Nicola Sturgeon fumes over claim Scotland is ‘catching up’
The First Minister was thrown into the firing line yesterday after the recently sacked Joanna Cherry accused her and the Scottish National Party (SNP) of “Stalinist revisionism”. Ms Cherry has been one of the SNP’s most notable performers in Westminster, regularly appearing in the House of Commons, holding the post of shadow home affairs and justice secretary. She drew parallels with former First Minister Alex Salmond’s removal in 2019, and accused Ms Sturgeon of “rewriting history” after his role in the rise of the SNP was removed from the party website.
Ms Sturgeon has now been described as having gone on a “ruthless purge”.
The abrupt dismissal was seen by many as a reaction to Ms Cherry’s close allegiance to Mr Salmond, whom Ms Sturgeon is currently embroiled in a legal battle with.
The soaring tensions and potential infighting could jeopardise the SNP’s chances at pushing the independence argument to the electorate, something they hope to achieve as early as May.
Even if the SNP wasn’t caught up with internal disagreements, Robert Tombs, the renowned British historian, told Express.co.uk Ms Sturgeon would not achieve her independence dream as support among Scots is “nowhere near enough” to win a landslide the polls predict.
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He reflected on the Brexit vote, and cited evidence for as much as two-thirds of people in Britain not liking the EU, but the vote only having amounted to 52 percent of the electorate voting to leave.
Prof Tombs said: “If you think about the Brexit referendum, a lot of people didn’t like the EU, with some evidence that as much as two-thirds of people were not keen on it.
“Yet, only just over half voted to leave because of the economic risks, among other things.
“It seems to me if you think that Scotland is similar, you’d have to have at least two-thirds of the Scottish electorate saying they wanted independence before it became a serious prospect.
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“As far as I know it’s only just over the 50 percent mark, and I can’t believe that’s anywhere near enough to make it happen when there’s such a serious campaign about it already underway.
“So I’m not worried about the UK breaking up.”
Trade costs would soar an estimated 30 percent between Scotland and the UK if the former gained indepenence, according to a recent London School of Economics (LSE) study.
It was a devastating blow for Scotland, which exported £51.2billion in goods and services to the rest of the UK in 2018, and hinted that Britain might choose to buy elsewhere if prices hiked.
Another potential deterrent for Scottish voters would be the threat of a hard border between England and Scotland, making trips between the two countries much more difficult.
And while Mr Salmond in 2014 suggested Scotland would be able to raise £250million a year more in tax without having to hike taxes, the Institute of Fiscal Studies projected a rise in Scottish tax revenue, or a cut in spending, of around £6bn.
Meanwhile, many have noted that the case for independence in the devolved nations appears strongest when a Conservative Government is in Westminster.
In the early Noughties, to curb the rising tide of independence sentiment across the Union, then Labour leader and Prime Minister Tony Blair rolled out vast devolution measures that looked to put the argument to bed once and for all.
Some 20 years later, however, and that campaign of decentralisation, noted Paul Embery, a leading trade unionist and Labour member, has led to Britain’s current constitutional crisis.
He told Express.co.uk Ms Sturgeon only appeared to have the hearts of the Scottish people because she uses “the nasty Tories in Westminster to blame for everything that goes wrong in Scotland”.
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He said: “Sturgeon’s quite the opportunist, she’s able to get away with a lot of stuff a normal leader of any other country wouldn’t be able to do just by blaming Westminster the whole time.
“It is quite an astute way to do things, but quite disingenuous at the same time, and think the SNP is a very opportunist organisation.
“When things go well, Scotland wants to claim credit, when things go badly, all it does is blame those nasty Tories down in Westminster.”
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer recently announced his plans to call a “constitutional commission” that would look into spreading further devolution to all corners of the UK.
It is a similar move to that of Mr Blair, and something people in Labour circles are calling “devo-max”.
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Yet Steven Fielding, Professor of Political History at the University of Nottingham, told Express.co.uk that Sir Keir’s attempts could be futile.
He said: “If things remain the same, it’s very likely Scotland will push for a referendum in the future and they’ll win it.
“Starmer’s argument is that if we don’t say we’re going to devolve power, as a kind of way to keep the Scots in the union, they’re going to leave – he’s the only leading politician that wants a union and wants to do something about it.
“Whether it works or not, I don’t know – it might be too late.”
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The independence argument has grown in popularity during the pandemic.
It has also risen significantly since the “once in a generation” 2014 referendum, in which 55 percent of Scots voted to stay a part of the UK.
Now, it is largely accepted that if a referendum was held tomorrow, Scotland would vote out.
However, Scotland’s top civil court dealt Scottish nationalists a blow last night after they declined to rule that the Scottish Parliament had the right to call an independence referendum without Westminster’s permission.
It comes as Ms Sturgeon said she will hold a “legal referendum” should the SNP win a majority in May’s Holyrood elections.
‘This Sovereign Isle’, published by Allen Lane, is out now.