Earthquakes in the land of fire and ice and Scotland’s political tectonic plates

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Learning from Iceland to use positives to reshape Scotland's political landscape
Learning from Iceland to use positives to reshape Scotland's political landscape

By Russell Bruce

A story caught my attention last Friday in the New York Times. For a bit over a week 18,000 earthquakes have taken place in Iceland. That is the equivalent of nearly 2 every minute of the day. Iceland sits astride two tectonic plates, the Eurasian and the North American adding extra tension to the forces still shaping the Icelandic landscape. When magma a few kilometres below the surface starts to move this causes the plates to move apart creating the conditions for tremor pulses.

Major earthquake activity is often followed by the other factor reshaping the island, volcanic activity. The last major volcanic eruption was Eyjafjallajökull in 2010 which caused massive disruption to jet traffic in western and northern Europe for almost a week, affecting around 10 million travellers. There have been two significant eruptions since but none of those in the last decade match Laki/Skaftáreidar at the end of the eighteenth century.

It is not thought a volcanic eruption would be a threat to inhabited areas according to Freysteinn Sigmundsson, a research professor of geophysics at the University of Iceland. “We’re talking about an effusive eruption, rather than explosive,” said Dr. Sigmundsson, explaining that the lava would likely bubble out with little explosive force.

Icelanders are used to living in an island with an ever changing landscape and normally just get on with their lives. This week though they are regularly checking in with the cameras to see if the magma has started to bubble to the surface. Nature viewing is a bit special on Iceland.

Social media magma

With Iceland’s violent physical landscape we see a parallel to the shifting tectonic plates in Scottish politics. Over 10 days magma from the depths of social media oozed to the surface in the proceedings of the Holyrood inquiry during Alex Salmond’s appearance on Friday 26th February. A robust appearance by the Lord Advocate, James Wolffe on Tuesday 2nd March burst some of the bubbles in preparation for Nicol Sturgeon’s session before the committee on Wednesday. It is a fair conclusion that the magma was skillfully leveled and heat drawn.

That the Scottish government and Nicola Sturgeon had questions to answer over how the allegations against the former First Minister were first handled is not in doubt. No government gets everything absolutely right and this was an unprecedented situation for the SNP government to deal with. The procedure, which remains in place, is very similar to that adopted by Westminster which also does not exclude investigation of former politicians against whom allegations have been made.

Scotland’s political tectonic plates

The tectonic plates of Scottish politics comprise on one side 3 unionist parties with a combined vote of around 46% in the constituency and regional list votes. (Based on average percentages in the last 4 properly weighted polls)

The trend in support for the SNP and pro independence parties has been dropping in recent polls. Rumblings seem to be on the wane within the SNP membership and over 10,000 have joined in recent days. Some in the wider independence movement are taking a bit longer to process the need to set aside the winter of Salmond’s discontent and much unfounded nonsense spread on some blogs and social media for months on end.

So the magma is still spitting a bit but the threat from 3 unionist parties working in active coalition against independence supporting parties is very real. Consolidation is urgent as the Scottish Parliament closes on 25th March for the start of the election period – just 17 days away. Publication of the notice of election will be announced between the 15th and 24th March. Candidate nominations and withdrawals close on 31st March.

Union vs Independence, 4most recent polls 8/3/21

Independence parties vs unionist parties. Scotland’s regional list vote based on the average of the 4 most recent polls, 8th March 2021

The combined independence vote on the regional list is 51.25% (42.5% for the SNP and 8.75% for the Greens) against 46% for the unionist coalition with the smaller parties splitting around 3 – 4% between them. None of the small parties on the regional list show any sign of breaking through the 5% barrier which is the point at which votes for small parties actually make it through to list seat calculations. Votes for parties with less than 5% are counted and set aside. These votes do not elect any list MSPs.

Only a Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament can bring about the conditions to ensure an independence referendum. It is our collective role to do everything in the days to come to make 6th May the day we create our independence parliament. The will of Scotland’s people must be clear and not clouded by differences within the movement or continuing sniping at Nicola Sturgeon.

We must all focus on ensuring we return a parliament with a clear majority for independence because the disruption is playing into unionist hands. Labour and the Lib Dems are both climbing into Boris’s Union Bus, buying into the Tory agenda which means the piece by piece dismantling of the Scottish Parliament – more powers taken away, control taken over the Scottish NHS to sell it off bit by bit to the chumocracy. They hunger for more fat contracts as the PPE and Test and Trace moneytrees fade.

Scotland’s political magma is still warm. With collective determination the independence movement can turn bubbling magma into a positive by adopting an Icelandic mindset to win back support lost in recent weeks. We will have our political Eyjafjallajökull, a full blown freedom eruption of magnificent proportions. All we need to do is come together, win over soft unionist voters and make sure we all vote for independence parties.

There is no time to waste. Get the good vibes drumming on the journey to independence, to reshape Scotland’s political landscape for all time. First a joyful political eruption to elect our independence parliament then on to the vote that will take us out of this domineering union so all decisions on Scotland’s future are shaped in Scotland, not 500 miles away.

A good time to watch Phantom Power’s Iceland – the extreme nation again. A small nation that thinks big