In the recent parliamentary elections in Scotland, the pro-independence National Scottish Party (SNP) won 64 seats, namely three seats more than the last elections held in 2016. In this year’s elections, 58% of young Scots cast their vote for the SNP. This figure was only 45% in the 2016 elections – a shocking reality for the Scottish Conservatives!
Concurrently with the increasing impact of the pandemic on Scottish life and economy, those opposing independence, such as the Conservative and Labour parties, have started a derogatory climate against independence pushed by the SNP and criticised it by stressing on the fact that the nationalist party of Nicola Sturgeon must be focused on getting the economy back on its feet and resolving the post-Covid social problems.
Despite the high volume of attacks by the right and left-wing media in London working against the SNP, it seems that Scottish nationalists have been able to promote their pro-independence discourse among different age groups in Scottish society, in particular the young. Overall, the integrated measures taken by the SNP in transnational value-making in Scotland, such as human rights, green economy, LGBTQ rights, and civil, social minority and religious rights, have created a solid barrier against the damaging government policies in Westminster aimed at the devolved government of Nicola Sturgeon over the years.
This cultural hotbed created by the SNP in society, with an increasing nation-state connection, has brought about national unity and promoted mutual understanding between the government and the people of Scotland. After the defeat of the first independence referendum in 2014, the SNP endeavoured to align a large section of society with itself, from the educated youth to the Conservative older adults, by implementing new nation-building projects based on the principles of democracy, like national and local groups for the youth and older adults, taking a universal public health approach, and organising committees for social, environmental, and educational issues with popular participation and the engagement of the younger people and minorities in influential government positions.
The SNP has been able to set up a model of governance based on mutual respect between the people and the government in Scotland, casting aside racial or political affiliations. Protecting the rights of minorities in Scotland against the rise of systematic and individual extremism and racism in Britain has created positive feelings towards human rights and religious freedoms in Scotland. The SNP’s efforts to engage minorities in the cabinet and various racial apparatuses have attracted people of colour and religious minorities, such as Muslims, to its goals. The party manifesto is based on maximum participation by all social groups in all decision-making and influential measures taken in Scottish society.
The emergence of economic and healthcare crises during the pandemic has become a strong tool in the hands of nationalists to fan the flames of Scottish independence. News of shortfalls and non-performance by Boris Johnson’s government during the pandemic, the high number of Covid deaths, and the intensifying challenges of livelihood among the middle and weaker classes in Scotland, especially the young, have been some of the main factors for more younger people casting their vote for the SNP in the last elections.
Currently, the SNP is expanding and implementing democratic values, which Boris Johnson is acting against in policymaking and planning. Tough immigration policies by his government, spiking military budget, expanding mineral explorations and environmental threats, failure to properly support the NHS during the pandemic, and disregarding sexual harassment in the UK, are but some of the examples of Johnson’s unilateral approach in the post-Covid era (after Brexit). This is the exact opposite to the views of SNP leaders, which is based on the convergence of national values with democratic global values governing over the EU. In a way, the SNP manifesto is closer to the EU identity.
The post-Brexit era is the start of the clash between two differing views in Scottish and English policymaking and planning. Scotland is pursing values which England considers to be the factors of its divergence with the EU.
Where will this clash of values end? Will it lead to Scottish independence?