In June 2022, Nicola Sturgeon, the former First Minister of Scotland and leader of the Scottish National Party, presented a proposal for a second independence referendum in Scotland, scheduled for October 19, 2023. It’s worth noting that Scots had previously voted against secession in 2014.
The SNP advocates for independence, driven by their belief that Scotland is grappling with a ‘Cost of Westminster Crisis.’ They argue that life has become increasingly challenging for people nationwide, reinforcing the urgency of making the case for independence. Additionally, they point out that the UK Government is persistently obstructing a democratic referendum, thereby preventing the people of Scotland from expressing their support for independence and disregarding public sentiment on the matter. Nonetheless, the SNP remains committed to pushing for Scotland’s independence.
The route to the 2014 independence referendum was opened in May 2007.
The emergence of the independence movement in Scotland was catalyzed when the Scottish National Party (SNP) secured a victory in the Scottish Parliament election, narrowly outpacing Labour to establish a minority government. This initial spark evolved into a more substantial movement after the SNP’s resounding triumph in the 2011 election, resulting in a majority government. The critical juncture for the independence cause came with the signing of the Edinburgh Agreement by Alex Salmond and David Cameron, which paved the way for future developments.
A pivotal moment in the ongoing constitutional tensions between Holyrood and Westminster occurred when a Section 30 Order was granted. This mechanism allowed the Scottish Parliament to organize a referendum, leading to the September 18, 2014, momentous vote. In that referendum, Scotland decisively chose to remain within the United Kingdom, with a 62% vote in favour of remaining, while the broader UK electorate voted narrowly to leave the European Union, with a 52% to 48% margin.
Yousaf and new policies and insights
Since Yousaf became first minister in March, the number of ministers in the Scottish National Party and Scottish Green Party government has increased to 30, up from 18 when Alex Salmond was first minister. That means more than 40% of the 70 MSPs in those parties are now ministers. However, dissatisfaction with the Scottish government is increasing, while support for the SNP is falling. A poll released by the Scottish election study on Tuesday found the government had a net satisfaction rating of -20, with only 32% of voters supporting the SNP at the next general election, compared with 38% for Labour.
A paper published Friday by the Scottish National party-led government said the country faced an economic crisis unless it managed to attract new residents. Scotland’s birth rate is projected to fall, and it has a population ageing faster than anywhere else in the UK.
The strategy, which assumes Scotland votes for independence, includes:
- An immediate right for asylum seekers to claim benefits, get paid employment and freely use the NHS.
- Closing down Dungavel immigration detention centre.
- New working visas, new five-year post-study visas and new family visas with much lower barriers than the UK currently uses.
- Rejoining the European Union to allow full free movement of EU citizens.
SNP shift away from previous strategy
The SNP has decided not to utilize the upcoming general election as an implicit independence referendum, departing from Nicola Sturgeon’s previous strategy. Instead, the party announced at its annual conference in Aberdeen that if it secures a majority of Scottish seats in the expected general election next year, it will seek negotiations with Westminster to explore the process of achieving Scotland’s independence.
This new approach garnered support from some MPs who had previously advocated for the approach championed by former leader Ms Sturgeon, where securing 50% plus one of the votes in Scotland was seen as the Scottish people declaring themselves independent. SNP MP Tommy Sheppard, who put forward one of the amendments redirecting the party’s strategy away from a referendum, addressed the conference by highlighting that 10% of independence supporters neither endorse the SNP nor other pro-independence parties for the upcoming election.
Growing opposition to the motion
A former SNP spokesman has admitted that he no longer believes independence will happen “at all” following years of failures by the SNP. Stuart Crawford served as defence spokesman for the nationalists but has now said he believes their Scexit dream is no longer possible.
The Scottish Government’s controversial £98k a year Scexit minister refused to say how much public cash has been ring-fenced for independence. Despite there being little to no chance of a second referendum shortly, the SNP are still spending taxpayer cash on pushing for the break-up of the UK.
SNP demands based on manifesto
In the SNP manifesto, it will be stipulated that the incoming UK Government must pass legislation to devolve a range of powers to enable the Scottish government to effectively address the challenges of the cost of living and climate change. These powers encompass, but are not restricted to:
- Employment rights and the living/minimum wage
- Windfall taxation for companies operating in Scotland
- Regulation, pricing, and production control of energy sources
- Administration of employment visas for foreign workers
- New borrowing capabilities to facilitate investments in a just transition.
The number of UK Parliament constituencies in Scotland is set to decrease from 59 to 57 under a Westminster boundary review.
The seats required for a majority will decrease from 30 to 29. The first minister initially proposed a strategy based on the SNP winning the “most” general election seats, which could be much lower than 29 if many other parties won. Party insiders believe a majority of seats will give them a stronger mandate for independence talks. In their motion to conference, Mr Yousaf and SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn proposed that the most seats in a general election would be sufficient for a mandate for independence negotiations. The leadership supported an amendment to alter this to the majority of seats.
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said the question of Scottish independence was settled in the 2014 referendum. Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has said he would reject a request for a second referendum if he became prime minister. Judges at the Supreme Court shot down the claim that Scotland is a “colony” of the United Kingdom last year when they dismissed Nicola Sturgeon’s demand for Holyrood to hold an independence referendum without UK Government consent.
Britain’s main opposition Labour Party, won back a parliamentary seat in Scotland this month.
The vote to remove the SNP indicates that many of the party’s politicians may be at risk of losing their seats in the upcoming election. Additionally, last week, another SNP lawmaker switched to the Conservative Party amid allegations of bullying.
Yousaf acknowledged the challenges faced by the party, stating, “It has undeniably been a trying period. There is no need to sugarcoat it. These past six months may be the most challenging our party has encountered in contemporary history.” He made these comments during his annual conference in Aberdeen when speaking to Reuters.