On May 3, the voters of Scotland are headed to the polls to vote for the third Scottish Parliament since that body was created in 1999. There is apparently a pretty strong chance of a Scottish Nationalist Party victory there. The SNP’s manifesto calls– in reasonably argued terms– for Scotland’s independence from the Union it has maintained with England for exactly 300 years now.
The newly emerged “Scottish question” is impacting London politics in some very significant ways. Only one of these is the newly emerging possibility that the Holyrood (Scottish) Parliament might move towards secession. Another is the fact that the Labour Party’s anointed successor to Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, who has loyally stood in line for years to wait for his turn as party and national leader, is now seen by many English people as far “too Scottish”.
Until very recently being seen as Scottish would have been viewed by most English people either as a plus or as something fairly netural. But now, suddenly, a surge in anti-Scottishness among many English people suddenly has Brown’s chances of winning the intra-party succession vote thrown into a serious degree of doubt.
Plus, Scotland has been a strong Labor stronghold since the birth of the Labour party. So an SNP victory there would signal a broad repudiation among many traditionally pro-Labour Scots of the Labour Party as Tony Blair has (re-)fashioned it… And then, an SNP-led secession from the Union would give the Tory Party a much stronger chance to recapture Westminster at the next election. (Indeed, it might hasten that election considerably.)
So the “Scottish Question” is big. The respected Scottish commentator Iain MacWhirter has argued for some months now that it may be time for a ‘Velvet Divorce’, similar to the one that in 1993 allowed the Czech Republic and Slovakia each to go very peaceably along its respective way.
The SNP’s manifesto is worth reading in some detail. Here what it says on p.7:
- Scotland can be more successful. Looking around at home and at our near neighbours abroad, more and more Scots believe this too. Independence is the natural state for nations like our own.