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Buried Alive

A response to "the quiet death of Scottish Nationalism" by Graham Grant (opinion piece).

The Daily Mails Graham Grant kicked off the new year with an article that triumphantly declares the “quiet death of Scottish Nationalism”. 

The article talks of a separatist movement that has finally collapsed after a downward spiral, unlikely to ever return. One would think that it was unnecessary to point out the ridiculous nature of writing off a political movement that enjoys the support of around half the country, but unfortunately here we are. 

A common way that unionists downplay support for independence is by making it synonymous with support for the SNP. Grant mentions projected election losses for the party but makes no effort to prove that support for independence itself has gone away, as the evidence would not back up that claim.

A look at a poll conducted by ipsos in November 2023 suggests that 40% of Scots would vote for the SNP in a general election, but that 54% would vote yes in an independence referendum. Comparable polls show varying levels of support for the two causes, but in all cases a discrepancy is clear. Whilst support for one will undoubtedly affect the other, it is wrong to say that any election loss suffered by the SNP means an outright rejection of independence. 

Grant goes on to explain that independence is off the agenda due to the fact that the UK government will not grant consent for a second referendum and claims that polling is irrelevant since “the only one that mattered took place a decade ago.”

Bizarrely he appears to accept that there is significant support for independence, but it doesn’t matter because Westminster will simply suppress the will of Scottish voters. In a democracy the political agenda is set by the electorate, and it’s absurd to suggest that a movement is dead because legal barriers present a challenge to its progression. If independence is defeated through denial of democracy, then it has not suffered a ‘quiet death’, but a murder.

As for the claim that the result of the 2014 referendum is the only poll that matters on the issue, it shouldn’t need explaining that democracy is a continual process and not a one-off event. In September 2013 backing for independence, as shown in polls, averaged 33%. One year later 45% of Scots voted Yes in the referendum. If support can jump by 12% in one year, it’s not unlikely that it could increase by 5% over the course of a decade.

The argument in favour of independence has often centred on the democratic deficit, the fact that governments elected in Westminster are largely unrepresentative of the Scottish electorate. It makes sense then, that support for the union is unlikely to grow in the context of the massively unpopular Conservative government. The prospect of a Labour administration may be a relief for Scots who have suffered the consequences of Tory policy, but it will remain at odds with the Scottish people on major issues including EU membership, foreign policy, and welfare.


Any suggestion that the idea of Scottish independence is dead and buried is either disingenuous or wishful thinking.


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