The largest number of votes submitted in an election for the Scottish parliament and the largest tally of support recorded by pro-independence parties in an election for the Scottish parliament, yet this weekend most of the UK press has been leading with editorials and opinion pieces proclaiming that the nationalist movement has no mandate to demand or hold a second independence referendum, echoing the words of the Conservative, Labour and Lib Dem parties. It is extraordinary stuff, reflecting the delusional view of Scotland that exists within the politics of Greater England, whether on the ideological right or left.
The fact remains that a narrow majority of Scots voted in favour of groups that have placed a plebiscite on separation from the United Kingdom as the centrepiece of their manifestos. And voters have expressed their support for this policy of separation despite the vociferous opposition of much of the local and national press in Britain, including the partisan advantage given to pro-union opinion in the news media over the duration of the election campaign, and the attempts at tactical voting by union-minded voters in some areas (not to mention some electoral chicanery in key constituencies).
If the Tory government in London continues to set its face against a second referendum north of the Anglo-Scottish border then it looks like the UK may be heading towards a Catalan-like standoff in the near future, an event that will be in no one’s interest. Unless, of course, the critics of the Scottish National Party turn out to be correct and that the real comparison is with the old Convergència i Unió (CiU) alliance in Catalonia which spent much of its time talking about independence while committed to regionalism until events on the ground forced its hand.
The Alba Party may have represented something of a false start due to its association with the now divisive figure of Alex Salmond and some questionable people on the socially conservative fringe of the nationalist movement but it could also be the opening sign of a far greater fissure beneath the surface in Scottish nationalism. Leaving the ever-more urgent constitutional question, also applicable to this country, still to be asked: “If not now, when?”
Scottish Parliament Election May 2021, Final Tally of Seats:
Scottish National Party 64 (+1)
Conservative Party 31 (-)
Labour Party 22 (-2)
Scottish Green Party 8 (+2)
Liberal Democrats 4 (-1)
Pro-independence parties: 72 seats (56%)
Anti-independence parties: 57 seats (44%)