2023 could be an election year

Well, here we are, another year, and no doubt another Conservative outrage against democracy and decency just around the corner. This is the year when Scotland ought to have been having another independence referendum, but we all know that isn’t going to happen – at least not this October – because of the shameless contempt of British political parties for democracy in Scotland.

Both the Conservatives and Keir Starmer’s Labour party have shamelessly abrogated to themselves the right to contradict the electorate and are refusing to accept the verdict of the people of Scotland as expressed through the ballot box in the May 2021 Scottish Parliament elections, attempting to justify this theft of democratic legitimacy with ad hoc post-rationalisations which do not stand up to the most cursory scrutiny and which insult the intelligence of the voters.

The media in Scotland is complicit in this contempt for the rules of every election in the UK since the introduction of the democratic franchise because they insist on treating this as a blow for the SNP and not what it really is, an utter travesty of democracy and proof that within the UK the people of Scotland can only get what they vote for if the parties of Anglo-British nationalism permit it. The only reason that last October’s Supreme Court ruling was necessary was because Labour and the Conservatives refused and still refuse, to accept the will of the people.

It is an appalling scandal that this is not a bigger scandal. It should be the headline in every paper, the BBC should be unceasingly doorstepping Labour and Conservative politicians, demanding that they explain themselves, but they will not, because the media in Scotland is woefully unrepresentative of public opinion in this country and sees its role as maintaining Westminster hegemony. This is a media which is allowing the parties of Anglo-British nationalism to get away with a decades long lie to the people of Scotland by claiming that the United Kingdom is a voluntary union of nations when we now know that it is nothing of the sort. The United Kingdom is indistinguishable in practice from Greater England. 2022 will be remembered in the Scottish history books as the year that the UK Supreme Court put a stake through the heart of traditional Scottish unionism. There are no unionist political parties in Scotland any more, only parties which seek to maintain the political and constitutional subordination of Scotland to the dictates of English nationalism and a Westminster parliament which is its creature.

It is because of the contempt for democracy in Scotland displayed by Labour and the Conservatives that a de facto referendum is a necessity. The mere fact that this measure has to be resorted to is proof in itself that democracy in Scotland cannot and will not be respected by the institutions of the British state. The campaign for Scottish independence is very much a campaign for democracy itself.

The current Conservative Government enjoys a notional majority of 69, but that figure belies the fragility and instability of Sunak’s government. The Conservatives are deeply divided and lurch from one scandal to the next. Sunak struggles to impose his authority on a party whose back benches contain powerful figures who plot to undermine him at every turn. He has failed to reverse the Conservatives’ dire standing in the polls, a poll for the right wing GB News channel published in December gave Labour a 26% lead over the Conservatives. This poll also suggested that the Conservatives are haemorrhaging support to the far right English nationalist reform party, which suggests that the Conservatives, who already occupy the same political space as Ukip did some years ago, will move even further into the right, normalising extreme right politics in the UK to an alarming degree.

A party this far behind in the polls could be expected to cling on to power as long as possible in the hope that something will turn up which could allow it to escape electoral obliteration. However this is a Conservative party which is already on its second Prime Minister who has not faced the electorate in a General Election. Sunak is weak and his position insecure, which is why the horrendous Suella Braverman continues as Home Secretary despite her rank incompetence and repeated breaches of the ministerial code. Sunak cannot afford to allow her to organise plots against him from the back benches.

However the game of politics is above all about projecting an air of confidence. Parties that can see the writing on the wall in dreadful polling figures and realise that they are heading for defeat can create a self-fulfilling prophecy and consume themselves in becoming terminally recriminations, becoming reckless, demoralised and divided. There are abundant signs that this is where the Conservatives are already, circling the drain in a spiral of doom, just waiting for the final flush.

Despite his notional majority, Sunak has already, in his short time in office, been forced into two humiliating U-turns in order to fend off rebellions from his unruly MPs, firstly dropping compulsory house-building targets after as many as 100 back bench Tories threatened to back an amendment that would have effectively forced his government to abolish the target of building 300,000 homes a year in England and then just two days later doing a U-turn on the ban on new onshore windfarms in England in the face of another potential Tory rebellion. These victories for Conservative rebels will only have emboldened Sunak’s many enemies within the party, they scent blood, and will seek to press their advantage as we go into 2023.

This is a government which will struggle to get through the next few months as the public is assailed by rising prices and public sector strikes continue.

In a few weeks the SNP will hold a special party conference at which strategies and tactics for the de facto referendum will be decided. The most likely scenario is that the next UK General Election will be used as a de facto independence referendum in Scotland. This election has at the latest to be called by December 2024, and held by January 2025 meaning that in a worst case scenario we could be forced to endure two more years of Conservative mismanagement and corruption, but this is a Conservative government which will struggle to get through the next two months, never mind the next two years. It is highly likely that the election could arrive much more quickly, and we need to be ready for it.


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