The SNP conference, which is taking place in Aberdeen, has adopted a new strategy for achieving Scottish independence at the next Westminster General Election. The strategy states that a vote for the SNP is a vote for Scotland to become an independent country and that winning a majority of Scottish seats will give the Scottish Government a mandate to start independence negotiations with the UK Government. However, the strategy faces challenges from both the British media and the Westminster parties, who are likely to ignore or reject the SNP’s claim to a democratic mandate.
How the SNP plans to use the next general election as a de facto referendum
The SNP’s new strategy, which was approved by the conference delegates on Sunday, is based on the idea that the next general election will be a de facto referendum on Scotland’s constitutional future. The strategy says that the SNP’s manifesto for that election will declare on page one line one: “A vote for the SNP is a vote for Scotland to become an independent country.” The strategy also demands that the power to hold an independence referendum be permanently transferred to the Scottish Parliament.
According to the strategy, if the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats at the next general election, this will give the Scottish Government a mandate to commence independence negotiations with the UK Government. The strategy also envisages the establishment of a constitutional convention consisting of representatives from civic Scotland, such as trade union leaders and religious figures, as well as MPs and MSPs.
The strategy is based on the assumption that the Westminster Government will continue to refuse to grant a Section 30 order, which is required under the current law to hold a legally binding referendum. The SNP argues that by using the general election as a proxy vote, it can bypass the need for a Section 30 order and assert its democratic right to self-determination.
Why the SNP’s strategy faces opposition from the British media and Westminster parties
The SNP’s strategy, however, faces significant opposition from both the British media and the Westminster parties, who are likely to ignore or reject the SNP’s claim to a democratic mandate. The British media has been largely silent or dismissive of the SNP conference, which is the third largest party in the House of Commons. The BBC, for example, did not mention the conference at all during its UK wide edition of the lunchtime news on Monday. The BBC also misreported the SNP’s strategy as saying that it will ask for another referendum if it wins a majority of seats, rather than stating that it will start independence negotiations.
The Westminster parties, both Labour and Conservative, are also expected to deny that the SNP has won a mandate for independence even if it wins a majority of Scottish seats at the next general election. This is because they do not recognise that Scotland has a distinct political identity and culture that differs from the rest of the UK. They also fear that losing Scotland would diminish their power and influence on the world stage. They have shown no willingness to respect the democratic choices of the Scottish electorate, as they have repeatedly refused to accept that the current Scottish Parliament was elected with a clear mandate for another referendum.
What the SNP’s strategy means for democracy in Scotland
The SNP’s strategy, therefore, poses a fundamental question about democracy in Scotland. If the SNP wins a majority of Scottish seats at the next general election by using the same standards that Labour and Conservative use to determine the winner of the election at a UK level, then there can be no dispute that it has won that election in Scotland. However, if Westminster refuses to recognise that result and continues to block Scotland’s right to choose its own future, then democracy in Scotland will be effectively dead. It will mean that voting in Scotland has no meaning or consequence, and that Scotland is subject to Westminster rule without consent.
The constitutional question in Scotland then becomes not a question about whether Scotland is better off as an independent country or as part of the UK, but an existential question about whether democracy itself can survive in Scotland under this so-called Union. The SNP’s strategy is an attempt to challenge this undemocratic situation and assert Scotland’s sovereignty as a nation. However, it remains to be seen whether Westminster will respond with respect or contempt.