Nicola Sturgeon faces questions on Scottish elections
The Scottish National Party’s (SNP) dominance north of the border will come to an end if First Minister Sturgeon pulls the country out of the UK, Express.co.uk was told. It comes as Ms Sturgeon looks almost certain to win a majority in Hoylrood’s May elections, which will provide her with the mandate to push ahead with plans her for a second independence referendum. The majority of polls currently show that more than half of the population would vote to leave the Union if a referendum were held tomorrow.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson, meanwhile, has repeatedly refused to entertain the idea of an Indyref2.
He told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show in January that Scotland should aim to hold another vote in 2055, the same timeframe between the first and second votes on EU membership.
This is unlikely to pass with Ms Sturgeon and SNP, the latter of which has dominated Scottish politics for more than ten years.
First coming to power in 2007, the party formed a minority government, before going on to win the 2011 Scottish election which allowed it to secure the Holyrood’s first majority government.
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Scotland was traditionally Labour heartlands, with the left-leaning party having ruled superior, winning the largest share of the vote in every general election from 1964 to 2010.
The beginning of the last decade marked the end for Scottish Labour, however, with former leader Jeremy Corbyn adding to the damage in 2019’s general election.
Yet, Robert Johns, Professor in Politics at Essex University and investigator on the Scottish Election Study, told Express.co.uk that Ms Sturgeon’s dominance would likely cease to be if she secured independence.
This is because the SNP would have achieved its mission and sole reason for existence.
Other parties would then be empowered to come to the fore and pick holes in the party’s policies post-independence, with more confidence, strength, and fervour in tow.
Ultimately, Professor Johns said Scotland would recalibrate and the political playing field would once again level-out into a “multi-party state”.
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Looking to the SNP’s future, he said: “Before 2011 and before the referendum was called, Scotland had a multi-party system: the normal course of politics was for parties to have coalitions.
“Labour and the Liberal Democrats did it, the SNP was a minority government for four years and sought support from the other parties and got things through that way.
“That was all kind of normal, so I don’t think the SNP issue is going to disappear, but when the independence issue is resolved, I think it’s likely to go back to being one of the larger parties in a multi-party system.”
At this point, he said other parties who might gain popularity would have to weigh up the “less tolerable” of oppositions to partner with.
Prof Johns said: “There will be questions for Labour about who do you find it less tolerable to go into coalition with, the SNP or the Tories? Or whoever it may be.
“But this period where the SNP is by a mile the largest party and capable of challenging on its own, I don’t think it’s a long term option in Scotland.”
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With Prime Minister Johnson unlikely to acquiesce to Ms Sturgeon’s calls, many have suggested the First Minister might look to Catalonia for inspiration.
The autonomous community in northeastern Spain held a referendum on breaking away from the country in 2017, winning by a landslide.
However, the Spanish government later ruled that the referendum had been illegal.
The issue has not gone away, with separatist parties in the most recent local elections having increased their majorities once again.
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However, Ms Sturgeon has asserted that any Scottish independence referendum must be observed within the confines of the law.
In 2019, speaking at the party’s annual conference in Aberdeen, she said the SNP had a “cast iron mandate” to hold a new referendum, one that must comply with the law.
Writing in The Times earlier this year, Conservative MP Paul Goodman said Ms Sturgeon would be too scared to hold such a vote for fear it might tarnish her stateswoman figure.
He said: “So if the SNP wins its majority and Mr Johnson resists another referendum, what will Ms Sturgeon do – and Alex Salmond say – then?
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“She will be wary of seeking to hold a vote unilaterally, for fear that its illegality would alienate the kind of anti-Johnson but a law-abiding Scottish voter without whose support independence can’t be achieved.”
Another reason why Ms Sturgeon may be keen to steer clear of the Catalans is her hope to take Scotland back into the EU.
Barbara Lippert, the director of research at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs in Berlin, earlier this year said an independent Scotland could be “top of the list” to join the EU.
She told an online event organised by the European Movement in Scotland, that the country had a more favourable position and image than countries in the West Balkans who have been waiting to sign up for years.
Meanwhile, Mr Johnson has thrown his weight behind the campaign to stop Scotland from leaving.
In January, he set out a “five-step” plan which will portray Westminster as more multicultural than “France or Germany”, with the UK sold as “forward-thinking on green issues and technology”, aimed at the overwhelming Remain voter base of Scotland.