Some people have asked, myself included, why has the election of a Conservative majority government at Westminster, and the decision by England and Wales to drag Scotland and Northern Ireland out of the European Union against its will not resulted in an increase in support for independence? A Yougov poll in November 2016 had support for independence at 44%, What Scotland Thinks had support for independence down to as low as 38% in November 2016.
There are many reasons for this of course, and it’s complex overall, but from chatting to people who voted no, and would still vote no, one thing that stands out is that many people just see themselves as much Scottish as British. The Social Attitudes Survey in 2014 found that 23% of people asked said they saw themselves as British, as recently as August 2016 29% of respondents felt equally British and Scottish.
Now while Yougov found that only 6% saw themselves as British the simple fact remains that many many people still relate to being or feeling British. A YES vote would not make someone less British as it’s about democracy and decision making in my opinion but for many it is not, it’s about being and feeling British. Feeling a part of England, Wales and Northern Ireland, having family from all over the UK born in different parts of it, 300 hundred years of Union will do that.
When Scotland joined the Union in 1707 it was against the will of the Scottish people, the English Parliament threatened to ban Scottish exports entering England therefore potentially bankrupting the Scots powerbrokers as England was their largest and most lucrative market. Many Scots, who had no vote, believed that England had effectively blackmailed Scotland into signing the Act or be made bankrupt. Therefore, the Act of Union was signed but was not well received from the start. History tells us that there were riots in many Scottish towns and cities once news of the signing of the Act of Union became public, but those days are passed now and for many the history is either no longer relevant or sadly many people just don’t know their history and how the Union came about.
The next independence referendum campaign, and there will be one, is going to have to find a way around this and show people that they can still feel passionate about these islands but make their own decisions while being great neighbours and not junior non existent partners.
The Unionists are already telling us that we will be poor if we leave the UK even though we are also out of the EU.
Fear and the Great British comfort blanket will be the strategy they will use the next time as they did in 1706 and 2014. We will need to find a way around the economic argument but also the bonds that many still feel, it won’t be easy and is a reason to not go to indy2 too early but also we can’t afford to leave it too late.
I don’t envy the First Minister at all.