A year ago today, Scotland voted to stay in the United Kingdom. A year on from this historic day, it seems pretty clear that the genie has been let out of the independence bottle, and we have entered the world of Neverendum.
The No vote secured a reasonably comfortable 55% of the vote on 18th September 2014. But, it now feels that the No vote won yet lost. Since the referendum, the SNP have experienced a surge in support, 56 out of 59 parliamentary seats at Westminster, and polling at 60% for the 2016 Scottish elections.
The No campaign, rather than killing the Scottish independence debate for a generation, have been accused of reneging on the now toxic Daily Record produced “Vow” – so much so, that even Gordon Brown (the self styled saviour of the Union) has recently expressed concern as to whether Scotland will receive a fair and reasonable devolved settlement.
Labour are seen as a toxic brand in Scotland, with their traditional constituency heartlands being wiped out at the general election in May. The Lib Dems are nowhere in Scotland – and face the potential prospect of having no seats whatsoever in the forthcoming Holyrood election. As for the Tories – they are persona non grata in Scotland. Therefore, the sum of parts within the state of party politics in Scotland is that the SNP have become the last party standing. They have the resources, the mandate and a set of hugely impressive politicians working within Westminster and Holyrood, to continually hammer home the narrative of Union fault lines.
The SNP are capitalising on their momentum. They are the party of power in Scotland that effectively plays the part of Tory opposition and Scotland’s voice at Westminster.
From this position of dual strength both sides of the parliamentary border, Nicola Sturgeon has today threatened to demand a second independence referendum unless the Tories reverse components of austerity such as welfare cuts and the proposed renewal of Trident.
They can now afford to play the long (but not too long) game towards another independence referendum. It is likely that the SNP will mark within their Holyrood election manifesto a series intangible staging posts towards independence – only becoming tangible when the circumstances tilt the potential result in their favour – as in, when polls indicate that Scotland have moved towards a Yes vote to independence.
Recent polls indicate that another referendum may well happen sooner rather than later. Recent polls now show backing for a Yes vote as high as 55% – which has increased the opportunity (and pressure) for Nicola Sturgeon to clarify a position on an independence referendum II.
The circumstances are conspiring against Unionists being able to prevent another referendum. The SNP are dominant in Scotland and the Tories are dominant at Westminster. Put these two elements together, and it pretty obvious that Unionists are stuck in a zero sum game.
Whisper it, but a year on from the referendum, the SNP may well now see the result as a blessing in disguise. It has allowed them to clean up in Scotland while their political rivals have withered and they can continually demand the best for Scotland against the incumbent Tories ruling from afar.
A perfect storm towards another referendum seems likely – potentially in the Autumn of 2020 – if and when a George Osborne led Tories have just won the general election.
Last year’s referendum didn’t end the independence debate, it merely stoked the independence fire.