In 2009, Alex Salmond threatened to resign and force British Labour in Scotland (BLiS) to try and form a government. Those were different times. BLiS would have had great difficulty finding support from the other British parties. And whatever support it did get would be bought at a price which would almost certainly be electorally damaging. Being only one seat behind the SNP, BLiS might have considered it worth taking their chances in a new election.
It’s all very different today. One of the reasons many of us were concerned by the efforts of RISE to split the SNP and/or the pro-independence vote in the 2016 Holyrood elections was the very real possibility that, if the SNP lost its majority and the other electoral stars were appropriately aligned, the British parties would have seized the opportunity to take back control of the Scottish Parliament by forming a ‘unity’ government. As it turned out, we narrowly avoided that disaster. But the threat has not gone away.
In 2009 it was pretty much inconceivable that BLiS and the Scottish branch of the Tories would form an alliance. Better Together/Project Fear changed all that. Now, it is assumed that, with the LibDems tagging along, they will act as one. In effect, a single British nationalist party existing for no purpose other than to defeat the Scottish parties and reimpose London’s authority on a parliament that the British establishment regards as a threat to the integrity of the divinely ordained British state.
Nicola Sturgeon’s government could resign in the hope of forcing an election. But this would be fraught with danger. What was unthinkable eight years ago is all but inevitable now. The British parties would almost certainly come together to prevent an election. With enthusiastic support from Kezia Dugdale and Willie Rennie, Ruth Davidson, the Queen of the British Nationalists, would be installed as First Minister. The Scottish Parliament would be emasculated. Legislation would be enacted at Westminster and Holyrood to ensure the British parties would retain control in perpetuity.
The independence campaign would be set back decades.
There is another option that Gareth Hay does not mention. Take Theresa May at her word about using the local elections to ‘send a message’. But send a rather different message from the one she is hoping for. If any blip in the SNP vote on Thursday 4 May is going to be presented as a “blow to Sturgeon”, as it inevitably will. Then a massive increase in the SNP vote cannot be other than a vote of confidence in the First Minister. And, by necessary extension, a vote in favour of a new independence referendum.Views: 5741
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