Zero? Even back in Cicero’s time, politicians knew better than to discuss actual policies: that can only lose you support.
Until a couple of years ago, the SNP was a mass membership political party. That all changed with (a) the scandals (£600K, campervan), (b) the woke obsession(gender self-ID) and (c) failure to deliver on policies (health, education, ferries, even a bottle deposit scheme!). They have lost well over 55,000 members since their 2019 peak. This means less canvassers and less election-day cajolers, which means a smaller proportion of those who still support them in principle will actually put pencil to ballot paper.
But it would be foolish to write off the SNP as a political force. Inertia is still a factor in political allegiance and the SNP has form for being a political Lazarus. In the 1979 general election, they only won two seats. Their comeback was interesting. They didn’t gain many seats, but they came second in a large number of constituencies. So when the popularity of an incumbent’s party waned, the SNP candidate was the “natural” choice to get rid of the incumbent.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
1 month ago

The Greens do mention it, in a sort of goody-twoshoes sort of way. If they had been aggressive and single-minded on the issue they could be respected, but they have been more interested in being progressive.

Benedict Waterson
Benedict Waterson
1 month ago

Forget about independence, factions of the current SNP don’t even seem to believe in the concept of the nation state

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago

Or women.

A D Kent
A D Kent
1 month ago

Anyone who follows WingsOverScotland (and if you don’t you really should), will not be surprised by this at all. Every one of the elections since 2014 has been touted as ‘de facto’ referendums – every one ignored. The Sturgeon SNP were nothing but a cabal of gravy-trainers, too wedded to their Parliamentary incomes (Scottish & Westminster) and too cowardly to move forward and grasp the massive opportunities that Independence would bring.

Even for me here in Hove this has been a massive lost opportunity. Anything that damages our rancid Establishment is a good thing. That’s why it closed ranks so tightly in 2014 to scupper the IndyRef, did so again in 2016 (Brexit), again in 2019 (destroying Corbyn’s Labour) and has done since 2020 (Covid cowardice and hysterial over-reaction).

An independent Scotland would have done both nations the power of good. It’s a desperate shame there won’t be one now for a generation.

J B
J B
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

+1
I don’t agree with a lot of their pro-independence bias but got to love the Wings over Scotland blog. No punches pulled…

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
1 month ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Anything is possible. Things change fast.

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
1 month ago

Here’s a few matters Indy support
Are well aware of
1 Those who bemoan that Scotland subsided
Utter Coital Bovine Scatology
2 48 Billion B of O extracted from Scottish waters All Squandered
Plundered from us
3.Norway has a Sovereign Oil & Gas wealth fund nearly $ 2 trillion
And yielding Billions in annual interest and investing heavily into
Green new technologies thereby ensuring a prosperous future
Scotland produced more Oil & Gas than Norway
3. The UK technically bankrupt with a balance sheet that reveals Nett liabilities In excess of Nett Asessts
By £ 9 trillion that’s 3× UK annual GDP and that’s exactly why UK borrowing now extremely limited but much need to transform the UK
economic and productivity severe problems
4 .The Demographics are way in favour of Independence and young voters not only just aware of all the BBC and MSM propaganda and actually aware the Union side are LIARS
5.Support for Indy holding very strong and support can but only increase
6.The GERS figs. On the Scottish economy are a pile of codswallop
7. As Labour will win this GE and due to a complete inability to borrow will very quickly reveal to those in Scotland who voted for them ,That it’s Westminster that is the root cause of our problems
All this shall commit for once and all that Unionist Parties in Scotland
Quickly become irrelevant
I could go on and on to destroy any case that the Union cares to present
But the one and only reason that Westminster must hang to Scotland is that upon Scottish Independence then the RUK will be thourghly exposed as Bankrupt once Scottish Asessts and vast resources removed from the balance sheet immediately resulting in International money markets making a rush for the exit door and England rattling the begging bowl to the IMF then the terrible Amplifying consequence of
Such
Scottish Independence is inevitable
The quicker you suck that up the better chance you have of a viable future for what shall remain of this
Busted, corrupt and broken UK

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Poorly punctuated porridge-trolling.

Brian Doyle
Brian Doyle
1 month ago

I not sitting a English ( Weasel language) exam
I simply stating fact’s
As usual none can reply back with facts that refute all I say

Little wonder that upon signature of The Brexit deal with the EU
That Boris signed 2 agreements
1 in English and 1 in French
And tis the French one that has full legal force
Why because the EU and particularly France know all too well that English is a weasel language

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Please carry on, this is priceless.

J B
J B
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Tha rop cac ort!
😉

Andrew Fisher
Andrew Fisher
19 days ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Utterly deranged, but at least entertaining! You live in a fantasy world chum, much like most SNP apologists! Every single reputable economist refutes what you say! Scotland is hugely subsidised by England. Plus, it is rather hard to say at the same time that you will have most of the North Sea oil and gas at your disposal, and also that you will accelerate Net Zero by not allowing any more drilling!
The SNP are a utter policy fiasco and have a dismal record in government. Almost nothing has improved on their watch and much has got a lot worse, despite an already large amount of fiscal autonomy. Only pro-Independence sentiment boosts it.
You simply do not know what you are talking about regarding public finances. The UK is not in a great fiscal position but Scotland on its own is very, very much worse. Do you know, any Scottish newly independent government cannot just demand the fulfilment of any settlement it damn well pleases – it will actually have to negotiate with the big bad brother England.
Lastly, please, do stop trying to use the weasel language you so despise – perhaps use your fluent Gaelic…. we’d then all at least be spared your bigoted ravings. Yes, so many SNP supporters are the racist bigots, despite your ‘progressive’ posturing.

J B
J B
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Brian – we had a referendum in 2014 and voted no.
I’m not going to resurrect the debate but the economics alone don’t stack up.
“O, wad some Power the giftie gie us
To see oursels as others see us!
It wad frae monie a blunder free us,
An’ foolish notion.”

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  J B

The Scots are a sensible people, and no doubt realised that the gap between England stopping giving Scotland money and the EU starting giving Scotland money is probably going to be a bit too long.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

Got the blue face paint ready by the door? I totally agree, Scotland should stand on its own feet.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Brian Doyle

All that “Sovereign Wealth Fund” stuff is a bit Socialist though, isn’t it? I can’t imagine Thatcher instituting anything like that.

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
1 month ago
Reply to  Martin M

Saving for a rainy day isn’t socialist behaviour.

Fraoch A
Fraoch A
19 days ago
Reply to  Martin M

Nothin tae dae wae “socialist stuff” it ws wise governance. Unlike Thatcher usin the oil bonanza tae deindustrialise the UK and pay fr mass unemployment.

Alphonse Pfarti
Alphonse Pfarti
1 month ago

From where I am (in Scotland), the SNP are still banging on about this. Whether or not they have ‘advanced’ anything is a different matter.

Jerry Carroll
Jerry Carroll
1 month ago

Say, whatever happened to the case of the missing £660k in party funds and the luxury RV? The authorities must be hoping it stays in the memory hole where they dropped it. The one that held the post office scandal so long before it bobbed to the surface like a corpse in the water.

Samuel Ross
Samuel Ross
1 month ago

I have little respect for the Scots; they seem to specialize in electing kooks to lead them. LGBTQIA+ stuffed down their kids throats, a once-religious people now prey for every crazy idea and losing their will to live and thrive their society (hence the killing of the fetuses in the womb), and all the rest of it. How can you respect a people that actively aborts itself?

J B
J B
1 month ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

All Scots?

Bret Larson
Bret Larson
1 month ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

There is 41billion in impetus.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Most countries allow abortion these days. Even in the US, it is easily available in most States.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Samuel Ross

Excellent point. From an anthropological viewpoint the West is almost as mad as the ancient Aztec empire.

Dumetrius
Dumetrius
1 month ago

Because Scotland is just as fucked whether it stays in the UK or joins a fucked EU.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
1 month ago
Reply to  Dumetrius

Independence! Let’s join the EU!
I always found these statements to be pretty contradictory.

Martin M
Martin M
1 month ago

These, according to the SNP, are austerity, Brexit and the cost of living“. I can’t understand why Brexit should be an issue. It’s done and dusted, and Britain isn’t going back.