Tuesday, 10 May 2011

The Scottish National Party may no longer be a mere curiosity [Partidul Naţional Scoţian s-ar putea să nu mai fie doar o curiozitate]

Scottish whisky, Scottish kilts, Scottish wool, Scottish golf courses, Scottish salmon and the magnificent Scottish Highlands, the delicious Scottish shortbread biscuits, and the awful Scottish bagpipes

These were the commonest ‘iconic brands’ of Scotland, known all over the world, until May 5th 2011 – the day when the Scottish National Party (SNP) thrashed its rivals (Labour, Lib Dem, Tory) in the 2011 Scottish elections.

From this date onwards, maybe the SNP will have established itself as another ‘trademark’ of Scotland – a political force to be reckoned with, and no longer a mere curiosity.

I bet that the current ruling coalition in Britain, nor the Labour Party, were underestimating the SNP (actually, maybe they feared it!), yet to people from all over the world this Scottish Party may have not be anything serious at all.

There are smiliar pro-independence parties in other parts of the EU (Catalonia or Flanders for instance) but it seems that there is more to this SNP than just ‘rethoric’ – its minority government actually held on to power in times of economic crisis.

With 23 new seats in Holyrood (and a total of 69 in a devolved parliament made up of 129 legislators), the SNP is due to rule Scotland for another five years. The party is free to pursue further reforms that could make his country look even more ‘distinctive’ than the rest of the UK.

Moreover, the First Minister (Alex Salmond) will be able to call a referedum on Scotland’s independence, after he had to gave up a previous ambition.

There’s little doubt that the tide of dissatisfaction with Cameron & Clegg helped the SNP in Scotland, however, there must be more than that simplistic explanation.

In spite of his ‘fishy’ name, it seems that Salmond’s his politics is not as ‘fishy’ as those of other parties. Many Scottish voters – among whom my friend from the Highlands – think highly of him.

Whether this is but an illusion, it’s only for the Lord to know. I can only be a bit envious of the Scots who still hope that a man (+ party behind him) could change things for the better, while most of Europe is freezing under a thick layer of bitter disillusionment with politics.

[For all the posts on this blog go to/Pentru toate postările de pe acest blog mergi la: Contents/Cuprins]


Mihai said...

I imagine the Scottish National Party as a bunch of tough guys in kilts, with their faces covered in paint (white and blue), just as I saw in the "Braveheart" movie :).

I'm sure this is as far away from the real thing as it is the image of Vlad Tepes sitting around the fire with his generals, planning for the night-strike against the sultan's camp (a very important sultan, by the way, the conqueror of Constantinople) from the Romanian National Party. Or the image of Steven the Great before the battle of Vaslui, breathing the cool winter air and thanking the Lord for the favorable, misty weather.

Oh wait, I forgot, we don't even have a Romanian National Party.

But maybe that's a plus for us, because we can keep imagining how it would be if we had one, without being too disappointed by the real version of it.

Gregor said...

Dear Bgdan
Christ is Risen!

'I can only be a bit envious of the Scots who still hope that a man (+ party behind him) could change things for the better'

But then you've never been under Tony Bliar ;-)

Seriously though, I don't have huge expectations from the SNP, but I think they certainly have far more potential than any other party. I also think Salmond is one of the most intelligent living politicans (as do many Brits, including his opponents) as well as one of the most visionary.

Whether this boils down to results remains to be seen. But the simple thing is that we Scots have an opportunity which I don't think we've had before.

Maybe we'll make a mess of it, maybe the SNP is too dependent on Salmond without many other notable politicians.

However, they were possibly the only party to have a positive campaign of hope. The others just tried scaremongering and were crushed.

Also I think the SNP might offer a new political perspective away from the London defined left/ right. Salmond is pro-life but has kept Scottish Water in state hands. He supports the oil industry and medium business whilst taxing the supermarkets. He has frozen council tax whilst cutting prescription charges.

Subsequently, it is difficult to say he is 'left' or 'right'. I see him as more of a Christian Democrat who might offer Scotland a way of escaping from the blend of political correctness and self-hatred that defines English politics.

Of course, things aren't entirely rosy for Scotland. The powers that be decided that we should buy lots of American debt (really!) which crippled our economy. Many English retirees have moved here whilst many working age Scots live in England.

However, we still have North Sea Oil which might go up in price in future, a good education system, a national solidarity and some fairly good international relations. It remains to be seen how this will all play out in the end.

MunteanUK said...

@ Mihai

As you can see from Gregor's description, this SNP isn't made up of 'nationalist fanatics' in the (East) European acception.

Given Scotland's particularities - before and after the union with England (1707) - a 'National Party' is not focused so much on the idea of ethnicity, nationhood etc.

In my view - and Gregor could say more, disagreeing or agreeing with me - it's more about a civic model, about something which keeps 'differentiating' Scotland from England.

For example, the German-speaking Swiss have been speaking the same literary version of German for a centuty or so, yet they have little else in common with Germany.

At a first glance, one may not see many differences between Scotland and England, however, after a few days and discussions with locals, differences become clearer.


@ Gregor

Indeed He is Risen!

[1] Back in 1997-1998 - I was younger, what did I know then?! - T. Bliar looked like a fresh-faced politician with some fresh ideas.

Then, in 1999, he was the one insisting in the European Council that Romania should be granted 'candidate status' in a future EU Enlargement which seemed so distant back then.

He galantly spoke in favour of Romania, just as, in the 19th century, Napoleon III played a decisive role in Romania's emergence as a unitary state, at a time when Russia, Austria, the Ottoman Empire, and Britain were against this.

On the long term, this Bliar proved to be an equally shallow character like Napoleion III has been...

But these are things of the past now, let the Lord judge them, not us! Only Bliar himself knows his sins, and may the Lord offer him a chance to repent!


[2] For Scotland's sake, let's hope that Salmond will be able to hold on to his decent ideas - that some public goods must remain in state hands, for instance.

If I were to sound a bit like a conspirationist, I'd ask you: for how long will he be free to do anything (presumably good) for Scotland?!

Whether Scotland can "escape from the blend of political correctness and self-hatred that defines English politics" is not something that depends only on the SNP.

Are the Scots, generally speaking, less 'contaminated' with this political correctness virus?

In what concerns irreligiousness, I wouldn't say that they are much different than the English :-(

Apart from the education system and North Sea Oil (obvious assets), how would you describe this 'national solidarity' that you mentioned?

MunteanUK said...

@ Mihai, Gregor & everyone else interested in this topic

Here's the view of an Englishwoman about the hypotetical separation of Scotland from England:


The comments posted by the readers also offer an interesting insight into how Britons see this 'Scottish independence' question.

Mihai said...


Reading what you said about your home country: "However, we still have North Sea Oil which might go up in price in future, a good education system, a national solidarity and some fairly good international relations. It remains to be seen how this will all play out in the end. ", I had to ask myself what do we, romanians, have ? Almost all of our natural resources are leased to foreign companies (including our oil - what's left of it), we have an almost completely broken educational system, very little national solidarity and some not so good international relations (or maybe I am wrong about that, Bogdan certainly knows more about Romania's international affairs).

And yes, we have no National Party.
It remains to be seen what the future holds for us, but looking at the present the future can't be too bright either...

Gregor said...


'Are the Scots, generally speaking, less 'contaminated' with this political correctness virus?'

Yes, I'd say so. For one thing Scotland doesn't have such ghettoised multiculturalism as there is in England. As I've written on my blog recently, just look at the SNP's views on Israel/Palestine. Jewish identity politics would stop any English politicians saying anything else.

Furthermore, look at England and Northern Ireland. America all but openly supported the IRA and yet the English think nothing of sending their soldiers out to die for America in Afghanistan whilst the IRA can now sue the British government. The problem is that 'Britain' administered from England is by its nature a compromise of very foreign nations. Long before 'political correctness' was formulated, Britain had to cater to the identity politics of both the orange order and Catholic Irish nationalists.

I would say the potential difficulty is in Scotland's growing Muslim population. It seems everytime I go to Edinburgh there are more Muslim women in face coverings, who probably don't speak English and who've probably come over to marry their cousins. But I do think that the EU means that there will be no preference for commonwealth immigration such as there has been in England, which has resulted in a vast south Asian community which in many areas is out of control. I'm all for Christian/ Hindu immigration, but England's Bangladesh/Pakistani ghettoes are a literal timebomb.

'In what concerns irreligiousness, I wouldn't say that they are much different than the English :-(

Apart from the education system and North Sea Oil (obvious assets), how would you describe this 'national solidarity' that you mentioned?'

Firstly, it is true that Scotland has low church attendance, but there is none of the hatred for Christians that is so rife in England.

Secondly as to the national solidarity Scotland has more of an egalitarian approach to wealth and completely different laws concerning trespassing. Scots are largely free to roam whilst English hate the idea of anyone walking in their land/forests.

I do think, as I've mentioned to Bogan before, much of Eastern Europe was very naive about the west and the extent to which the west wanted them to be strong, Christian, sovereign states. Maybe when the people wake up to this they will try to form a more patriotic party.

However, I don't think it's a bad idea to take it slowly. I think the worse that could happen would be for Medieval nostalgists to take the helm.

Whilst I don't know that much about Romanian politics, I'd say that Romania should keep on good terms with both Russia and the USA without being enslaved by either, and being aware of the growing Turkish population combined with the demographic crisis of the Christian Balkans.

Gregor said...

'In my view - and Gregor could say more, disagreeing or agreeing with me - it's more about a civic model, about something which keeps 'differentiating' Scotland from England.'

Yes, I'd agree with that. My Godson is half Greek and half English, but I hope he will grow up to think of himself as Scottish.

Indeed, like most Scots I have some English blood, and Scotland itself was dominated by Northumbrian culture.

However, I don't see Scots nationalism as anti-English essentially, but based on the view that 'Britain' as a geopolitical entity has failed quite badly.

MunteanUK said...

@ Gregor

Thank you very much for offering your opinions and answers to many questions that have been raised here by myself and my reader Mihai.

At least we have the view of one Scotman in our discussion about the SNP and especially about Alex Salmond - a political leader with a vision that most European leaders lack these days.


For anyone landing on this page, I am recommending your article...


...which is adding more elements to the description of 'Scottishness' that you made here.


You are right about the 'great expectations' Romanians (like other East Europeans I assume) had about joining the Western world, through EU Accession.

Were we deceived? Are we slowly turning into a 'neocolony' of the richest half of Europe? Could we have anticipated that the promises of 'prosperity' are so hollow?

Tough questions...

What matters is for us to wake up and realize that we we've made an 'idol' of the Western civilisation, replacing the Communist ideology with all kinds of consumerist pipe-dreams :-(


I fully agree with what you are wishing for your little Godson, half-English (from his mother's side) & half-Greek (his father), yet born in Scotland, where he will probably grow up.

Scottish + Orthodox makes a wonderful combination, if you asked me :-)

MunteanUK said...

@ everyone

It appears to me that the so-called 'independence generation' that Gregor was mentioning in one of his comments here...


...is not just another catchphrase used by the media, but part of Alex Salmond's official discourse:



Apparently, polls offer no proof of any significant shift in public opinion towards independence; only 23% of respondents would favour a clear 'detachement' from the UK:


Irrespective of this, Salmond is getting bolder and bolder, his courage in the 2nd electoral term resembling somehow the daringness of Turkey's PM in his 3rd term:



I'm quite curious about how things will evolve in Scotland and whether the SNP's 'separatist' stance would eventually prevail.

As seen from Romania, through a neutral onlooker's perspective, Salmond's pro-independence movement appears to be second only to the secessionists (N-VA) from Flanders (Belgium) in today's Europe:



The situation in the UK seems more likely to lead to the secession of Scotland, compared to the (arguably) similar situations in the Basque Country, Catalunya (Spain) or Corsica (France).

Nevertheless - be it to Gregor's dismay :-) - I dare asking, using William Shakespeare's words: is independence trully feasible or it it all just "much ado about nothing?"

Gregor said...

The thing is that opinion polls on Scottish Independence are very innacurate. The unionist parties scoffed at the idea of SNP wins before the Spring elections...

Still, I'd say from personal experience young people feel less and less affinity to modern Britain.Scotland's youth will be brought centre stage when the referendum debate truly begins. Salmond's government has mooted extending the vote to 16- and 17-year-olds for the first time. The SNP believes younger Scots are among the most likely to support independence. Polling data shows 18- to 34-year-olds are often the most pro-independence.


'Although, troublingly for the SNP and a boost to the pro-UK parties, a majority of 18-24s still back the union, the latest Scotland-wide polls suggest that support for independence has grown since Salmond's landslide. The most recent, by TNS-BMRB, put support for separation at 39% versus 38% against. This is why Salmond is playing his waiting game.'

Maybe this poll is itself innacurate but it just shows how uncertain it all is.

MunteanUK said...

Dear Gregor,

Did you open your computer and landed on my blog just after having taken part in the SNP's conference in Inverness?


You appear to be very optimistic in regard to Salmond's stance :-)


It's nothing bad about being optimistic... On the contrary, I am glad to read that young people in Scotland now have a 'political dream' to hold on to!

That's very different form what younger generations in countries like Greece, Romania or your 'beloved' Russia experience these days :-(


Thank you for your information on polls about independence! Indeed, it's quite possible that they are pretty unreliable.

Let's not forget that the dubious formulation of the questions contributed to the failure of the Australian referendum in 1999:


However, with Salmond & his SNP in power, I presume that the questions will be pretty unequivocal in a Scottish referendum.


All in all, given this growing political turmoil in the UK and everywhere in the world, I also think that anything is possible!

If only an independent Scotland meant a better Scotland!