A year ago unionists across the United Kingdom were waking up with a sense of elation because the Union was saved. The Scots had voted by 55 per cent to 45 per cent against breaking away. The SNP in their White Paper had said the referendum was a “once in a generation opportunity”. A generation is usually taken to mean 25 years. But one year on they are itching for another referendum on the basis of any excuse they can think of – if the polls show the result might go the other way, or the UK leaves the EU or this happens or that happens.
Some might imagine that there has been a transformation in public opinion since then, given the sweeping victory for the SNP in the General Election. However most of the opinion polls in the last year have shown a No lead. In any case the SNP’s credibility is in shreds in pursing a “neverendum”. It is the same mentality of the Eurocrats in demanding repeat referendums to ratify treaties until the “right” result is produced.
While the SNP claim that the “vow” to provide more devolution was broken, the real vow that has been broken was their undertaking to accept the referendum result. Yet their case is actually weaker. Scotland has become more prosperous over the past year as part of the United Kingdom. The fall in oil prices have made the SNP’s figures on the economic case for independence even more implausible than they were in the first place.
It is implausible that the House of Commons would agree another referendum and this should be made clear.
The SNP probably realise another referendum is not credibile – so why are the trying to talk about it? The Daily Telegraph offers an explanation in a leading article this morning. As they face elections for the Scottish Parliament next year they wish to distract from their record in office:
“The SNP’s grand merger of police constabularies has been a disaster. Even Ms Sturgeon was forced to admit, in a carefully phrased statement, that it had “presented challenges and raised concerns”. Education is equally concerning. Under the SNP, the number of primary school teachers has fallen and class sizes have grown. The distance in attainment between richest and poorest is still tragically wide. Rates of numeracy and literacy are in decline.”
Ministers in Westminster have tended to respond to the SNP in a soothing, placatory manner. It is time to challenge them on their record – as has been done with some effectiveness over Labour’s record in Wales.
The Scottish Conservatives were unlucky in the General Election – they missed gaining a seat by just 328 votes. They were unlucky again this week narrowly missing gaining a council seat in Ayr. Perhaps next year their luck will change.
In any event Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party can not be trusted to champion the Union. This is a responsibility that the Conservative Party – including the Conservative Government – must take on.