Scottish independence on the menu for Boris Johnson's successor

L&rsquo ;Scottish independence on the menu of Boris Johnson's successor

Brexit and economic problems have fueled independence sentiment in Scotland, where the government promises to organize a second referendum next year. An idea opposed by the candidates for the leadership of the British Conservative Party.

The Scottish government promises to hold an independence referendum in October 2023.

“The best attitude to adopt towards Nicola Sturgeon is to ignore it. I think she's looking for attention. »

At the beginning of August, Liz Truss, favorite in the race for the leadership of the British Conservative Party, was clear about the relationship she intends to maintain with the Scottish Prime Minister.

It is so no surprise that, two weeks later, when Liz Truss and her opponent Rishi Sunak show up in Perth, Scotland for a campaign event, they are greeted by protesters.

Shame on you, can we hear repeatedly from the mouths of these supporters of Independence, many of whom are brandishing the flags of Scotland or the European Union.

Au In the front row, in front of the security barrier, are two young women: Inez, a lifelong separatist, and her friend Laura, who has recently changed her mind on the matter.

We have to take this risk, it's the only way to get rid of this Conservative government, she says, illustrating the animosity that many independence activists have towards the London government and its policies conservatives.

Inez and Laura believe Scottish independence is the best way to sever ties with the UK Conservative Party. United.

In September 2014, the No vote won the Scottish independence referendum with 55.3% of the vote.

Eight years later, a poll published in August in the Sunday Times shows that the Scottish population is still very divided, with 49% of voters who would now support independence, against 51% who would oppose it. This same poll shows that the option to stay in the UK would drop to 48% if Liz Truss wins the Conservative Party leadership race.

Christian Allard, a former Scottish National Party (SNP) MP in the Edinburgh Parliament and the European Parliament, says the Brexit vote held in 2016, two years after Scotland's independence referendum, fueled nationalist sentiment many Scots.

Although the UK as a whole has narrowly supported plans to leave the European Union (EU), in Scotland 62% of voters wished to remain members.

Christian Allard, councilor of Aberdeen was an SNP MP in Edinburgh at the time of the 2014 referendum. He was also elected to the European Parliament on the day when the United Kingdom has officially left the European Union.

“We had a no campaign that talked about the status quo, that said, 'But things are as they are, they will stay that way.' Two years later, Scotland left the European Union against its will. And after? We see economic circumstances here, an economic disaster, with conservative governments that are more populist than conservative.

—Christian Allard, Aberdeen Councilor and former SNP MP in the Scottish Parliament.

In June, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced her desire to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence. The scheduled date: October 19, 2023.

However, she will have to face a major obstacle. Unlike in 2014, London refuses to hold a referendum, a position defended by the contenders for the post of Prime Minister, Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak.

Rishi Sunak and Liz Truss are vying to succeed Boris Johnson as leader of the Conservative Party, and therefore of the UK.

“It is quite frankly madness for politicians to try to focus on an unnecessary and divisive constitutional referendum at a time when people are worried about heating their homes.

—Rishi Sunak, British Conservative Party leadership candidate

According to Professor Emeritus at the University of Aberdeen Michael Keating, in this context, holding a vote similar to the one organized eight years ago is unlikely.

< p class="e-p">In the absence of an agreement from London, Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon first turned to the courts and is even considering making the next general election a de facto referendum.

How will the exercise actually take place? We are in a great period of uncertainty, replies Michael Keating.

And even if Scotland remained within the United Kingdom, the expert on questions linked to nationalism notes that , politically, the gulf between London and Edinburgh continues to widen.

Both regionally and nationally, the Scottish National Party, which receives the support both separatist and nationalist voters, remains a dominant political force.

Representation of the Scottish National Party

  • In Edinburgh: 64 of the 129 MPs
  • In London: 48 of Scotland's 59 MPs

Meanwhile, the two main national parties, the Conservatives and Labour, are struggling to win over the Scottish electorate.

Professor Michael Keating believes there is a lot of uncertainty about the Scottish Government's willingness to hold another independence referendum.

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“There is a loss of awareness of what is going on. Without a presence in Scotland, they don't know the terrain very well and don't know how to play the political game in Scotland. »

Michael Keating, Emeritus Professor of Political Science at the University of Aberdeen

Besides, very few Scots are being called upon to choose the next Prime Minister from the United Kingdom, whose identity will be revealed on Monday.

As this is a Conservative Party leadership race, only members in good standing can vote.< /p>

According to a study by Professor Tim Bale of Queen Mary University of London, only 6% of the party's 160,000 members live in Scotland, compared to 56% who live in London or the the south-east of the country.

It is therefore without much support in Scotland that the next Prime Minister of the United Kingdom will have to face the independence ambitions of the Edinburgh government, while by managing an inflationary and energy crisis of a magnitude not equaled for decades.

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