Caledonia Dreaming1A play of the same name, written by David Greig and directed by Iain Reekie for 7:84 Scotland, was performed at the 1999 Edinburgh Festival – Why Scottish Independence is Inevitable
By Martina Wolf
I firmly believe Scottish independence is inevitable. It is merely a question of “when”, not “if”. The 2014 referendum results were extremely close, with those wanting to stay in the union winning by a slim majority (55.3% compared with 44.7% in favour of independence). These figures illustrate the complicated social and political relationship Scotland has with the United Kingdom. According to the National Records of Scotland 2011 census, 62% of the population identify themselves as Scottish, with only 8% identifying as British only and 18% see themselves as both British and Scottish2Figures quoted from Homberg-Schramm, Jessica. Colonised by Wankers Postcolonialism and Contemporary Scottish Fiction, Modern Academic Publishing. 2018. The feeling that Scotland is a somewhat “junior partner” in a union dominated by England, a feeling that has been growing at least since the failed referendum on devolution in 1979, was reinforced by the actions of the Westminster Parliament and other politicians both during the referendum campaign and in the years that followed. Despite Scotland getting its own parliament for the first time in 200 years in 1999, a large proportion of the population expressed their concerns that they were not properly represented and that their needs and worries were not acknowledged by Westminster.
As I write these lines, Britain is preparing for the Platinum Jubilee of Queen Elizabeth (whether you want to call her the First or the second depends on which side of the Scottish-English border you live. I would call her the First, knowing that quite a few people will probably be outraged by this. But that is a hill I am willing to die on.) Britain’s longest-reigning monarch has been on the throne for 70 years and has had to weather her fair share of turbulent times, crisis, and upheaval. Interest in the monarchy varies considerably and at some point, its continuing existence was put in doubt, in Scotland more than in England. The majority of Scots in favour of independence would also prefer a republic to having a king or queen as head of state. This can be seen in the enthusiasm or lack thereof with which people across the nation are preparing for the Jubilee and their thoughts on the matter. According to a poll from “British Future”, only 48% of Scots are interested in the Jubilee and only 37% feel that it can help unite people.3“A quiet lie down in a dark room with industrial quantities of elephant tranquillisers”. The Wee Ginger Dug. https://weegingerdug.wordpress.com/2022/06/02/a-quiet-lie-down-in-a-dark-room-with-industrial-quantities-of-elephant-tranquillisers/. Accessed 02 June 2022 One thing is certain: there will be a lot less flag-waving and fewer street parties north of the border than there are in England. This has nothing to do with ill will, more with a genuine lack of interest in the monarchy. There are, quite simply, more pressing matters at hand, such as the war in Ukraine, the ongoing corona pandemic, and the sharp increase in the cost of living.
Since that fateful day of the first referendum in September 2014, a lot of things have changed. The Scottish National Party (SNP) managed to get a majority of seats in the Scottish Parliament, making them the strongest party by far and enabling them to push Scottish issues in Westminster and further the case for a second independence referendum. At the beginning of June 2022, the Scottish government set aside £20 million to pay for the next referendum; not a lot, considering the vastly higher costs of the Jubilee alone, which will cost the British government 650 times as much. But it’s certainly better than nothing and it shows that a second referendum is becoming a reality.
Brexit was another catalyst for change. In the months leading up to the 2014 referendum, pro-Union campaigners told Scottish voters that only as part of the UK would Scotland be able to stay in the European Union; Scotland, they claimed, would have to begin the long and complicated process of reapplying to the EU as an independent, small country. This claim of course backfired spectacularly when the UK voted in favour of leaving the EU in 2016 and forcing Scotland – whose population overwhelmingly voted against Brexit – to leave alongside the pro-Brexit faction. In football, this would be termed a classic “own goal”, which helped the independence movement a lot. The question is, at what cost? A moment of “I told you so” compared to being dragged, reluctantly, kicking and screaming, out of the European Union and all the negative effects this has on the political and economic future of the nation is not really a price worth paying. Already, the UK is feeling the repercussions of Brexit; what happens in the long run remains to be seen.
Brexit and a strong SNP are two factors in the work towards independence. Other contributing factors include the current Conservative government’s continuing dismantling of the welfare state, its lack of interest in the less well-off, the mismanagement of the corona crisis and Boris Johnson’s ineptitude to fulfil his role as Prime Minister. As the well-known Scottish blogger The Wee Ginger Dug has stated in a February 2022 blog post:
“With the British Government proving that the institutions of the Westminster Parliament are incapable of holding to account a known liar like Boris Johnson, a man whose alleged law breaking is currently subject to a police investigation, the democratic argument for Scottish independence is now unanswerable. Independence is no longer required just so that the people of Scotland can be assured that Scotland will always get governments that the people of Scotland vote for and in order to be certain that policies like Brexit, which has never enjoyed the support of a majority in Scotland, will no longer be forced upon Scotland against its will.“4“The unanswerable case for independence.” The Wee Ginger Dug. https://weegingerdug.wordpress.com/2022/02/02/the-unanswerable-case-for-independence/. Accessed 21 April 2022.
The recently published findings of the Gray investigation have proven this point yet again: Boris Johnson is a serial liar who seems to think the laws don’t apply to him, only to others.5“What is the Sue Gray Investigation.” Institute for Government. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/sue-gray-investigation. Accessed 02 June 2022. It is precisely the fact that despite all of his shortcomings, blunders and mishandling of office, the Conservative party is still supporting him that proves to me that Scottish independence is inevitable. In a recent confidence vote, Johnson received the support of 211 Conservative MPs, 148 voted against him, meaning Johnson has the support of 59% of his MPs. The last eight years have proven again and again, that the so-called “family of nations” is breaking up: not only Scotland is dissatisfied with Westminster policies; voices pushing for independence in Wales are getting stronger as well. Brexit has also ignited tensions in Northern Ireland as well, since the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland now make up a hard border between the EU and a non-EU member state. The Union is creaking under the strain and quite a few people are taking a long, hard look at the political construct that has survived for so long. The feeling of alienation and dissatisfaction in the north of England, in Wales and Scotland, which started with Thatcher and deepened with each successive Tory government is finding another outlet in the various independence movements all over Britain.
Personally, I hope for another independence referendum, the sooner the better. It is my sincerely held belief that Scotland would be better off as an independent nation and EU member state. It is not an impossible dream; other small nations have proven to be very successful. As a former EU member, Scotland already fulfils the necessary criteria for membership and some of the current member states have signalled that they would approve of Scotland’s re-entry. The future of Scotland lies firmly outside of the UK, as a fully recognised, independent EU member.
- 1A play of the same name, written by David Greig and directed by Iain Reekie for 7:84 Scotland, was performed at the 1999 Edinburgh Festival
- 2Figures quoted from Homberg-Schramm, Jessica. Colonised by Wankers Postcolonialism and Contemporary Scottish Fiction, Modern Academic Publishing. 2018
- 3“A quiet lie down in a dark room with industrial quantities of elephant tranquillisers”. The Wee Ginger Dug. https://weegingerdug.wordpress.com/2022/06/02/a-quiet-lie-down-in-a-dark-room-with-industrial-quantities-of-elephant-tranquillisers/. Accessed 02 June 2022
- 4“The unanswerable case for independence.” The Wee Ginger Dug. https://weegingerdug.wordpress.com/2022/02/02/the-unanswerable-case-for-independence/. Accessed 21 April 2022.
- 5“What is the Sue Gray Investigation.” Institute for Government. https://www.instituteforgovernment.org.uk/explainers/sue-gray-investigation. Accessed 02 June 2022.