It is easy to understand why Nicola Sturgeon talks about opposition to a new referendum “crumbling”. We are in a UK general election campaign. She has promised to put independence at the heart of the SNP’s effort in this campaign. It is entirely fitting and proper that she should be talking up the potential to advance the fight to restore Scotland’s independence by voting SNP and returning as many SNP MPs as possible. It is only to be expected that she will seek to promote the idea that the the British political elite’s determination to prevent a new independence referendum will “crumble” in the face of the “irresistible” demonstration of the democratic will of the Scottish people that a massive vote for the SNP would represent. Nicola Sturgeon’s rousing rhetoric is absolutely fine. Just so long as she doesn’t entirely believe it herself.
Let’s be clear about one thing – everybody who cares about Scotland is bound by their conscience to vote for their SNP candidate in this election. Scotland’s constitutional claim has, for some years now, been the dominant issue in Scottish politics. But, not since the 2014 referendum has the divide between the two sides in the independence debate been so starkly presented as the issue on which the people of Scotland are voting. All other issues are subsidiary to the constitutional question because all other issues crucially depend on whether the power to decide resides with the people of Scotland or with the British ruling elites.
Assuming you agree that Scotland’s future should be in the hands of Scotland’s people rather than the fumbling paws of British politicians such as Boris Johnson, you must vote SNP. Voting for any of the British parties in Scotland should be unthinkable for anyone who values the fundamental principle of popular sovereignty. If you maintain that the people of Scotland are sovereign, then to vote for any of the British parties is to vote against your own conscience. And to vote against basic good sense.
This election will not decide the independence issue. Nor even the issue of a new referendum. Sending as many as 59 SNP MPs to Westminster will not precipitate a crumbling of the British state’s determination to preserve the Union. This election is not about securing yet another mandate for a new referendum. It is about denying the British political elite a mandate to block a referendum and to proceed with the British Nationalist project to reimpose direct rule from London via the apparatus of the ‘UK Government in Scotland.
No demonstration of the democratic will of Scotland’s people can be sufficient to overcome the British political elite’s resistance to the restoration of Scotland’s independence. The imperative to preserve the Union is too compelling. Even if the SNP took all 59 seats and more than 50% of the vote in a high turnout, the British government and the British parties would refuse to acknowledge this as a valid expression of demand for a new referendum. There will be no buckling. There will be no crumbling of their resolve. For the British state, the imperative to preserve the Union is existential.
For Scotland, the imperative to dissolve the Union is existential. That is why anyone who cares about Scotland must vote SNP in this election. It is not so much about battering down resistance to the people of Scotland exercising their right of self-determination as it is about denying the British political elite a mandate to prevent us exercising that right. Because anything short of a massive victory for the SNP will be deemed such a mandate. Anything less than a landslide for the SNP will be interpreted as affording the British state a licence to do as it will with Scotland – just like the No vote in the 2014 referendum.
Power is finite and relative. Due to the grotesque asymmetry of the Union, voting SNP in huge numbers and sending 50+ SNP MPs to Westminster may not greatly empower Scotland. But failure to do so disproportionately increases the power of the British state over Scotland. Power that will certainly be deployed to Scotland’s severe detriment.
Nicola Sturgeon has chosen to focus on the importance of voting SNP because of what this might achieve. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s a positive and honest message. Only SNP MPs put Scotland’s interests above all else. So it stands to reason that the more SNP MPs there are, the better Scotland’s interests will be represented. But the Union means that Scotland’s interests can never be adequately represented no matter how many SNP MPs go to Westminster. But the First Minister could just as honestly and accurately have stressed the need to elect as many SNP MP’s as possible, not for what they might achieve, but for what they will prevent.
Given her preference for a positive message, it is only natural that Nicola Sturgeon will choose to run with the line that voting SNP will provide the David of the independence movement with the sling that brings down the Goliath of the British state. She leaves it to others to point out that the most important thing about voting SNP is that it avoids giving Goliath a mighty club with which to demolish all that Scotland holds dear – and all that we aspire to.
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