Glasgow, Scotland – They fought for it, died for it and celebrated it many times, but if the current polls are to be believed, now they want to leave.
Last week, a poll by Ipsos Mori found that 58 percent of Scots would vote to leave the UK with four nations if a referendum were held this year on Scottish independence.
The analysis, which found record support for Scotland in ending its 313-year-old union with England, was the ninth straight poll since June which indicated that most Scots prefer to end what Conservative British Prime Minister Boris did Johnson referred to as “the oldest, most” has successful political partnership in the world “.
This growing interest in independence must be seen against the backdrop of a British state staring at the barrel of a no-deal Brexit deal with the European Union after its lengthy and controversial withdrawal from the multinational bloc on January 31. The ongoing global coronavirus pandemic, of course, which has killed more than 43,000 people in the UK alone.
But six years after Scots voted 55-45 percent to reject sovereignty in Scotland’s historic independence referendum in 2014, Scottish statehood activists seem closer to their greatest political pursuit than ever.
“We have known since 2014 that the wish was always there,” said Gary Kelly of the Yes2 independence group in an interview with Al Jazeera. “We just needed the numbers that we can see when the no voters now switch to yes, quite a few of whom do so in public [on social media]. ”
Gary Kelly from Yes 2 [Courtesy of Gary Kelly]The decentralized Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, established in 1999, has been ruled by the Scottish National Party (SNP) for Independence (and for the EU) for 13 years – and it has been credited with advancing the matter almost single-handedly into the Scottish mainstream.
Today the current party leader and Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who led the SNP in Scotland to three victories in a row in the UK, has become a reassuring presence on home TV screens for many Scots with her regular coronavirus briefings as her government, like others, is on around the world has put the fight against COVID-19 at the center of government policy.
For many observers, a perfect storm of issues has conspired to bring Scotland to the verge of the leap from constituent nation to nation-state in what, as one Scottish pro-British commentator noted, “sparked a three-legged crisis for unionism. COVID is one leg and Johnson is another, but the third and most significant leg is Brexit. “
While the United Kingdom voted in favor of leaving the EU in the 2016 Brexit referendum on Britain’s membership in the European bloc, the Scots decided to stay. and along with Scotland’s widespread aversion to Boris Johnson’s right-wing government in London Westminster, the left-of-center sturgeon was generally seen as more sure-footed during this time of uncertainty.
“The British union is fighting catastrophically like a retreating army, a retreating dispute, always on the train, not by choice,” prominent Scottish political commentator Gerry Hassan told Al Jazeera.
Hassan added that the UK government, like other pro-union supporters, responded to Scotland’s increasing support for independence as it dealt with a rising UK death toll from the pandemic, arguing over details of a future Scottish one on issues such as the currency State designed to sow doubt in the minds of Scots is not yet cutting through.
“The United Kingdom [government] can another win [future] Referendum on the detail, because that depends on the independence offer itself, but so much ground is being sunk that independence has become more normal and acceptable to larger and larger sections of Scottish society, ”he continued.
Sturgeon will be sure to put independence at the center of their campaigning in the Scottish Parliament vote next May. But while it will take a decisive victory – and a returned majority for independence – as a mandate to conduct a second independence poll, permission to hold one rests with Westminster.
It has repeatedly rejected a Catalan vote on sovereignty, which Madrid ruled illegal for lack of Spanish authority, but pressure is mounting on Johnson to accept the SNP’s demands if it triumphs next year.
Although not as profound as it is today, there have been generations of independence in some areas. While Scotland gave up its sovereignty in the Union Act of 1707, a treaty that united England and Scotland with Great Britain, it retained its nationality – and now operates with its own legal system, education system, various international sports teams and for the past 21 years separate decentralized parliament that can legislate on any matter except those reserved for the UK Parliament at Westminster.
One of those hesitant issues is the broader economy, which anti-independence activists continue to target as the weak link in the Scottish sovereignty case and seen as critical to fighting the 2014 boom in independence. Scotland’s significant oil and gas reserves in the For example, the North Sea has proven to be a volatile resource in recent years due to highly volatile prices, and the independence movement has been forced to reconsider its dependence on both commodities.
Scotland’s retirees are also proving adamant to overtures from independence activists. Last week’s poll, in which Scotland alone was supported by 58 percent, showed that those over 65 were the only age group insensitive to demands for statehood.
Irene Clugston, 76, is a retired senior social worker from Paisley in the central belt of Scotland and told Al Jazeera that, as in 2014, she viewed a vote for independence as a vote for insecurity.
“If Scotland became independent, we would have to be helped in some way,” she argued. “I don’t think we could do it on our own and we’re better off in the UK.”
Scots are far more in favor of how the Sturgeon government handled the pandemic than the UK’s response, polls say. The first minister, named the fifth most talked about world leader by a panel of experts this summer, has regularly taken some of the UK’s toughest measures to contain the spread of the virus in Scotland.
However, her opponents have accused her of presiding over a relatively high number of more than 4,000 Scottish residents out of a population of 5.5 million.
That is, while the pandemic continues to claim lives, Johnson’s characteristically bombastic approach to political leadership remains an abomination to large sections of a no-nonsense Scottish electorate, many of whom Sturgeon’s more straightforward personalities and claim that Scotland can lead competently have clearly welcomed his own Affairs, even in times of global crisis.
“I think the UK government has lost its moral compass and its map of how to read Scotland,” said Hassan. “That doesn’t mean they couldn’t dig deep, see the hole they’re in, and find a new map. But … by the day that such a change in this government’s approach is made, there is less and less likelihood. “
Follow Alasdair Soussi on Twitter: @AlasdairSoussi