There will be a snap general election on June 8th 2017, the likely outcome will be an enhanced Conservative majority at Westminster. However, in Scotland with a similar lead in the polls over the second placed Tories as they had over Labour in 2015, the SNP look likely to gain the same massive majority in Scotland as they did last time. Some of the faces will change and the seats won and lost may change but the basic maths will remain roughly the same. That doesn’t mean there will be no change, in fact it looks likely that as far as Scotland is concerned that this election is more likely to help rather than hinder the Scottish independence movement.
Here are 10 reasons why GE17 will actually make Scottish independence more likely
1) The SNP GE17 manifesto will contain a commitment to hold a new Scottish independence referendum at the time of the Scottish Government’s choosing, adding to the mandate gained by the pro-independence Holyrood majority. The Conservatives will stand on an anti-ScotRef ticket and even if they do brilliantly will win 50 seats less than the SNP. This means the Scottish Government not only have an enhanced mandate for ScotRef but to hold one before the Brexit negotiations conclude.
2) The UK Government calling for political certainty and stating that “now is not the time” as voters don’t know what Brexit negotiations will bring has been completely debunked and undermined by Theresa May’s opportunistic general election power grab. With the tories doubling down on a hard brexit, more Scottish voters will realise that promises of more powers are hollow and many EU nationals in particular will switch from No to Yes.
3) If Labour had any chance of a come back in Scotland it had to start at the May council elections. Labour campaigning on local issues and avoiding the constitutional squeeze between the Tories and the SNP. Now they will be drowned out by Tory “stop the referendum” and SNP “Who speaks for Scotland?” themed campaigns. This means that the argument to get rid of the Tories you don’t need independence you can just vote Labour will be dead and buried for the foreseeable future. The lack of elected members at all levels will effectively remove Labour as an effective campaigning body in Scotland for ScotRef.
4) Labour tactical switchers were essential for the Tory wins in the Borders seats at the Holyrood election, but Labour EU Remain voters who are not ideologically wed to the union will be far less willing to vote for an enhanced Tory majority in Westminster that will deeply damage Labour. So the Tory comeback in Scotland may falter.
5) This election smacks of political opportunism, election fraud investigations combined with more and more unpopular Tory policies all add to the growing distant, detached and dysfunctional pantomime that is Westminster politics. This will only set to emphasise the widening political and social gap between Scotland and the UK, allowing more and more people to consider the benefits of independence.
6) 62% of Scots voted Remain and the Tory Manifesto will offer them nothing but a hard Brexit and tell them to like it or lump it. Lib Dem Remain voters in SNP/ Tory marginals may vote SNP or simply fail to support the Tory candidate as a protest against a hard Brexit.
7) All the unionist parties are complaining about voter fatigue, but it is older folks and dispirited Labour voters that are fatigued not the SNP voters and so those older voters that might hold their noses and vote Tory to keep out the SNP will be less inclined to do so.
8) Realistically the Scottish Greens can’t win a single seat First Past the Post. There are already rumours they wont stand candidates in some marginals allowing SNP candidates to deliver an enhanced mandate for ScotRef. They could go further and ask the SNP to allow them to stand unopposed in the two seats where the sitting MPs have lost the whip in exchange for not standing in 20 key marginals. 10 for 1, I would take the deal but I doubt the SNP would.
9) There is a realistic chance that Scotland could become a Labour MP free zone and that makes the political dynamic solidly SNP v Tories, as brexit disintegrates and Tory election fraud becomes a bigger issue the next No campaign will have to be led by increasingly unpopular Tories who have messed up Brexit, and been on the wrong side of so may high profile issues such as the rape clause, the spare room tax, and I predict they will end the triple lock on pensions thus alienating core components of the 2014 No vote.
10) The PM seems to have forgotten about Northern Ireland. There is a republican majority in Stormont and although less likely, a republican majority in Westminster seats would make a vote on Irish unity likely thus triggering a constitutional crisis of a different kind. Promises made by Westminster to Ireland to avoid this, such as there will be no hard border, no tariffs and no barriers to trade and free movement with Ireland should also clearly apply to an independent Scotland. Unionists arguing Ireland was a special case but that Scotland wouldn’t be would come across as foolish, untrustworthy and anti-Scottish.
Despite the initial confusion and surprise this general election will make the path to ScotRef and independence clearer and more likely. We should welcome the fact that the Prime Minister is willing to sacrifice her anti-ScotRef arguments for the dubious benefits of kicking Labour when they are down – especially as they weren’t getting back up again anytime soon.