Monday, May 10

Scotland on its way to a second referendum?

“Boris Johnson is not immune to democracy! “Asked for the morning show of Sky News a few days before the Scottish general elections, Nicola Sturgeon did not hesitate to spin the vaccine metaphor. While she is credited with an excellent health record, the Scottish Prime Minister still kicked in touch. She thus avoided answering an embarrassing question about vaccines: if she had been a member of the European Union, would independent Scotland have benefited from the British vaccine or would it be lagging behind in vaccination as most are? from European countries?

In the home stretch of this crucial election, as SNP separatists fight to retain their majority in the Holyrood parliament, every vote counts. “Thursday, there is no doubt that the separatists will win, explains Michael Fry, columnist for the independentist daily. The National. There is no real suspense. But the whole question is whether the SNP will win an absolute majority or whether it will have to rely on another party to govern. “

Thursday, there is no doubt that the separatists will win. There is no real suspense.

A referendum on the referendum

While one in two Scots is in favor of independence, this ballot has become something of a referendum on the referendum. For most observers, if Nicola Sturgeon was re-elected with an absolute majority of 65 deputies, she could invoke the legitimacy of the ballot box to force the organization of a second referendum as she promises in all forums. And this despite the end of inadmissibility that still opposes him Boris Johnson. Because, in the United Kingdom, the Scottish Parliament does not have the competence to hold such a consultation without the agreement of London.

While the number of voters in favor of independence reaches new heights, for the first time, three separatist parties are in contention in this election. In addition to the SNP which has governed Scotland for 15 years, the Greens, who are also pro-independence, are on the rise. Thursday, they could increase the number of their deputies which is currently only five. “They could be the kingmakers,” explains sociologist David McCrone of the University of Edinburgh. All the more so since after 15 years, the SNP is experiencing a certain fatigue of power. This is normal, the party needs to renew itself. This does not prevent Nicola Sturgeon, who was Minister of Health from 2007 to 2012, to be acclaimed by two in three Scots for her effective management of the epidemic.

But, the real surprise of this campaign was the unexpected candidacy of the free electron Alex Salmon. After being acquitted of the sexual harassment allegations against him, the man who led the SNP for two decades founded his own party. Called Alba (Scotland in Gaelic), he could play the troublemaker. Because it is not excluded that, thanks to the proportional list system which serves to rebalance the traditional ballot by constituency, Salmon can elect a few deputies.

Certainly, says McCrone, “this is one man’s party. Salmon founded it only to take revenge on Nicola Sturgeon, whom he accuses of not having supported him enough. In his advertisements, the one who presents himself in the North-East seems to address the nationalists of always. One of them evokes the Battle of Bannockburn in 1314 where the Scotsman Robert 1is Bruce was defeated by Edward II of England. A vote for Alba would be a vote for a pro-independence “super majority” in Parliament, argues one who could also help divide the vote.

In this election, the fight is also fierce for second place. In 2016, the Conservatives took it from Labor. This year, Conservative leader Douglas Ross is promising massive investments in transportation and health. If the feat were to repeat itself, it would confirm the once-hegemonic decline of Labor in Scotland. A decline which is reminiscent of that experienced by social democracy almost everywhere in Europe, underlines David McCrone.

A new strategy

Since Brexit, rejected by 62% of Scots, support for independence has hovered around 50% and sometimes even exceeds the majority. A significant change since the failure of the 2014 referendum where the yes had not exceeded 45%.

Although she still says she wants “a legal referendum”, the Scottish Prime Minister recently raised the tone. “If Boris Johnson wants to block him [le référendum], he will have to drag us to court, ”she said in Glasgow. This new strategy was defined last January in a government document called The Road to a Referendum. Without prior negotiations, Holyrood could invoke section 30 of the Scotland Act allowing it to pass legislation in areas normally reserved for Westminster. To oppose the referendum, London would then have no choice but to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“It is not certain that the SNP can hold a second referendum as long as Boris Johnson is in Westminster,” said Michael Fry. He will never cooperate with the SNP. As for Brussels, it would not stand for the Scots to hold a referendum without permission from London as the Catalans did in 2017. “

If Boris Johnson wants to block him [le référendum], he’ll have to drag us to court.

Nicola Sturgeon says that if the yes wins, Scotland should benefit from a fast-track admission process to the European Union. However, despite its many bones of contention with London, Europe remains more than discreet on this subject. Last month, 170 cultural figures signed a platform to encourage the 27 to open their doors to an independent Scotland. Among them were the Italian writer Elena Ferrante and the French philosopher Étienne Balibar.

However, it is difficult to see the European Union as a “savior”, says Michael Fry. Certainly, “the SNP needs international recognition, but with its huge bureaucracy, the EU is far from attractive. And it is even less so since the failure of its vaccine strategy. It is not excluded that, given this dead end, at least as long as Boris Johnson is there, the struggle for Scottish independence will experience a decline as in Quebec ”. To find out more, we will have to wait for Thursday’s results.

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