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The election you really weren’t expecting

IT WASN’T very long ago that it genuinely seemed just about possible that the SNP wouldn’t have to face another election before independence, or at least before Scotland had decided to become independent. The next Holyrood election wasn’t due until 2021, and the pro-indy parties had (and still have) a clear mandate to call an indyref before then. Although the parliamentary arithmetic at Westminster meant there was always a possibility of another snap general election, there seemed a reasonable chance for a long while that Theresa May or her successor would be able to hold out until 2022. The next Scottish local elections weren’t due until the same year. And although the UK was scheduled to take part in the European Parliament elections in May of this year, the triggering of the Article 50 process was carefully timed to ensure that Brexit would be completed two months before then.

Things have changed. The prospect of an independence referendum hasn’t receded, but there must be a question mark over the timing of any vote due to the SNP leadership’s extreme reluctance to countenance the holding of a consultative referendum without a Section 30 order (an option they have mysteriously started to describe as “illegal”, even though it’s far from clear that it would be any such thing). In any case, the chaos of Brexit has made it harder and harder to imagine the current Westminster parliament lasting its full term. Some independence supporters would actually now view an early general election as highly serendipitous - if the SNP really feel, for whatever reason, that they need to secure yet another mandate to hold a referendum, it might well be fortuitous if the opportunity to do so happened to come up sooner rather than later. To be sure, there would be dangers attached to staking everything on a good result in the ‘away fixture’ of a Westminster election, especially with there being such a large number of ultra-marginal seats in Scotland. A relatively small amount of votes could make the difference between a landslide victory and a disastrous defeat. But, let’s face it, independence is never going to be secured without taking a risk at the ballot box sooner or later.

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iScot Magazine
February/March 2019

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