Scottish independence grows more popular despite Boris Johnson’s ‘charm offensive’

Cabinet Meeting Departures -  Tuesday 1 September 2020 - Downing Street, London

In 2014, the Scottish independence referendum made big news internationally. It was a curiosity and a political issue, and even celebrities and royals were chiming in. Queen Elizabeth let her anti-independence feelings be known, and David Cameron (the prime minister at the time) was hellbent on “keeping” Scotland. At the end of the day, the pro-independence people got 44% of the vote. Something to build on, for sure, but most people didn’t believe that the Scottish independence movement would have legs for another decade or so. Then Brexit came and Scotland was like “WTF” and Scots voted to stay in the EU. Brexit passed. I remember commentators saying (in 2016) that Brexit would actually pave the way for an even bigger energy for Scottish independence. And here we go: Boris Johnson is trying to stop the Scexit.

Boris Johnson was forced to curtail a family holiday in Scotland after the press appeared, revealed the remote location of his holiday cottage, and interviewed a livid nationalist sheep farmer who accused the prime minister of pitching a voluminous cream bell tent in his field without permission. Perhaps it was inevitable that Johnson’s trip didn’t go to plan. Navigating both the final stretch of the Brexit process and the ongoing pandemic—which has claimed over 41,000 lives in the U.K. and plunged Britain into a chasmic recession—Johnson is currently grappling with another looming problem: Scotland is straining to break away from the United Kingdom. While 44% of Scots voted for independence in a 2014 referendum, recent polls indicate that 52.5% would now vote to sever the union, forming a consistent majority for the first time.

Currently under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, who recently told the BBC she believed in independence with “every fiber” of her being, the Scottish National Party has governed Scotland for 13 years. Ahead of the country’s elections next May, in which the SNP is expected to attract more voters, the party has declared it will include a commitment to a second independence referendum in its manifesto. Britain’s Brexiteer government emphatically does not want to oversee the disintegration of the United Kingdom. Equally, it understands the allure of such a referendum: the appeal of breaking with a centralized bureaucracy from which many voters feel geographically and culturally distant.

And so it has embarked on a hasty charm offensive, dispatching a cadre of leading ministers across the border. Johnson chatted to crab farmers on the Orkney Islands and firmly emphasized his opposition to defection. He was tailed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, whose furlough scheme has supported nearly 900,000 Scottish workers. Meanwhile, Michael Gove, a chief architect of Brexit who was raised in Aberdeen, has been helming private talks with various political figures. He’s even forged an unlikely partnership with socialist George Galloway, who hosts a program on Russia Today called Sputnik Orbiting the World. As the Johnson administration rallies to protect the union, it faces an uncomfortable conundrum. Did Brexit, with its pugnacious emphasis on both Britishness and self-determination, fuel the very independence movement they are now trying to squash?

[From Vanity Fair]

Yes. Brexit led to this. It’s not just that the Brexit vote and years of Brexit shenanigans led to this, it’s that Scotland didn’t actually want to leave the EU. If Scotland becomes independent, they’ll get to rejoin the EU on their own and… exit the Brexit. And BoJo is not the man to lead any sensitive diplomatic political wrangling either. Anyway… it’s interesting. So far, no one is saying that there will definitely be another Scexit vote in the next year, but how can they avoid it? I have to laugh – the Queen seeing her diminishing power in real time, chickens coming home to roost for BoJo, etc.

The Queen attends a ceremony to mark her Official Birthday

Photos courtesy of Backgrid, Avalon Red.

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44 Responses to “Scottish independence grows more popular despite Boris Johnson’s ‘charm offensive’”

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  1. madameX says:

    “Charm offensive” and “Boris Johnson” are not phrases I generally associate with each other.

    So many amazingly overly specific phrases in this article, starting with “a livid nationalist sheep farmer” and then my favorite: “Johnson chatted to crab farmers on the Orkney Islands and firmly emphasized his opposition to defection.” I keep reading it as “[Johnson] firmly emphasized his opposition to defecation.” Which is, uh, quite the mental image.

    • Yup, Me says:

      He frequently looks so hunched over in photos. And he always reminds me of a raggedy doll with its head being dragged on the ground.

  2. A says:

    Just gonna say that it probably won’t be very easy for Scotland to rejoin the EU even if they leave the UK. Several other European states have independence movements or territories that would like to break away (like we saw with Catalonia and Spain a few years ago) and they all have a vested interest in NOT giving those causes any life. Allowing Scotland to join the EU independently would mean other break away states could also apply to join, strengthening their movements and weakening central governments arguments against dissolving their current political bonds.

    • Frida says:

      Just gonna say that’s not true as has been explicitly stated by the EU several times. Big difference between a new potential member state and one who has been living according to EU legislation for 40+ years.

      • A says:

        France doesn’t want to expand the EU as it is. Tusk saying the EU has sympathy for Scotland doesn’t necessarily mean much in practice.

      • TrixC says:

        How is that different from Catalonia then, they’re also part of the EU at the moment?

    • Digital Unicorn says:

      It won’t be easy for an independent Scotland to join primarily for the fact that it’s national debt make it another Greece and the EU has explicitly said it needs to bring it down substantially to be even considered. They need to stop the lies that an independent Scotland will waltz into the EU it won’t. It will go to the back of the queue. Again confirmed by the EU.

      I wouldn’t place much on these polls as the data sets are low and tend to be skewed to these who support the SNP as they r most likely to respond to a poll about it. One poll says one thing and another says something else.

      All Sturgeon has is the Indy mantra, a distraction from how abysmally her government has been running the country. They refuse to take responsibility for the failing NHS and education system and only backtracked on the exams scandal when the youngsters went out and protested. They have yet to take responsibility for the elderly people they chucked out of hospitals to Covid ravaged care homes.

      There maybe support in some areas for Independence but it’s not a priority for the population. Jobs and the economy are.

      • Thirtynine says:

        I think they would look favourably on Scotland rejoining, but the issue with the currency would need to be resolved first. There are options for that, but it would be a big part of any independence transition.

  3. Jane says:

    There won’t be another independence vote in the next year because the Westminster government has to give permission for it, and it certainly isn’t going to precisely because it’s screwed up everything so badly, not just the response to the pandemic, but also the way that Scotland and Scottish voters have been treated (i.e. with huge contempt) over the last few years. Nicola Sturgeon is a far more impressive First Minister than Boris Johnson is a Prime Minister, and she has handled the pandemic better, so it’s not surprising that she’s been completely demonised in the UK press and criticised by Westminster while they simultaneously steal Scotland’s policies a few days after they’re announced.

    I live in Glasgow and while I’m not yet convinced by the economic arguments in favour of independence (frankly, I don’t see how it’s any different to Brexit as far as the catastrophic effect it’ll have on the Scottish economy is concerned as the rest of the UK is our biggest trading partner, much as the EU was the UK’s), I’m completely in favour of the ideological ones as things stand currently.

  4. emu says:

    Ooh yes! Free Caledonia!

    Poor Lizzie doesn’t want to give up Balmoral.

    • LizzieI t says:

      She has squandered all the good will that came her way after Tony Blair rescued her initial handling of Diana’s death. Squandered it on hiding a pedo son and abandoning her favorite grandson to the wolves in the tabloids.

    • BayTampaBay says:

      I thought Scotland was going to keep Lizzy as the Head of State of an independent Scotland? She would be QEI of Scotland and QEII of the United Kingdoms of England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

      Do any of my UK CBers see a re-unification of Ireland anytime soon?

    • notasugarhere says:

      Balmoral is her private property, whether or not she is monarch of Scotland.

  5. Angela says:

    There are a lot of Scottish people that want to stay in the UK despite what the tabloids likes to say. A little premature to say there will be a spilt. Also the vote for brexit was super close by 2% it wasnt an overly property popular idea to begin with but we were hijacked by bumbling fascist baboons.

    Boris is a twat so I think the SNP will get more votes the next election because he’s an idiot

    Dual citizen speaking here.

  6. Killfanora says:

    You clearly don’t understand that the Scottish referendum was allowed as a once in a generation vote. And the Scots who voted to remain in the union did so because they realised that financially Scotland cannot go it alone. They simply don’t have the money. The English government subsidises Scotland very heavily. They get more money per person than those in England. Without the money the government pumps into Scotland it would be bankrupt. It was laughable to think that the EU would want yet another bankrupt country to join them if the Scots had gained independence and begged to be allowed to remain in the EU when the rest of the UK has voted to get out.

    • notasugarhere says:

      62 percent of Scotland voted against Brexit. It is clear the majority would welcome another vote on Independence as well, this time one that is not polluted by Putin.

      The majority of the natural resources in the UK are located in Scotland, including the North Sea oil reserves.

      BJ, who is said to be already cheating on his new baby mum, is another Putin Puppet too stupid to realize he’s being used by Vlad. Putin wants Scottish independence, so he’ll keep his minions on the case.

      • BayTampaBay says:

        nota, I read that BJ is not in good health, quite ill and does not plan to hang around corridors of power if the UK ends up Brexiting with no UK deal.

        Please spill the tea on BJ cheating with his next ex-wife.

      • Killfanora says:

        North Sea oil and gas reserves contribute £35 billion to the UK economy. But this is a little under 1%of GDP and is expected to decline in coming years. (Economy of Scotland)
        The UK had a GDP of $2.83 trillion in 2019, from sectors like finance, retail, services, manufacturing, construction, tourism, entertainment. So yes, Scotland relies on Government funding, and that is why the majority of Scots have voted to remain part of the Union.

    • Frida says:

      “Once in a generation” was a single throwaway comment meant to encourage people to vote in 2014 as oppose to get complacent and wait for the next one. A majority of No voters did so because they were told it was the only way to guarantee continued EU membership… and look how that turned out! “More money per person” has been debunked several times and is generally peddled by Mail readers. Independence is coming, try not to miss us too much!

    • Jodie Stalker says:

      This is an ignorant and ridiculous pov. If Scotland is so poor and such a drain on Westminster, why are the Tories so hell-bent on keeping us? Could it possibly be because we bring more to the “union” in terms of renewable energy sources, whisky, tourism, oil etc? We put in more than we get back. The sooner Scotland is independent, the better.

    • Thirtynine says:

      The referendum ‘was allowed as a once in a generation vote.’ And right there is your problem. The UK is meant to be a union of equals. Who is Boris to refuse to allow Scotland to have or not have a referendum if the people of Scotland desire one? Is he your master?
      And one of the biggest reasons Scotland voted to stay in the Union was because it also meant remaining within the EU. Clearly, as that is no longer possible, then the basis for a negative independence vote no longer exists. To cling to ‘oh, it was once in a generation’ in a complete reversal of circumstances indicates that it is more likely that you are simply afraid to of the probable outcome. And I will also suggest that any economic suffering brought about by independence, is going to be more than matched by that inflicted upon Scotland by Brexit.

  7. Veronica S. says:

    Something I found that was really interesting when looking into a Scotland exit is that apparently most of the UK’s existing nuclear weapons (what’s left from before they signed the non-proliferation treaty) are kept at a base in Scotland itself, so that’ll be an interesting bit of negotiation that’ll have to go down if they do wind up breaking up the UK.

    I have a feeling a *lot* of UKers are going to rue this in the long run. Not just because of the long term costs of leaving the EU, but I have a feeling they’re looking to dismantle the NHS and cash in on privatized healthcare the way the US has. Britain is one of those countries that I think most people mistake for being better off than it actually is because it has nationalized healthcare, but their average income is shockingly low for the cost of living. I really worry about some of my friends who live there and what may be coming their way.

  8. Andrew’s Nemesis says:

    Boris is a fool, a buffoon. He has no idea what he’s doing. What a choice we were offered – Corbyn or Boris. The prospect of Corbyn was so terrifying (I had my bags packed in case he won, and feared his government utterly like the other 84% of British Jews) – but Boris just incapable. He’s mentally a fifth former at public school (your private schools), and part of the debating society. He’s unloyal, sexually incontinent, and like Melania ‘Just Doesn’t Care’. We really are doomed under him. I fear for our future.
    I don’t blame Scotland. England owes Scotland a massive debt in terms of their cultural and technological advances that have made such a huge difference to our lives, and the number of times through history that England has betrayed them and treated them so absolutely wretchedly. The Highland Clearances were a massive stain on British history. I would miss the Scots terribly if the Union broke apart. But it’s up to them. It’s their free choice. They must do what is best for their nation and their people. I offer them the very best of luck, whatever they decide.

  9. lucy2 says:

    Scotland is one of my absolute favorite and most beautiful places I’ve ever traveled, and I hope someday to go again. I hope whatever happens in the future works out for the best.

  10. notasugarhere says:

    His ‘charm offensive’? There are people who think BoJo has ‘charm’?

  11. Penguin says:

    I think you’ve oversimplified a very complex issue which I can’t blame you for as you’re simply referring an inferior source. To save a much longer comment I will simply say that I doubt another referendum is coming, but I do think the UK will federalise. It’s true that a majority of Scots voted against Brexit, including myself, but a lot voted for as well. Independence has been tagged on to the EU membership far too much and it’s one of the reasons the campaign failed. It never managed to make a solid case in itself as to why we should leave.

    • BayTampaBay says:

      “Independence has been tagged on to the EU membership far too much and it’s one of the reasons the campaign failed.”

      Not sure I understand.

      Does Scotland want to say in the EU?

      • Penguin says:

        The Brexit referendum says that 62% of Scottish voters want to stay in the EU, but I still think those results were skewed as EU citizens who are residents cannot vote. My point was that regardless of EU membership there needs to be a very solid case of why Scotland should be independent, other than national identity and ideology. Like what economic state we would be in, how we would manage foreign relations, how would we afford to maintain the vast public sector that exists in Britain like health, education, benefits etc. That case, in my opinion, was never made.

  12. Frida says:

    The Scottish government has already announced that it will be setting out legislation to prepare for another referendum, so we’re a little farther along than you claim. The UK government has spent the past four years or so making the case for independence for us, which is certainly kind of them! We won’t let the door hit us on the way out.

    • Nic919 says:

      When a regional government openly states they want to separate, then one referendum isn’t going to stop them. Quebec did the same in 80 and 95 when the PQ provincial government was in power. It was a close call in 95 but mostly it didn’t pass because the argument was cultural more than economic. In Scotland it is the reverse. There is a strong economic argument to make to take Scotland out of the UK and rejoin the EU. And since so little has been enacted by Westminster to actually implement Brexit, if the vote is held soon, they can deal with Scotland as they are dealing with Ireland.

  13. mew says:

    The whole Brexit is one hilarious catastrophe. Poor Scots.

  14. Rachael Prest says:

    That man has as much charm as a dog turd.

  15. Eugh says:

    God, I thought that photo was a cosplay Hugh Grant

  16. FF says:

    There’s no charm, just offensive.

  17. The Recluse says:

    Go Scotland!!!

  18. Kitten says:

    While joining the EU independently may be an option for Scotland, that’s not what this is about: England has a very long history of treating Scotland like a second class citizen in all things; it needs to end, it hasn’t, and it likely won’t. You want to run England into the ground? Fine. Don’t take Scotland with you. That simple.

  19. L4frimaire says:

    There is nothing charming about Johnson and his rag tag bunch of right wing goons. Definitely offensive though.