Alex Massie looks at the SNP’s surging support and expects another Scottish independence referendum in the near future:
Once upon a time the party insisted that winning a majority of Westminster seats would constitute a mandate for independence. If that is no longer the case – simply because the referendum has set a precedent – it is also true that it is hard to imagine circumstances in which the party would not reckon another Holyrood majority in 2016 would be justification enough for another referendum. At the very least, the new membership will expect this.
In other words, a generation now lasts about three years.
The advantage of a separatist movement is that it only has to win once, while the unionists have to win every time there is a vote. As we have just seen in Spain in the last week, that is why many other states that face similar movements don’t accept the legality of those votes and actively discourage the votes from taking place. It’s too late for the British government to do that and it would be foolish to try. The U.K. has already accepted the principle that a majority of voters in Scotland can determine the fate of the union, which is why sooner or later the union is probably going to be dissolved. That’s not just because the nationalists will keep pushing the issue every few years until they get the answer they want, but because ever-greater devolution will keep encouraging support for independence rather than quashing it.
Each time that London has sought to kill off Scottish nationalism, it has simply given the nationalists another platform from which to promote their agenda. It was hoped that devolution would smother the desire for independence, but instead it inflamed it. Likewise, Cameron agreed to the independence referendum in the mistaken belief that the unionist side would easily win and put an end to the question forever. Even though the unionists won the vote in September, the campaign energized supporters of independence more than they had ever been before, and the question will keep cropping up again and again. There was no chance that the nationalists would give up on the goal after having come that close to winning, and the surge in support for the SNP that has followed the referendum is bound to make them want try again. If the unionists are going to put a stop to the “neverendum,” they will need to hold another vote and they will have to win that next vote by a much larger margin than they did this year. Otherwise the pro-independence side is going to keep chipping away at unionist support until the latter finally fails.