Scottish independence

Another Scottish independence referendum is coming

Despite what the SNP and its supporters insist, Nicola Sturgeon did not ‘announce’ a second referendum on independence today. Far from it. Her statement to the Scottish parliament quietly accepted that a referendum is highly unlikely to take place on 19 October next year. The 2014 referendum – an act of self-determination that inconveniently produced the wrong outcome for the SNP – was an agreed plebiscite. All parties and Scotland’s government agreed it should take place and that its outcome would be politically, if not legally, binding. This is still the path Sturgeon would prefer. Holding such a referendum, however, requires a section 30 order by the British government, which

No, Scottish independence is not like the war in Ukraine

Perhaps it’s the absence of any oppression of their own country that compels Scottish nationalists to latch onto the oppression of others. On Monday, Michelle Thomson, an SNP MSP, retweeted news of Ukraine’s emergency application for EU membership, adding: ‘Delighted for Ukraine. It’s [sic] just goes to show what political will can achieve. Remember this Scotland!’ The SNP’s current position is for Scotland to secede from the UK then apply for membership of the EU, a process nationalists have previously suggested Brussels would fast-track. Thomson came in for a barrage of criticism and later deleted the tweet, admitting it was ‘insensitive’. She is taking all the flack but she’s hardly

Will Scottish independence really be ‘Brexit times ten’?

Scottish civil servants are to start work on a ‘detailed prospectus’ for independence so the Scottish government can hold another referendum ‘when the Covid crisis has passed’, Nicola Sturgeon announced earlier this month. The irony of this – coming just days before the Office for National Statistics reported that the percentage of Scots testing positive in a single week for Covid-19 equated to around one in 45 people – was lost on the First Minister. These things happen when you’re busy fighting to free your people from the tyranny of liberal democracy and free society in one of the richest places on earth. Deputy First Minister John Swinney subsequently went further when he promised a

When will Nicola Sturgeon see sense on Scotland’s mounting deficit?

UK borrowing in 2020-21 hit a record level of almost £300 billion, representing 14.2 per cent of British GDP, reported the Office for National Statistics in June. In the face of the biggest spending challenge since the Second World War, the Treasury, backed by one of the world’s most established central banks, stepped up to supply all the funding needed to pay for furlough, business support and a highly successful vaccination programme. Now imagine a prime minister in receipt of those borrowing numbers announcing that the future path for the UK is clear: we must disband the Treasury and Debt Management Office; shut down our central bank; start again from scratch

Glasgow gangsters: 1979, by Val McDermid, reviewed

Like a basking shark, Val McDermid once remarked, a crime series needs to keep moving or die. The same could be said of crime writers themselves, who work in a genre that has an inbuilt tendency to encourage repetition, often with dreary results in the long term. McDermid herself, however, has a refreshing habit of rarely treading water for long. Over the past 34 years, she’s published four very different crime series, a clutch of standalones, two books for children, a modern reworking of Northanger Abbey, and several non-fiction titles. And now comes 1979, the first in a planned five-book series set at ten-year intervals up to the present. It’s

Don’t pick a fight with the SNP

Since the Holyrood elections in May, the campaign for Scottish independence has been noticeably quiet. But that is about to change. This autumn Nicola Sturgeon will try to push the issue to the top of the agenda once again. The expectation in Edinburgh is that Sturgeon will soon unveil a governing agreement with the Greens, which would give her pro-independence government a formal majority in the Scottish parliament. With that under her belt, and with her activists increasingly impatient for action, she may move to introduce an independence bill. This would be a deliberate provocation. The constitution is a matter for Westminster — and it is very hard to see

Nicola Sturgeon isn’t serious about IndyRef2

The announcement reeked of desperation. Nicola Sturgeon is ‘delighted’ that the SNP National Executive Committee has approved her nomination of retired MSP and party grandee Mike Russell as ‘political director of the HQ independence unit’. The statement, put out on Twitter last week, aimed to give a sense of momentum and industrious activity: Russell at the head of an elite squad of Nationalist campaigners who will deliver on promises of another referendum.  The appointment of Russell is not so much a sign of progress for the Nationalists as confirmation that their project to break up the UK has stalled. It follows the resignation, after just a few months in post,

Does this SNP politician think buses are racist?

One of the benefits of devolution has been giving Scots their own parliament in which the great issues of the day can be discussed. Issues that might not otherwise make it onto the political agenda. Now the Scottish parliament has posed a question that can be avoided no longer: are buses racist? James Dornan is the SNP MSP for Glasgow Cathcart and the man who has brought these matters to light. Speaking in a debate at Holyrood last week, Dornan raised the enduring blight of ‘institutional prejudice’ against Irish Catholics in Scotland. He could have cited many examples in evidence but admirably chose to make a more original case: ‘To

Prince William won’t save the Union

Can the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge save the Union? Officials at Buckingham Palace are reported to be drawing up plans for the Royal couple to spend more time north of the border. If so, it’s likely that Alex Salmond won’t be amused: the former first minister accused Prince William of ‘poor judgement’ for meeting Gordon Brown on a recent visit. Salmond, who is now the leader of the nationalist Alba party, also said it would be a ‘fatal error’ for the monarchy to allow the perception that they were taking sides in the debate He need not be concerned. Pictures of William in a kilt trying not to look bored as

Independence would be karmic vengeance for Sturgeon

I have a mean streak. Perhaps my cruellest urge is to give people what they claim to want. When political parvenues disparage capitalism and the unfairness of meritocracy while talking up an ‘equitable’ socialist utopia, I want to stick them personally in a society where work pays the same as sloth, the well-off flee and the left behind expect everything to be free — just so long as the rest of us don’t have to submit to this inert destitution, too. When eco fanatics demand zero carbon emissions by 2025, I yearn for their own Amazon orders to arrive months later by donkey cart. I’d grant their wish: dead phone

The SNP’s latest separation blueprint is pure project fantasy

‘A SNP MSP has claimed an independent Scotland could guarantee a couple with children a minimum income of more than £37,000 a year,’ the Daily Record reported breathlessly this week, as it covered the SNP’s latest plans for an independent Scotland. Then came the clincher: ‘Neil Gray admits the plans have not been costed.’ Neil Gray is an SNP MSP and deputy convenor of the party’s Social Justice and Fairness Commission, which has published its final report: A Route Map to a Fair Independent Scotland. One of the report’s key recommendations is for a pilot of a minimum income guarantee. Gray, referencing work done by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, suggests

The wrath of Nicola Sturgeon

I can’t seem to find the Oracle of Delphi’s complete works. The libraries remain shut and when I go to Google I find the search engine inadequate in the matter of the ‘Complete Pythia’. So I throw the following story out there unsourced in the sure and certain knowledge that next week’s letters page looks set to be a bloodbath for me. Spectator readers are among the most learned readers around, and I know my fate if I relay any of this inaccurately. Nevertheless, here we go. Several years ago an utterance I’m pretty sure came from the Delphic Oracle lodged in my head. A foreign king (I hear you

Fraser Nelson

The great pretender: Nicola Sturgeon’s independence bluff

During the Scottish leaders’ debate, Nicola Sturgeon was asked a rather awkward question: what would she say to voters who want her as First Minister, but who certainly do not want another referendum, especially at such a delicate stage for the country? ‘What are they meant to do if they want you, but don’t want independence?’ she was asked. ‘They should vote for me,’ she replied, ‘safe in the knowledge that getting through this crisis is my priority.’ It’s amazing how quickly priorities can change. Sturgeon is already talking as if every Scottish National party vote was a demand for a referendum — and as if Westminster refusing that demand

Westminster must avoid the Sturgeon trap

The challenge for the UK government in the coming months is to make Nicola Sturgeon look like a constitutional obsessive. The SNP wants to frame the situation as Boris Johnson and the Tories denying the people of Scotland a referendum. The election results suggest there is no overwhelming clamour for a second referendum, with no SNP overall majority and the votes split evenly between pro and anti-Union parties. But UK government ministers should avoid giving the SNP the headlines they crave. They should side-step constitutional questions and instead emphasise co-operation on dealing with the after-effects of the pandemic. Ministers should force Sturgeon to make all the running on the second referendum

Salmond will help the Nationalists, but Galloway’s party is bad news for Unionists

Two decades after devolution, the Scottish Parliament’s election system still confuses ordinary voters and seasoned political observers alike. Politicians on both the Unionist and Nationalist sides have capitalised on this complexity, putting forward new parties – most prominently George Galloway’s Alliance for Unity (A4U) and Alex Salmond’s Alba – that aim to game the system and maximise their side’s (on the matter of the constitution) number of MSPs by pulling regional list votes away from the major parties. But in fact, beneath its byzantine name and workings, Scotland’s modified d’Hondt Additional Member Electoral System translates to straightforward arithmetic, with a clear and inescapable conclusion: Galloway’s A4U gambit is likely to

Scottish independence isn’t inevitable

Back in the autumn, every Scottish poll delivered bad news for Unionists. The ‘yes’ side was consistently ahead and the Nationalists began to argue that independence was becoming the ‘settled will’ of the Scottish people. But polling in the last seven days has, as I say in the magazine this week, disrupted this narrative.  There have now been several polls, including two more published just this morning, showing the Union side ahead. It is clear that there is nothing inevitable about Scottish independence. The Scotsman poll today also indicates that the SNP will fall just short of an overall majority in the Holyrood elections in May. Now, this shift in the

Salmond’s case will have consequences – he just can’t admit it

As Alex Salmond finally testified before the Scottish parliament on Friday, it was clear that he was trying to walk quite a fine tightrope. On the one hand, the former first minister is alleging a conspiracy so vast that, if true, it would deeply discredit the central institutions of the devolved Scottish state. His claims put the reputations of the Scottish government, the Scottish parliament, and the Crown Office, not to mention the civil service and even the police, on the line. Yet he shrank from the implications of this. Right from the start, he sought to erect a firewall from the leadership of these institutions and the institutions themselves:

Is the SNP prepared for Scotland’s next financial crisis?

As the world continues its fight against Covid-19, the Scottish National Party has been busy plotting Scotland’s exit from the UK. If the party gets its way and wins another referendum, Scots could soon find themselves living under a ‘sterlingisation’ currency system. The implications could be disastrous. It would be wrong to dismiss talk of another referendum as hypothetical. Powers over the UK’s constitution may sit with Westminster, but recent polling demonstrates a sustained (small) majority for secession. The SNP continues to ride high in the polls, looks set to win convincingly in May’s Holyrood election and has announced it intends to hold another referendum without UK government approval, if necessary. Boris Johnson’s ‘once-in-a-generation’ stance

Will Sturgeon admit to the cost of independence?

I’m not a great fan of economic modelling. Remember, for example, the Treasury’s infamous claim that unemployment would rise by between 500,000 and 800,000 within two years of a vote for Brexit (i.e. before we had actually left). In the event, unemployment fell in 2018 to reach the lowest level since the mid-1970s. Yet having used economic models to rubbish the case for Brexit, it becomes very difficult then to ignore forecasts which claim there would be an even bigger negative economic impact from Scottish independence. So what, in other words, will Nicola Sturgeon and other SNP politicians do about a paper just published by the LSE that claims that

Gordon Brown’s plan to save the Union won’t wash

Back in 2006, when he was close to executing his masterplan to chase Tony Blair out of Downing Street, Gordon Brown sought to address something that worried many voters: his Scottishness. ‘My wife is from Middle England, so I can relate to it,’ he pronounced, as if Middle England were a town somewhere off the M40. In fact, though Sarah Brown was born in Buckinghamshire, she spent most of her early childhood in Tanzania and her family moved to North London when she was seven. By mistaking a term denoting the provincial English psyche for a geographical area, Brown merely demonstrated that he was indeed all at sea. He has