If there is such a phenomenon as voter fatigue, then those who study such political matters will be looking long and hard at Scotland. With British Prime Minister Theresa May calling a surprise general election for June 8, four million Scottish voters will be exercising their franchise for the fifth time in less than three years. The one thing that has been consistent with Scots is that they have largely backed the voice of the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) except when it mattered — in SNP terms — the most: The September 2014 referendum.
That vote asked the question whether Scotland should remain part of the United Kingdom or become an independent nation. Then, two million Scots voted with their heads to remain in the union that has tied north and south of the island together since 1707. Another 1.6 million voted to go their own way, buying into the SNP case that Scotland had the means and wherewithal to become a fully independent nation.
Briefly, in the days before that referendum, it looked indeed as if the Scots would break away, reject rule from Westminster and, in the final word of actor Mel Gibson who portrayed Highland rebel William Wallace in the movie Braveheart, win “Freeeedomm”.
As disappointing as that result was for SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon, it was far from being the final word on the subject. As far as she was — and is — concerned, the referendum result merely laid the foundations for the next inevitable vote on independence. It’s even been christened ‘indyref2’ by newspapers and commentators north of Hadrian’s Wall, the ancient barrier built by the Roman Empire to keep barbarian northern tribes away from the civilised rest of the island.
Since that September 2016 defeat, more and more Scots are drinking Sturgeon’s Saltire-flavoured Koolaid, believing the blue and white flag of St Andrew will fly over an independent Scotland and its sovereign parliament sitting at Holyrood in Edinburgh. As it stands now, Holyrood is but the home to the devolved Scottish Parliament, a body with limited powers and baby teeth.
Less than eight months after the independence referendum, Scottish voters again went to their village halls, schools, churches and community centres to cast votes in the May 2015 general election. The result was a resounding victory for Sturgeon and her party. It was also a sharp rebuke to then UN Prime Minister David Cameron that Scottish voters were singularly unimpressed with his promises and entreaties made during the referendum campaign.
During that brief interlude when it appeared as if the Scottish separatists would indeed win the referendum, Cameron, along with the Liberal-Democrat Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg and Labour leader Ed Miliband promised the Sun, Moon and stars to Scottish voters in terms of new devolved powers if they voted to stay. By that stage in the campaign, 18 per cent of Scots had already cast their postal ballots. Between September and May, no new powers were given to the Scottish Parliament.
The May 2015 result gave the SNP a loud voice in Westminster, where Cameron had surprisingly secured his majority, allowing him to rule without Lib-Dem support. A loud voice is one thing, political clout another. A year later, Scottish voters were traipsing back to those same village halls, schools, churches and community centres, this time to elect Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSP) at Holyrood. And again, they backed the SNP in droves. That Scottish election was on May 5; seven weeks later, the Brexit referendum.
Plain and simple, the Leave or Remain plebiscite on Britain’s place in or out of the European Union was the brainchild of Cameron.
When the ballot boxes from those village halls, schools, churches and community centres were opened for the fourth time in 21 months, they recorded on June 23 that 62 per cent of Scots voted to Remain in the European Union while the barbarians on the lower side of Hadrian’s Wall voted to leave the Brussels Empire. On June 24, Sturgeon was chomping at the bit, saying that the result was cause for Scots to hold indyref2.
Cameron became collateral damage that day too, setting the stage for the mother of all catfights between May and Sturgeon. For the past eight months, May has steadfastly refused any and every call from Sturgeon for indyref2. As far as May is concerned, the business of Brexit and the March 2019 deadline is paramount. Sturgeon wants indyref2 in 2018.
May’s Tories are in a commanding position in Westminster right now, with Labour under Jeremy Corbyn in disarray and trailing badly in opinion polls. In announcing the June 8 vote, May says she needs a strong mandate to negotiate a best deal. It represents a complete U-turn on her nine months of saying there would be no general election until 2020. May’s words, it turns out, are as sincere as a streetwalker’s kiss.
Once more, Scottish voters will traipse back to the voting places in 48 days’ time. For Sturgeon, the only thing this new campaign is about is setting a date and conditions for indyref2 — and another hike to those village halls, schools, churches and community centres.