Scottish nationalism passed through a romantic period in the Eighties and Nineties, which its leadership enjoyed but now wishes forgotten.
It was the Braveheart time -- when
Going for an interview at the party's modest headquarters in
beside a large poster of Gibson in kilt and woad; Scots rugby teams would watch the film before playing, to fire the blood.
It was at the turn of the millennium that Unionists, or English living in
Connecting meant it moved out of what had been a comfortable zone of speaking to the half-converted, and had to speak to an audience that had to be given something firmer than an Australian actor making a
The achievement of devolution and the creation of the Scots parliament in 1999 and the decade after that were, for the SNP, wonderful years in which Labour, whose government had ushered in devolution, did not reap more than fleeting political rewards.
In 2007, the Nationalists formed a minority administration in the Scots parliament, which they then converted into an absolute majority in 2011 -- a victory that the PR system used in
At the same time, the party has very greatly modified its original programme. Once republican, it now embraces the Queen and her successors as the future head of state of
The obvious strategy has been to make independence seem something so close to devolution that a vote for it would seem a move at once patriotic and judicious. As
But the past year has been much harder for the party and its leader, now First Minister. Several discrete issues have contributed to the turbulence, primarily caused by the party's determination to hold a referendum on independence, now timed for 2014.
In agreement with the UK government and at the latter's insistence, the referendum will pose a simple choice, for or against independence -- and not a third way, of 'devo max', meaning maximum devolution just short of independence. That has meant that what has been a demand couched, at different times, in terms of ethnic separateness, moral force or political difference now has to meet the reality of the independence demand: that it seeks to fundamentally alter a union which
A union willed by Scots as much as the English, with a 300-year history, has a thick political, economic, legal, social, cultural and emotional existence which cannot be routed by a Nationalist charge -- especially one where the claymores now come sheathed in velvet.
Even if the stakes have been lowered, separation into two nation states,
The negotiations down the line if independence were endorsed would be formidable. The issues would include: the relationship between the Scots exchequer and the rump Union's Treasury and the
It has been assumed that
The strategy of those who represent the majority in
Or rather, the publics -- for the English, who in the Nineties seemed benignly oblivious to the brave hearts who excoriated them from beyond Hadrian's Wall, now begin to wake, mainly because there is a widespread belief that the Scots benefit unfairly from higher public spending. As a recent Daily Mail headline put it, 'State gives each Scot £1,600 more than the English'; the article goes on to say 'that for every £4 spent on an English person, £5 is now spent on a Scot -- despite the fact that those south of the border pay far more in tax than those in the North'.
The British Social Attitudes survey shows that those in
The lull in Scots enthusiasm for independence has something to do with the much chiller economic climate, especially in
More likely, devolution will tend to be on a ratchet, with more autonomy being demanded and conceded in fits and starts. At what point autonomy shades into independence may become a central question. The possibility of a proper UK federalism -- other than
The longer term case for the Union will be won not on fear, but on belief -- that
- European Union Gives Peace a Chance
- Great Britain: The Great Power Hangover
- Scotland: We'll Take The High Road
- Scotland: Would Holyrood Pay for Independence in Euros?
- The Nordic Model: Q&A with Håkan Tribell
- Lessons From Our Nordic Friends in the North
- The Art of Cutting the Welfare State
- Sweden: No Wonder Wallander's Depressed
- BP bounces back in Russia
- As Hollande Struggles, So Does the Opposition
- Mimicking Breivik in Poland
- Turkish Economy Meets EU Entrance Criteria
- Spain: Catalonia and Romantic Nationalism
- Spain's Economic Crisis is Different
- Europe Loses its Chinese Cheerleader
- Europe is Divided Again: This Time It's Creditors vs Debtors
- Europe: The Politics of Fear
- Britain Must Engage with a Multi-Tier European Union
- Russia Struggles to Exert Influence in a Weakened Europe
- Russia's Internet Censorship: Not as Bad As It Looks
- Congratulations, Europe, on Winning the Nobel Peace Price
- French Favor Obama -- Which Shows They Have Much to Learn
- Would a Stronger European Federation Even Help?
- Britain's Backup Plan
- Is Putin the Russian Reagan?
- Fear and Loathing on the Streets of Athens
- How Football Continues to Influence Spanish and Italian Politics
- Breakup of Euro Would Be 'Cardiac Arrest' for Europe
- 'All the Choices are Ugly' for Europe
- European Leadership is Limp, But Merkel on Steroids is Not the Answer
- A Date with History: Germany's 1990 Re-Unification
- Tensions Between Germany and Greece Run Deep
- Germany Must Shift from Crisis Agenda to Positive Political Agenda for Europe
- Breakdown of British Euroscepticism
- Geopolitics is an Existential Issue for Poland
(c) 2012 Tribune Media Services