Author’s Note: The first part of the article can be found here (https://www.iapss.org/wp/2015/06/29/the-scottish-national-party-and-independence-part-i-the-scottish-parliament/)
As mentioned in the previous article, not is all well for Scotland and England. The union of the two countries in the 18th century brought prosperity and cultural development to Scotland until the Second World War. Issues arose after the war when the economy of the region was trying to recover from a decline when the heavy industry was the primary source of income for the region.
It is said that economic and fiscal policies of United Kingdom became one of the main causes of the rise of movements for devolution and, in time, independence. The rise of the Scottish National Party as a third party contender in the elections for Scottish seats in the British parliament is said to be attributed to this concern. The discovery of oil in the North Sea just north of Scottish waters and the manner of how its income should be shared has also been an issue of contention between England and Scotland. The so-called poll tax charged during the term of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was also believed to disgruntle the people of Scotland.
Despite the Treaty of Union being in effect throughout the modern history of the United Kingdom, it is said that the institutions of Scotland retained their respective identities and acting independently Scottish — its Presbyterian Church, the Scots Law, and the financial system remained almost the same. Added to this is the rise of national consciousness among the Scottish people that can be seen as a formidable vote base for several Scottish movements, which then in turn gave rise to the Scottish National Party. Although in several instances it did not gain substantial seats in the British Parliament before and after the Second World War, its rise seemed inevitable.
The issue of the North Sea oil revenues and the poll tax to Scotland became the turning points of movements for devolution. The campaign “It’s Scotland’s Oil” demanded that Scotland should have benefited more than it was getting from the revenues from North Sea oil. It was recently discovered that England deliberately hid a research by Scottish economist Gavin McCrone in 1975 that would have made Scotland a prosperous country had it controlled the North Sea oil. This could have been a vital weapon of the Scottish National Party, running under the platform of Scottish independence since its creation, to push for independence earlier. Now that the oil reserves in the sea may not be enough for an extended future, the survival of an independent Scotland may not as feasible as it may had before.
In 2007, the Scottish National Party released a manifesto during the Scottish Parliament election period that it plans to conduct a referendum for Scottish independence by 2010 when it gets elected. Despite having the said election their biggest win since the Scottish Parliament was created, the Party had to form a minority government. It then pursued a campaign for a referendum to determine the future of Scotland. In 2010, the government of Scotland released the draft for the planned referendum, giving choices for voters ranging from maintaining the status quo to full independence but it did not gain support from the Scottish Parliament. Hope for a referendum rose when the Scottish National Party gained majority of the seats in the Scottish Parliament in the 2011 elections, giving them a mandate to pursue the independence plan. A negotiation, the Edinburgh Agreement, between the British and Scottish governments brought a resolution to allow Scotland to conduct a referendum for its independence. While the aspiration of an independent Scotland came so close, people of Scotland seemed not yet ready for such scenario.
Will the Scottish lion roar once more?
The dynamics between the political parties in the last British General Elections in Scotland were more or less defined by the looming emergence of the SNP. The Conservative Party has been campaigning against voting for the Labour Party in England as the Tories believe it may form a coalition government with the SNP in the scenario that nobody gets a majority in the elections, and may compromise the status of Scotland as a constituent country in the United Kingdom. While many observers agree that it is more likely to see a Labour-SNP coalition with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon being open to such possibility, Labour seemed to decline, albeit reluctantly and forcefully, a possible partnership with the SNP. This may have led to the voters from known Labour bailiwicks in Scotland to vote for the SNP instead of the Scottish Labour Party as it can pursue Scotland’s interests more than what the Scottish Labour Party promises to.
The Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition made several policies that make Scotland disadvantageous despite allowing the referendum to be conducted. The manifesto of the Scottish National Party aimed to counter the measures by the previous government and showedsimilar promises like those in the Labour Party in cutting austerity measures, introduction of a millionaire’s tax, elimiation of the bedroom tax and other taxation reforms, improvement of the National Health Service (NHS), controlled but better immigration policies, lowering the age for voters, and the elimination of the House of Lords to become an elected chamber. These similarities would have make a Labour-SNP government if not for the “fear” campaign of the Tories against voting for the Labour.
Prime Minister David Cameron, while leading the Conservative government, have to face a significant presence of the SNP in the House of Commons. One major policy that may see a great encounter between the two parties is the planned referendum on the membership of Britain in the European Union (EU). The SNP wants to remain in the Union even before the time of the Scottish independence referendum and demands for major consultation among the home countries of the United Kingdom before having such referendum. A Brexit (Britain’s exit to the EU) may redefinde the relationship of Scotland and Westminster trigger a new call for Scottish independence in the near future.