We explain why the SNP would never disband – even if it got separation – and why politics would shift to a more virulent Scotland v England arena.
"The SNP would disband if Scotland was independent"
Sometimes we hear it said that if Scotland voted for separation then the function of the SNP would be complete. It would disband because "it's job would be done". It would leave the world of politics to the other parties to get on with the serious business of actually running the country, instead of causing everyone perpetually to obsess about the nation's identity.
Scotland would, they say, become "like every other country". It would no longer have a significant nationalist party because there would be no need for it.
Politics would return to normal. Everyone who currently votes for the SNP will "revert" to their true political allegiances, and will all start voting for Labour, the Tories, and the Lib Dems again...and everyone would live happily ever after!
We hear this from the SNP who try to trick some pro-UK people into thinking that there is "nothing to fear" from separation. "Don't worry", they say, "the SNP would disband and you wouldn't see their likes again."
No, that is not correct.
In the event of separation, the SNP would continue to be with us, as strong and loud as ever, because of several practical reasons, and political facts-of-life.
1. The SNP is a Multi-Million-Pound Machine
It offers well-paid political careers and public status to hundreds of people. It provides a political and social interest to thousands. The idea that all these people will just throw this away at the moment of the SNP's greatest triumph, is as realistic as imagining that a successful company with a successful brand will one day decide to shut up shop because it reached its sales target.
On the contrary, there is likely to be an influx of people wanting to join the SNP and get a piece of the money and action!
2. The SNP would become 'the True Church' of Scottish Politics
Its position at the top of the political tree would be almost unassailable. The SNP would claim to be "the true political embodiment of the will of the people of Scotland". And who would have the nerve to disagree?
Every political party and person would be judged and measured against them. Everyone would be judged by the extent to which they went along with the new dispensation.
All the mainstream political parties would quickly need to "get with the programme" if they were to be taken seriously, and not shunned as "anti-Scottish" outcasts.
That is how revolutions work!
Everyone has to agree to the revolution, and if they don't then they need to shut up and keep their head down, or suffer the consequences.
"If you don't like it here, then move to England" would become a demand, no longer a crass off-hand comment.
The mainstream parties would try to out-do each other on the Scottish nationalist scale. But that would be a fruitless task because the Scottish National Party would be unassailable.
3. The SNP would become the Guardian of the Revolution
In its status as 'the True Church', the SNP would be vigilant for any anti-revolutionary heresy. It would be quick to find it and attempt to punish it. In that role alone, its political continuation would be essential to the cause.
Any party advocating "another referendum" would be considered anti-revolutionary trouble-makers.
4. The SNP will Never be Satisfied
Imagine Scotland under the SNP trying to negotiate the "divorce settlement" with what remained of the "UK".
No argument with the remains of the "UK" would ever be concluded to its satisfaction. Every issue would offer endless political capital which would be mercilessly exploited for the SNP's benefit.
Which brings us to the fifth and most important political fact-of-life.
5. Independence Won't Make England Go Away!
It was the Duke of Wellington (Prime Minister from 1828-34) who said that "the business of war, and indeed life, is guessing what is on the other side of the hill."
Most politicians don't do this. They are short-termists.
Even when they don't have to "guess". Even when the consequences of an action, several weeks, months or years down the line can – with a little bit of thought – be fairly reasonably predicted, they still don't bother to work it out.
In this regard, many people on both sides of the Union v Separation debate are starry-eyed. They don't think things through.
For example, central to Scottish nationalist ideology is that England – due to its sheer size in the context of the British Isles – is too politically powerful and dominates Scotland as a consequence of "its majority" in the British Parliament. (Let us put aside for the moment the fact that it is not nations which dominate the British Parliament but political parties and political tendencies.)
The SNP claims that an "independent Scotland" would somehow be able to get away from such "English" domination.
But how, exactly?
Are we going to cut a big ditch from Berwick upon Tweed to the Solway, and row off into the North Atlantic?
Of course not. "England" is always going to be right where it is at the moment. It is going to be as politically powerful as ever, and likely even more so.
Yet, the SNP persist in telling us that an independent Scotland means that Scotland will now live in peace with England happily ever after?
If they are not satisfied with the relationship at present, how can they imagine that it is going to be different in the future? Why do they imagine things will suddenly be rosy?
The answer is because they do not know why the Union came together in the first place.
They dismiss the important political coming together in 1707 with cynical and incorrect notions of "bribery". They don't want to understand the political necessities of peace and trade, and consequent benefits of association which required a Union at the time, and which necessitate it still today.
They don't learn from history. They don't want to know the very good reasons why we have a Union right now.
So, in their starry-eyed manner they think that an "independent Scotland" would mean that England and Scotland would start to deal with each other as "equals", and basically all would be well as a consequence.
For a moment, let's think about what would be "on the other side of that hill..."
To the extent that some kind of "UK" Parliament remained, it would only be for some issues involving England, Wales and Northern Ireland – the latter now isolated, with violent Republicanism re-inspired.
Almost certainly, and quite quickly, a new English Parliament would become established. This would almost be a necessity.
This English Parliament would rapidly become the biggest and most important Parliament on these Islands.
It would start to look upon what remained of a "UK" Parliament in London, in the same way that Holyrood under the SNP looks upon the British Parliament today. That is, with contempt!
If Scottish nationalists think they have it bad at the moment, wait until an English Parliament is established.
If you think the SNP-dominated Scottish Parliament has a grievance against "Westminster", just wait until you see what it can whip up against an overtly English Parliament for the English in England.
The mind boggles!
Scotland would now be in an even worse position. There would now be two Parliaments in England to complain about.
There would be a powerful English one, constantly asserting its interests loudly against Scotland, and generally prevailing because of its size, and a "remnants of the UK" one in London, struggling to be heard and to represent what remained.
This would create even more conflict between Scotland and England; and also within England itself as the new English Parliament fought with Westminster for authority. The parochial nationalists in both Scotland and England would never be short of targets.
The entire political debate in Great Britain would quickly degenerate into Scotland v England and England v Scotland...all over again.
This tension would be everywhere. It would be all we would read and hear about. Socially and culturally, people would retreat into their "Scottishness" and their "Englishness".
At the same time, what was left of the British Parliament would have to dance to the tune of an increasingly powerful and influential English Parliament.
This would lead to the British Parliament effectively giving up on its concerns for Wales and Northern Ireland. Its priority would be to appease the noisy English Parliament.
We can reasonably predict that what was left of Westminster would quickly become redundant. It would struggle to remain relevant.
This rise of "England" as a specific political power would do nothing but encourage even more angry Scottish separatism. It would be fertile ground for the SNP to continue its politics of division.
What a disaster!
Yes indeed..."the business of life, is guessing what is on the other side of the hill."
Conclusion: A Separatist's Work is Never Done
The SNP will not disband if it wins a separation referendum. There are good practical and ideological reasons why this would never happen, including the fact that it would never be satisfied with whatever settlement was attempted; and because the rise of England as a specific political entity would introduce a new "dynamic" into the politics of these Islands which would play to the SNP's strengths.
Any pro-Union people who imagine that the SNP is going to go away if it gets its way, are deluding themselves.
The SNP is always going to be with us.
There will always be a significant minority of people in Scotland who want separation from the rest of the British Isles.
What is the answer?
Let's concentrate on the Big British Picture.
We have more in common than what divides us. Our political institutions should reflect that fact.
Let us realise the dangers of removing us all – Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Wales – from the Big British Pond where we can all rub along as best as we can.
Politically, this means working constantly to promote the values of solidarity not separation, of unity not division; to seek always to do more together than apart; and to appreciate and teach about the benefits and value of our precious common inheritance in our shared United Kingdom.
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The above article develops upon an piece we wrote on our Legacy Site with the same title, on 3-7-2012.