Illustration by Hannah Robinson
Last week on BBC News a Scottish Conservative gloated that every time Nicola Sturgeon discusses Indyref2 the Conservatives gain votes. Independence is however almost all Nicola Sturgeon can talk about and it is the issue at the heart of her new campaign. This seems to be a blatant flaw in the SNP’s strategy. Since the SNP have recently announced that the cost of a ‘progressive alliance’ with Labour would be the promise of a second independence vote, pro-union Scots are being forced reluctantly towards the Conservatives as the only option for protecting the union.
There was, of course, a time when the SNP was a party concerned with anything other than independence, however hard that is to imagine now. By positioning independence at the centre of her campaign, Sturgeon has ostensibly made a huge mistake. Her party is further polarising Scotland, turning previously irresolute voters into Conservatives, the second-largest party in Scotland. It seems hard to believe the leader of the SNP would make such a blatant strategic error.
That is until you begin to consider the implications of increased Conservative support in Scotland. In July a poll conducted eight days after Boris Johnson’s election indicated that support for Scottish independence had peaked at 46%. That was the first lead for independence since March 2017, and the biggest lead since polls taken just after the 2016 EU referendum. Increased support for independence in Scotland evidently owes itself largely to the country’s overwhelming anti-Brexit sentiment (apparently the only issue that Scottish voters can agree on).
Repeated failures by Conservative governments to represent the views of Scottish voters on Brexit has led to growing discontent in Scotland and a resurgence of the ‘how much worse could it be’ attitude of 2014. It follows therefore that a Labour win on December 12 would be just about the worst outcome for Nicola Sturgeon. Labour’s promised immediate implementation of a people’s vote on Brexit would most likely reverse the independence support that Conservatives have inadvertently been building up for years. Even if the SNP formed a so-called ‘progressive alliance’ with a minority Labour government and were subsequently granted a second vote on independence, chances are by that time most of the support for Indyref2 that exists now will have disappeared along with Boris Johnson.
By putting independence at the heart of her campaign Nicola Sturgeon cunningly polarises the Scottish electorate into two camps, SNP and Conservative, thereby providing the Conservatives with a few extra seats that might just make the difference in the upcoming general election. If Brexit goes ahead the SNP’s mandate for a new independence vote would likely become so strong that even the Conservatives could no longer deny it. In turning the SNP into a one-issue party, Nicola Sturgeon has cleverly forced voters sceptical of independence reluctantly into the hands of the Conservatives in a selfish effort to further anti-Westminster sentiment in Scotland and bolster support for her own stubborn independence agenda.