Scotland: Are Hopes for Independence Foul in the Wing?

The Scottish Prime Minister had not yet spoken as calls for resignation were already ringing in the ranks of the Conservatives. Nicola Sturgeon responded Wednesday March 3 to the accusations of her former mentor and Prime Minister from 2007 to 2014, Alex Salmond. She defended herself for more than seven hours before the parliamentary commission of inquiry to have lied to Parliament and to have thus broken the ministerial code of conduct.

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The conflict, internal to the Scottish National Party (SNP), took root in 2018 after Alex Salmond was accused of 13 sexual assaults and attempted rapes by nine women. He has since been cleared of all these accusations although flaws in the internal investigation have been recognized by the government. Above all, he accuses his former protégé and his relatives of having plotted against him to prevent him from returning to the forefront of the political scene. Charges tried “Absurd” by Nicola Sturgeon who herself has crushed her former mentor: “As Prime Minister, I refused to follow the old pattern of allowing a powerful man to use his status and his connections to get what he wants.

A strong electoral issue

Two months before the legislative elections, the affair casts a shadow over the independence party and its popular head of the list, until then haloed for its management of the health crisis. If the SNP’s victory is not in doubt, the ballot should above all enable it to strengthen its base in Parliament to obtain from London the holding of a new referendum on self-determination for Scotland.

In fact, “The only time a party managed to get an absolute majority of seats was in 2011 and it was the SNP. It is because they had it that the nationalists were able to carry out their project of independence ” and organize a first referendum in 2014, recalls Gilles Leydier, professor of British civilization at the University of Toulon and specialist in nationalism in Scotland. The “no” had won by a narrow majority (55%), forcing Alex Salmond to resign.

Scottish determination to self-determination

But far from being extinguished, the independence flame has picked up again after what the Scots consider the Brexit fiasco and the anarchic management of the Covid by their cousins ​​in London. “They can be quite nasty, especially vis-à-vis the English”, warns Jean Berton, specialist in Scotland.

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The Conservatives will look good “Playing the mistrust card” and try to push Nicola Sturgeon towards the exit, “This will have very little effect on the independence electorate”, observes the director of the Scottish Center on European Relations, Kirsty Hughes. For her, these attacks sign above all the starting signal of the electoral campaign.

Scotland trapped in a broken kingdom

In London, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already warned that he does not want a new referendum. But “If the Northern Irish [durement touchés par le rétablissement des contrôles douaniers à la frontière après le Brexit, NDLR] get angry and put pressure on London, and at the same time the Scots do the same on their side, it is possible that Scotland will end up breaking away from England ”, wants to believe Jean Berton.

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There remains the exorbitant price that the operation would generate. According to a recent study by the London School of Economics, the independence of Scotland “Would be two to three times more expensive” than the effects of Brexit.


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