We’ve heard, and we’ll doubtless continue to hear, unionist politicians and commentators bleating that the outcome of this week’s General Election was “exactly” what the SNP, and the wider pro independence movement wanted. A Tory majority at Westminster – hardline unionists would argue – “plays into the hands of the nationalists” who will then seek to capitalise on anti Tory sentiment in Scotland, harnessing that inevitable frustration, for a second referendum.
Of course, this outcome is most definitely not what independence supporters wanted; it’s what they feared, it’s what they warned against, and it’s a scenario that the Yes campaign tried desperately to avert. You see, despite the “best of both worlds” rhetoric espoused by the Better Together campaign last year, and all that “strong voice at Westminster” stuff, we remain utterly powerless to stop a Tory majority.
We have long since crossed the Rubicon in Scotland in terms of the Tories. They are a spent force here, so much so that we no longer even factor into the Conservative party’s election strategy. Scotland may have experienced a political earthquake, a seismic shift of historic proportions, but in terms of the overall election result, we are still doomed to stand by and watch in horror; powerless to affect – even slightly – David Cameron’s triumphant return to Downing Street.
Given the loud noises from the Labour Party – particularly Scottish Labour – suggesting that a vote for the SNP would let the Tories in by the “back door”, one might be surprised at how quiet they’ve been over the past couple of days. Granted, they don’t have much to shout about in the immediate term, and they can be forgiven for taking some time out to lick their wounds, but something far more significant will be keeping their gas at a peep. You see, it’s now plain for all to see, and this tragic election result could not have illustrated it better, or distilled it more effectively. It is quite simply, the argument for Scottish independence.
Thursday night was a dispiriting reminder of how totally politically different Scotland is from the rest of the UK, but worse, how utterly irrelevant we are to the rest of the UK. It’s crazy to think, that even if every single voter in Scotland had voted for the Labour Party, it would have STILL have left Ed Miliband 35 seats short of a majority, and it would STILL have left David Cameron with the exact same result.
Many unionists have come to believe that independence is an article of faith amongst its supporters, as opposed to a matter of principle. Independence supporters have been likened to a cult, or religious fundamentalists; unconcerned with everything but their ultimate goal, regardless of consequence, or fact. I tend to find this characterisation somewhat ironic, and never more so than in these days following the general election. I am trying hard, but struggling, to think of an occasion in history when such a huge democratic shift, a political “tsunami” no less, has resulted – to all intents and purposes – in absolutely no mandate, in zero influence. Strangest of all, it never could have the ability to affect the overall outcome of the election. In light of all this, it kind of leaves me wondering: what on earth ‘s the point of the union anyway?
To quote Brian McNeill, paraphrasing the late Hamish Henderson:
“there’s no gods and there’s precious few heroes, but there’s plenty on the dole in the land o the leal, and I’m damned sure that there’s plenty live in fear, of the day we stand together with our shoulders at the wheel”
As we brace ourselves for five more years of the Conservatives, five more years of brutal austerity; now more than ever, Scotland needs to pull together, and quickly. The question is not should Scotland be an independent country, rather, what will it take to prove that it’s already an independent country?