Scotland is the biggest policy of this election. The SNP have said they ‘stand up for Scotland’ and that ‘everybody will benefit’ from their policies. Judging by the polls, its a successful political message.
The weakness of the other parties seems to down to weakness on ‘Scotland’. Parties which still have links with UK parties do badly – their plea that they too will help the people seems to ring hollow.
Yet ‘Scotland’ got very little attention in the campaign. So much so that the SNP’s U-turn on independence has gone barely challenged.
The manifesto states
“We will work hard to persuade a majority of the Scottish people that being an independent country is the best option for our country (…) The case we make will be relevant to the complex world we live in today.”
This is an aspiration, a promise of effort, but not a commitment to independence. A majority for the SNP in this vote gives no mandate for independence.
It is the manifesto which matters. The UK government or any legal proceeding would not refer to the various interviews Nicola Sturgeon has given on the matter, which wrap the idea in a confusion of spun sugar. The only mandate here is to ‘work hard’.
This is important. the SNP appear to be saying, outwith the manifesto, that when opinion polls are of a certain level, for a certian period of time, in favour of independence, that will be enough for another referendum.
None of this is explained in the manifesto.
It is very hard to see how this can be taken seriously. The obvious questions that flow are: which opinion polls? Asking what question? Working by what methodology? What is the right level of support to trigger a referendum? For how long must it be maintained?
To see how unusual, and rather feeble this position is, lets test it – say one poll had support for independence at 60% for three months. Would that be enough, or would other polls need to show the same? Would all the polls needs to ask the same question and work to the same method?
What then if the SNP say that’s enough for a referendum, and set the date at 3 months from now, but the polls immeditaley fall (as may be quite likely, once the idea becomes real again)?
The problem here is that the Westminster and the legal system hold the cards.
The big trouble is how any UK government would respond to this government by polls. First they woudl argue this has no legitimacy – a spat which would take some time.
Indeed, a spat which would probably lead to the courts.
That might boost independence in the polls – a row with Westminster always helps the Yes cause. Yet it might also show the referendum to be illegal. What then?
Given the madey-upness of this, it is seems more likely that Westminster would simply say – if you want a mandate, then include the policy in the next scottish election.
That would be hard to resist – after all, there doesn’t need to be referendum, an election could serve just as easily. It was the SNP who introduced the idea of a referendum in the late 1990’s so as to boost their vote in elections.
If told that, can the SNP and Yes people really say no, that it has to be a referendum, and that this must occur to their timetable? I doubt it. The election which appeared to be about so little is really about Scots parsing through the options, and running out of choices.