by Jonathan Todd
Scotland is diminished inside the UK, argues Alex Salmond. The UK is diminished inside the EU, says Nigel Farage. Scotland did not vote for David Cameron, insists Salmond. The UK didn’t vote for Jean-Claude Juncker, maintains Farage. It would be “nae bother” for Scotland to break up the UK, asserts Salmond. It would be “no problem” for the UK to leave the UK, claims Farage.
Salmond briefly seemed a broken man after the defeat of Yes last September. Having promised to resign the leadership of UKIP if he doesn’t win South Thanet, defeat for Farage on 7 May would also leave him broken. But Salmond has been reborn, as support for Yes has wholly transferred to the SNP. Farage might be reborn too.
Salmond’s rebirth has been enabled by glacial shifts in Scottish opinion that now appear to have unstoppable momentum but which built up over a long period, going undetected by those focused on Westminster. No Scottish seats in the UK parliament changed hands in 2010. The SNP gained two seats at the 2005 general election and lost one at the 2001 general election. The churn over the same period in elections to the Scottish Parliament, however, was much more dramatic. The SNP gained 20 additional seats in 2007, 23 in 2011.
If we look only at the lack of 2010 seat change in Scotland, the SNP’s rise appears inexplicable. If we look instead at recent elections to the Scottish parliament, it seems less so. Perhaps for reasons wrapped up with the referendum, decisive numbers of Scots are now prepared to entrust the SNP with their support in the UK Parliament, as well as in the Scottish Parliament. The decision factor for voters may have migrated from “who is best to lead the UK?” to “who will get the best deal for Scotland?”