Make no mistake: independence will be back as an issue

By Dr Meryl Kenny, Department of Politics and International Relations

Dr Meryl Kenny discusses how the independence issue may potentially return

In many ways, last Thursday’s independence referendum represents a decisive answer to the question of Scotland’s political future, with the majority of Scots voting against independence by a margin of 55% to 45%. While predictions had suggested that it would be a close-run race, the No camp was victorious across most of Scotland, even in some areas considered to be SNP heartlands. Prior to the referendum, Scotland’s First Minister Alex Salmond declared that independence was a ‘once in a generation opportunity’; David Cameron echoed this words in the aftermath of the No Vote, declaring that the independence issue was now ‘settled for a generation’.

Is the issue of independence done and dusted? I wouldn’t be so sure. A generation is a long time in politics, and much depends on what happens over the coming weeks and months. Already, there are signs that the Unionist truce – forged in the end stages of the campaign between the Tories, Labour and the Liberal Democrats – is in disarray. While all three parties had committed to a fast-track timetable towards new powers for the Scottish Parliament in the event of a No vote, this pledge was almost immediately undermined by David Cameron, who has proposed to link these changes with plans to ensure ‘English votes for English laws’.

Party leaders. Oli Scarff/PA Archive/Press Association Images

This is, without question, a strategic political move on Cameron’s part, aimed at fending off opposition for further devolution from the Tory backbenches and at stealing a march on UKIP, which has called for an English parliament for English issues. It will also effectively cripple a future Labour government in the House of Commons, given Labour’s reliance on Scottish MPs. By adding new conditions to the ‘Scotland pact’, Cameron has chosen to be a party politician rather than a national leader, a decision which could ultimately end up destroying the very union that he and other have tried so hard to save.If this political mess continues and the UK party leaders do not deliver on the promises made in the course of the referendum campaign, then all bets are off. Already, Alex Salmond has claimed that No voters were ‘tricked’ by Westminster’s false promises on more powers, and has suggested that Scotland could still declare independence even without a referendum. More fuel will be added to the fire if the Tories win the general election in 2015 and manage to deliver an EU exit vote by 2017 – both of which are likely to re-open calls for another independence referendum. And this time, the odds are the answer will be ‘Yes.’






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