June 21, 2024

The Scottish ruling party is debating independence

Hamza Yousaf, First Minister of Scotland, speaks at the Scottish National Party (SNP) Special Party Conference at the Caird Hall in Dundee. Photo: Jane Barlow/PA/AP/dpa

Many in Scotland want to return to the EU seven years after the Brexit vote. It is clear to them: for this, a detachment from Great Britain is necessary. Looks easy. But it isn’t.

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DUNDE – The Scottish independence movement is torn over the debate over the right path to break away from Britain. Prime Minister Hamza Yousaf presented the plan at his Scottish National Party (SNP) special party conference. But activists outside the SNP – as well as some internal opponents – have criticized the plan to declare the next British general election a referendum as half-hearted.

Joseph’s idea: If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats in the British Parliament in a referendum expected to take place in autumn 2024, it should be considered a vote for independence. “If the SNP wins this election, the people have spoken,” said Youssef in Dundee, a pro-independence centre. On Sunday he confirmed to the BBC that he wanted to start talks with the British government immediately. The goal: London gives the regional parliament in Edinburgh the right to hold a new referendum or give Scotland outright independence.

There is a catch

But love to look simple. Because conservative Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and his challenger Keir Starmer, who are clearly ahead in the polls, both reject a split. The law is on their side: In December 2022, the British Supreme Court ruled that London must agree to a referendum. In the first referendum in 2014, a majority of Scotland voted for the Union. But that was before Brexit, which in turn was opposed by most people in the north of Britain.

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Youssef now takes an idea from his predecessor Nicola Sturgeon, his confidant. The 38-year-old said the “first line on the front page” of the SNP election manifesto should say a vote for the SNP is a vote for independence. Yusuf faces headwinds in his own camp.

Neil Hanvey of the Alpha Party complained that without the support of other “Yes” forces, victory was impossible. An organization called All Under One Banner criticized the plans as vague. Not necessarily negotiations, but a clear statement that a majority in elections actually means disengagement. Sarah Salyers of the Salvo movement told the National newspaper: “We don’t have the options and the time.” The SNP hesitates – and so loses voters.

The SNP was plunged into confusion

Indeed, the SNP has recently fallen behind Labor in the polls for the first time in years. After Sturgeon’s resignation, the ruling party, once considered unbeatable as the face of the independence campaign, fell into disarray. At first, members were weary of the debate over Sturgeon’s succession, and then the financial issue escalated over misused donations. Sturgeon was also temporarily detained for questioning.

Politically the freedom movement has weakened. In fact, the desire for detachment is very widespread. On Saturday, around 6,000 people marched to the site of the Battle of Bannockburn, where in 1314 Scottish leader Robert the Bruce crushed the English and won a decisive victory on the road to independence. Polls show a steady 48 percent approval rating regardless of Sturgeon’s resignation, according to analysis by leading poll analyst John Curtis for the BBC.

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But it also shows: no rush, Yusuf has a lot of work ahead of him. However, unrest is growing in the grassroots. Former party deputy leader Jim Fairlie asked if the SNP was prepared to engage in civil disobedience and refuse to co-operate with London. “We’ll see. But I doubt it,” said Fairlie.