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Society, Politics & Law

The 2015 General Election in Scotland: The 2014 Independence Referendum - Continuing Fall-out

Updated Thursday, 2nd July 2015

Looking at the impact that the promise of more devolution has had on the question of Scotland's constitutional future.

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David Cameron and Alex Salmond Creative commons image Icon Surian Soosay under CC BY-2.0 license under Creative-Commons license  

The ongoing debate over additional devolved powers has meant that the Independence Referendum has not ‘gone away’! In turn this is also closely interconnected with other political controversies in Scotland – controversies which led to very different outcomes for the main political parties in Scotland in May 2015. One of the dominant myths that have emerged from the 2014 Independence Referendum is that the demand for Scottish Independence reflected a surge in support for Scottish nationalism and that nationalist issues were at the core of the campaign.

This is mistaken in a number of ways. As I and others have written elsewhere, the Independence campaign was not driven by narrow nationalist issues but largely by issues of social justice and concerns about the direction of the economy. Welfare issues also occupied centre stage. The Independence Referendum campaign then revolved around not the future of the UK state as such, nor of a future Scottish state – but importantly around the continuation and enhancement of the welfare state. That these issues were increasingly tied to questions of Scotland’s constitutional future is also true but nationalist arguments were not to the fore.

The YES campaign was not simply or solely an SNP campaign. It attracted huge support from the left in Scotland, from the Greens, Scottish Socialist Party and from many who were either new to politics, especially among the young, or those who saw in Scottish Independence the power to remove Trident nuclear missiles from Scotland; to invest in sustainable resources and also to end the attacks on welfare and public services that so characterised the 2010 UK Coalition Government.

Opposition to ‘austerity’ is the issue which galvanised support for Independence – and which has also continued to generate huge support for the YES side of the debate. The YES campaign has not gone away: it represents not just a campaign around a demand for Scottish Independence, but saw the birth of a diverse social movement that saw in that Independence the route to making Scotland a fairer and more socially just society.

It is the creation of this social movement that continues to influence and shape Scottish politics in the aftermath of the September 2014 Referendum and also before and since the 2015 General Election. Had the movement simply been one for Scottish Independence on its own, in isolation from non-nationalist issues, then the likelihood is that it would have largely vanished from the Scottish political scene, or at best become much more marginal. But there are no signs of this happening. The consequences of this for the Labour Party in Scotland in particular have been devastating.





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