Turmeric. It’s all the rage among the hipsters, you know. Lots of internet-proven* health benefits including anti-inflammatoriness, being a natural painkiller, and basically eliminating cancer, Alzheimer’s and depression. Also, it provides a glow and lustre to the skin.
Having come down with a cold earlier in the week, I am now fighting fit again. I am confident that my daily intake of turmeric has helped me recover quickly. But it’s always hard to prove these things, and the turmeric may in fact have only made my hair more lustrous.
Meanwhile we’ve had a General Election here in the UK, with a seismic result. South of the border, England and Wales have returned the Conservatives to power with an overwhelming majority. Up here in Scotland, the SNP have further increased their domination.
Which has produced an even-more polarised Great Britain, with England and Wales almost entirely blue, and Scotland almost completely a turmeric shade of yellow. And the inevitable and obvious conclusion that the two countries are completely different, justifying the renewed call for another Scottish independence referendum.
I have three objections to this obvious conclusion.
Firstly, does a resounding win for the SNP on Thursday translate to reasonable justification for a second referendum?
The SNP are – very cleverly – both a party whose main reason for existing is to achieve Scottish independence, and a political party who have proved they can govern competently. I am confident that this second facet of the SNP has gained them more and more votes in both local and national elections in recent years. And so, despite their overwhelming support in Scotland of late, most recently on Thursday, it cannot be inferred that the same number of people are pro-independence.
Secondly, the fact that Scotland has, pretty much en bloc, voted differently to England and Wales, is not especially relevant. The SNP don’t field a whole lot of candidates in English constituencies, you will note, and so English voters don’t have the option of voting for them. Therefore it’s no real surprise that Scotland and England vote differently. If England had a nationalist party which was a credible political force, the map might look different.
Northern Ireland has been voting for Northern Irish parties for years, but it’s never been taken as a justification that the Province needs an independence referendum. Of course, none of those N Irish parties were campaigning for independence for N Ireland, in the manner of the SNP. But that brings us back to the first question – how many of the SNP’s recent votes were votes for independence? We don’t know.
Thirdly, this is a snapshot in time. In this late-2019-snapshot of the political mood of the nation, the Conservatives appear to be rampantly popular in England, and the SNP are equally popular in Scotland. Twas not always thus, and – one imagines – it won’t stay that way forever. Or even, perhaps, for all that long. Political parties have a knack for puncturing their own success, through various means including corruption, scandal, and general incompetence. Leaders change, and lose popularity. Moods change. People change. The electorate shifts.
I have lived in Edinburgh for 27 years. For most of this time, Edinburgh’s political landscape has been utterly dominated by Labour. Now, they hold only one seat. In fact, it’s their only seat in Scotland. This was a completely unimaginable scenario not so very long ago. But things change.
If the SNP, riding a wave of popularity that has been swelling for less than ten years, manage to inveigle the Scottish people to take a decision that will echo for centuries to come, I for one will be monstrously unhappy.
Brexit gets rolled out as another justification for Scotland to leave the UK. Scotland voted to Remain, goes the narrative, whereas the overall UK result was to Leave. That shows how different we are to England and Wales, it’s said. But the Brexit referendum was not based on regions, or constituencies, but on individuals. From the rhetoric, you might be tempted to think that 100% of Scottish voters opted to Remain. They didn’t. 62% did. The remaining 38%, when put together with the results from the rest of the UK, helped vote for the UK to leave the EU.
The majority of voters in Northern Ireland also voted to Remain. Again, no banging of the independence drum there.
“Westminster doesn’t represent us” goes the cry. Here’s the thing. If Scotland was an independent country, Edinburgh wouldn’t represent the Highlands all that well either. There would be local biases, and parochial interests. Just on a smaller scale.
We’re a nation full of lots of very different people, with different views and priorities. We have a parliamentary system that affords representation to every area in the corridors of power at Westminster. It’s not perfect, it never will be, but let’s stay together Britain. Let’s stay together.
It’s part of being in a union. It’s like being in a family – you don’t always get your own way. Not getting your own way shouldn’t mean you leave.
I apologise for the political post! I promise to revert to whimsy before too long.