Brexit won’t hand victory to the SNP. A unionists’ breakdown just might.
June 29, 2016 5 Comments
From the Spectator’s Coffee House Blog.
There’s a lot going on the UK right now, much of it has to do with the Tories looking around trying to find something approaching a leader, while labor is having a fairly civil war on itself. That means that Nicola Sturgeon is making hay while the sun shines, pushing for another referendum on Scotland leaving the Union. That this is on the face of it, ludicrous, makes no difference at all. First, how likely is the EU to welcome another failed state? Spain has already said they’ll veto. Then there is the fact that England has subsidised Scotland since, I don’t know, 1707 maybe. Anyway, here’s the article.
Over the last few years, Scots have had to get used to Nicola Sturgeon telling them what they think. When the SNP had its majority (one the voters stripped away in this year’s Holyrood election) she was keen to present herself as the voice of the country: l’Ecosse, c’est moi. If the SNP wants X, then Scotland wants X. She’s at it again, saying that the UK has voted out of the European Union and Scotland has voted in – so the UK was voting ‘against the interests of the Scottish people’ and finally provided the provocation needed to launch a new referendum.
In fact, two-in-five Scots – and even a third of SNP voters – supported Brexit. Last week, a TNS poll suggested that 72 per cent of Scots would vote to Remain: the end result was 62 per cent. Yes, far higher than the 48 per cent in England. But it does not automatically follow that Scotland loves Brussels so much that she’d break the Union with England to stay in the European Union. A Sunday Times poll today, taken after the Brexit vote, shows 52 per cent of Scots would vote to Leave. That figure would need to be consistently at 60 per cent for Sturgeon to risk a second referendum, as she has always said. As Hamish Macdonnell tells me in our Coffee House shots podcast (below), Brexit may have changed her calculation. But it absolutely does not follow that Brexit means the SNP triumphing in a new referendum.
Before last week, there were eight polls asking Scots if they’d want to separate from the UK in the event of Brexit. As the below chart shows, it’s far from conclusive: Brexit made ‘yes’ a bit more likely (on average, increasing ‘yes’ by about four points) but it’s just not a transformation. As John Curtice says, these eight polls were dealing with a hypothetical: now, it’s real – and that could change things. A Sunday Post poll today, for example, puts support for separation at 59 per cent.
But Sturgeon is one of the most formidable politicians in Europe, let alone Britain. She senses that she can change the political weather, especially given that almost all her main opponents were against Brexit. And that a lot of people in London are going a little bit mad right now. The whole vibe of Andrew Cooper’s Project Fear meant that David Cameron and others had to predict the end of the union, amongst other signs of societal collapse, if Britain voted out. It’s now as if they’re half-willing it to be true.
Cameron’s unexpected decision to quit on Friday, rather than stay on for longer and provide a period of stability, has created a vacuum in Westminster. It’s a stunning development, which nationalists in Scotland and Ireland are now exploiting. A lot of Remainers, even in the Cabinet, are now actively on the lookout for the meltdown that they promised: keen to point to the arrival of the plague of locusts, etc. Many Scottish unionist politicians commentators, who also were strongly against Brexit, locked themselves into the same line of argument. So now, it’s as if some of them would half-welcome a nationalist residence as vindication.