Time to face up to Unionists’ palpitating fear of Scottish independence


Commentary by Derek Bateman

It’s a Tory surge…they’re going to have more MPs…hunners and hunners o’ them…The bonfires are being lit on the hilltops and the message of despair is sweeping up the length of the country – the Tory Army is coming, led by Mad Dog ‘Fluffy’ Mundell. Bury the silver. Herd the ewes into the forest. Hide the portrait of Chairlie under the boards.

Derek Bateman

The opinion polls may just be having fun with us but I suspect not. The tsunami of 2015 has abated somewhat and the survivors are regrouping. Their dam wall is built around the candidate with the best chance of resisting the next flood and, like all walls, it will have partial success.

There will be scattered remains after the torrent has passed. In places it will be the SNP who will be swept away – Aberdeenshire? Moray? Perthshire? The Borders? MPs will be lost, some of them no doubt pals. It’s a precarious business. Those streams of votes that float some and sink others are the arteries of democracy itself – for better or worse. Just ask Michelle Thomson and Natalie McGarry.


But need we despair? Some argue it is crucial to resist these upstarts and give no succour to the imminent majority down south – one I think we will soon be safe in categorising as a One-Party State…But not me. There are a number of reasons why, strategically, what will be seen and reported in dutiful lapdog Scottish Press mode as a Tory Revival, is good for Yes.

First of all, if it proves correct and a handful of Conservative MPs make it to Westminster, how did they get there? Primarily because of the collapse of Labour is the answer in most cases. The Tories are still bumping along with little more support than they had in Thatcher’s day – it will most likely go higher but it is struggling to reach the levels one expects of a traditional and strong opposition. In other words around 30 per cent.


The Tories are relying on the disaffected from other parties to back them for one last tilt at resistance before the inevitable. People are frightened of what is coming – self-government. We should never underestimate how profound is the contempt of our fellow Scots for what we like to call our nation. The idea that it might be self-governing with no outside help from emotional props they rest on – reassuring Radio 4, Big Ben, public school sang froid and good manners – has them palpitating.

They will vote for the BNP if it will halt the Scot Nats. And even where the Tories don’t lie second, you have to give Ruthie credit for claiming the mantle of No Surrender Unionist-in-Chief. She has claimed the copyright on the Union in spite of performing screeching handbrake turns on everything else.

For the SNP the heart murmur that represents Labour shows how they have successfully taken on and crushed what was only a handful of years ago, a monster rearing above all else on the political landscape. This is an historical triumph. Labour may not be in decline so much as slipping into the grave, to disappear for ever. Now I would in all circumstances always prefer a Labour government in London to a Tory one, even under Jeremy. But I no longer vote for a government in London. It is of secondary importance to me. And I of secondary importance to them.


The key point to recall is that with either no MP at all (1997) or a single MP since, the Tories have only had the moral ability to control Scotland utilising the support of Labour Unionists. If Labour had truly put socialist ideals before party advantage – and their innate hatred of Nationalists – they would have opposed the Tories rigorously and threatened to opt for separation if their demands weren’t met. Instead they became the facilitators of Tory excess in Scotland with the apotheosis coming in the greatest single miscalculation in the history of Labour – the 2014 Better Together campaign. They held Scotland back and were appalled at what the people made of their Holyrood parliament (backing real powers and rejecting the pastiche of Scottish democracy Labour intended).

So the death of Labour removes from the field the one thing that has confused the picture – a left-of-centre pro-devolutionary party directly connected to the seat of power at Westminster. Without Labour, the games board is stark and unequivocal – progressive independence versus doctrinaire, anti-European right-wingery.

This is the ground on which the SNP can fight along with any other progressive independistas like the Greens. The logic is that, once the right-wing Labour voters have scurried off to vote Tory, those that are left have little choice to resist draconian neo-con policies except by voting for independence parties. Or, of course, not voting at all.

And, when taking on the Tories, the one thing you need is to present them as truly difficult enemy. That’s near impossible when they don’t have more than a single MP in Scotland – like trying to demonise Corbyn, it’s not easy when nobody takes him seriously. However, if there are 10 or a Dirty Dozen popping up on telly and making a noise, on a screen near you, the scare factor is palpable. They become an identifiable opponent that demands to be opposed, rather than something that happens far away in England.


The other advantage is that they will finally face the kind of scrutiny that they avoid today because the media is happy to connive at the idea that Davidson is somehow not responsible for policy-making at Westminster so can body-swerve awkward questions. Just see how uncomfortable she is over the rape clause. With a small platoon of MPs, no studio can be avoided, no question dismissed. Accountability returns.

Those of you who remember the 80’s and early nineties will recall the dwindling band of Tory MPs who held on in the last redoubts of Britnat loyalty in Scotland. Some were eccentric, some were stark raving bonkers and the grotesque image they presented deeply damaged the brand. Something similar could happen again judging by the standard of recruitment evident in their MSP selection. It doesn’t take the public long to realise they are being sold a pup.

All this, remember, against the background of an overwhelming SNP majority of, proportionately, four to one. Whatever the actual number of Tories returned, it will be marginal, leaving yet again a massive number of SNP members representing a massive mandate for independence – one that will be heard loud and clear in Brussels even if it is again ignored in London.


And doesn’t that then open up the idea laid out in our podcast on Newsnet Radio this week.

It is that, instead of waiting for a request for a referendum to be met, the Scottish government calls a general election when we know the outcome of the Brexit talks, in under two years time. It says to the Scots: This is your chance. Either you follow the mad Tories down the road to ruin or you stay in Europe by voting for our independence. And that is our mandate.

With a clutch of Tory MPs making that dread future all too real for us, enough Scots will open their eyes to the trap the Union has become and finally trust themselves to run their own country.

A Tory revival? Bring it on.


  1. I occasionally wonder what the unionists would do if the SNP did actually decide to campaign for indy (again!), and democratically win the day for Scotland on June 8th, as they surely would? I can imagine a ‘Save the Union’ rally being organised. It would be led by Ruth, Tompkins and Mundell, Lords Lang and Forsyth etc. with Kezia and Willie Rennie marching a wee bit off to the periphery of the front line, there but not exactly ‘together’. There would be assorted Olympic medal winners, ex rugby players, and ‘leading’ aristos. Right behind them would be the BNP waving union flags, burning the odd saltire on the way. Ahint them the various other ‘elites’ (leaders of institutions, private schools, financial and legal sectors, elite uni’s etc), followed by the landed gentry who own much of Scotland, and included among the throng would be many Murrayfield debenture holders. Assorted others would take up the rear. Have I missed anybody?

      • “And your point is?”

        I should have thought the ‘point’ was obvious. It is that the noisiest unionists can be found amongst the privileged, the elites, the vested interests, and the fascists. If this is what you want, then vote Tory.

    • And the club formerly known as Rangers entire support….Oops …I see you’ve already included the union flag waiving BNP…..that will be them then!

  2. I do wonder, having supported the idea of Independence since 1974, just how keen SNP supporters are for independence. There is a lot of misdirection, as the organs of the British state make their best efforts. In the old days nationalists were tailed by the secret service. Now BBC,and other media, including social media are used to throw doubt, confusion and uncertainty – causing arguments within the cohort.This was done in India (i.e. Pakistan). It will be tried for Orkney & Shetland. The state will not yield. It’s existential, not about political parties. The result is dissension and lack of self-confidence. An opportunity the size of the moon is there. The SNP manifesto should seek a mandate for independence. Due to FPTP, a 45% vote is enough to succeed. Majority of MPs. It’s done!

  3. Aye thats all very well but do not discount the effect of the establishment inc. the London media weirdos – BBC at the forefront as per usual. They (the BBC) would rather put out some ludicrous royal family puff piece than mention SNP or Greens – when they mention Tories, Labour, Lib Dems and even UKIP (no MPs now). The BBC is a ridiculous and dishonourable organisation badly in need of root and branch reform in its newsroom anyway. Kind of odd that BBC Scotland is the worst of the lot. I suppose they flock around their wee pal Ruth “What Rape Clause” Davidson.

  4. Interesting comment about a “one party” state down south – so what does that make Scotland under the SNP? Pot calling kettle there, I believe!

  5. What is extremely unlikely to change is the fact that Scotland as a polity is social democratic and England isn’t.
    That is what has to be addressed if any serious attempt at democratic rule is to be enabled in these islands.
    So far,the response from London has been to ignore this and give the natives north of the border some sweeties to keep them quiet but is unsustainable in the longer term.
    Being out of the EU,however,allows London to ignore internationally agreed laws and practices relating to democratic governance….Scots take notice.
    Immigration was just a smoke screen for all the other nasty right wing policies England’s Tories want to implement.

  6. 33% saying they would vote Tory in GE 17 in Scotland?

    Social democratic? This is a really worrying trend. Who are these people?

    • One third or more will probably comprise people from rest UK (in line with previous voting intention surveys, and census data) who consider themselves more culturally British/English than Scottish, and hence appear to vote for reasons of nationality, and not specific policies. For some voters, it evidently does not matter how disastrous Tory policies are; they will still ‘vote Britain’, as Alan Bissett once said.

  7. MBC

    Well it looks as if a lot of them are ex-Labour voters who hate what the SNP have done to their party more than they hate what the Tories have done to Scotland.

    • No he isnt. Nor are you.

      The SG is a minority governmnet at present. Thats how the d’Hondt voting system was designed (by Labour) – to prevent a one party state.

      Of course maybe you are referring to the fact that SNP have 56 out of the possible WM seats ? But you forget that those 56 seats can do very little in a Westminster populated in the main by unionists.

      Id say you are a little confused.

      Of course when Independence comes there will be a REAL Scottish Labour Party amd a REAL Scottish Conservative Party (sans the “and Unionist”) to offer a challenge to the SNP. In fact maybe the SNP will even have to rebrand itself – since it will no longer be seeking independence?

  8. I would go as far as applying Westminster policies to any ward that votes in a Tory councillor.
    That’s what you vote for, what you want.
    That’s respect of the voters’ will to the deepest level.
    Let’s see how many vote the same way again when they’ve been a few years without free bus passes, free prescriptions, free glasses, free elderly care well integrated with the best NHS in the UK, can no longer afford to live in a large house with a spare bedroom for their visiting grandchildren, their grandchildren can’t afford to get to Uni or need to crowdfund toilet paper for the school.
    Let them live in their “meritocratic utopia” and swallow that bitter medicine.

  9. All this nationalists vs unionists mouth-froth stuff might not be very applicable if you bother to think about it, and I must say it is getting boring – it sounds like a default tirade shouted from a bubble.

    Much of the move to the Tories in the polls has come from former SNP voters. I think that the increase in Tory support in Scotland is probably for the same reasons as the increase in Tory support in Wales.

    • When is a majority not a majority, when it is an SNP majority and being viewed through the eyes of a unionist party like the tories or labour plus their media friends.

      When is not a majority viewed as a majority, when its spurious polls by unionist press that are used by a unionist party like the tories or labour.

      Bar is always higher and or moved for the SNP / independence cause and the unionists will keeep moving it and starving Scotland of funds until our electorate turn, or so they believe, that’s their strategy.

      The idiots in the labour party have been replaced by the unpleasant tories, Scotland needs reminding of what happens when the tories are unrestained at westminster, e.g. thatcher.

      My youth was blighted by thatcher, I don’t want Mrs May being Thatcher mark 2.

  10. A useful problem for the media. Some Scottish Tory MPs having to answer questions for all the Conservatives would also highlight the media’s close association with them.

  11. I am surprised how many apparent SNP supporters seem to have a palpable fear of independence. Independence means Freedom. New values, a new world. Let the English (rUK) rule themselves. Such is the damage from a state system (traditional media) that tries to inculcate fear, creating lack of self-confidence in a people. In my opinion, Scots are amongst the best of humanity; too modest to see it.

    • Indeed! The dreaded fear factor. Fear of the British quitting and the threat of subsequent chaos was employed by the colonial rulers as a weapon against the growing clamour for freedom from the ‘dominions’.
      During the first referendum the strategy named Project Fear exploited the same themes. If you go for independence things will go badly for you. There was also the implied threat that we will make damned sure they do.
      Nevertheless 45% of the voters confidently opted for ‘yes’.
      Unionist fear of Scottish independence is driven by the fact that the UK would effectively cease to exist as a state with all the consequences diplomatic, economic and political on the world stage. The loss of Scotland would have major political resonances in rUK too. The stakes are high.

    • Sohail, I suspect it may be that it is the SNP leadership rather than root and branch supporters who fear going the extra mile, ‘to dae or dee’, as it were. Hopefully many SNP groups around the nation can prompt the leadership to get its act together in time before June 8th, by passing to the leadership a motion such as this:

      ‘That the SNP campaigns for Scotland’s independence at the UK General Election on June 8th 2017, which would be democratically secured via the party winning a majority of seats in Scotland, and with independence supporting parties securing over 50% of the vote in Scotland’.


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