By Michael Dixon, EFAy Bureau member
I was asked by EFAy to write something about the Scottish Election result in the immediate aftermath but I found it really difficult to do. In reflection that was probably because it was a bit overwhelming. The full extent of the implications of the election result is yet to be realised – yes the SNP has an overall majority, yes that’s an amazing result – but where will it take Scotland, and indeed the UK? At this stage no one really knows but it will certainly be somewhere new and hopefully radically different.
We in the SNP believe that Scotland should once again be an independent country with the full powers and responsibilities that go along with that. Whether that will be the case in a few years’ time when we have a referendum remains to be seen. Despite the SNP having achieved such a resounding success at the polls there is still a lot of convincing to be done. Not everyone who voted for the SNP voted for independence but what we’re confident of is that they did say “convince me”. Scots are not scared of a proper debate about independence – they’re very much ready for it.
Since devolution in 1999 Scotland has grown in confidence and the desire among Scots for a stronger parliament with more powers has grown too. Following the election of the first SNP government in 2007 many said there was a new sense of positivity – a buzz – right across Scotland. I’m one of those people but I think a great deal of that positivity as well as ambition and creativity is still contained and waiting to be released. The desire among Scots for something new and that confidence to seek it came to light more clearly than ever in May when the SNP took 69 of the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament.
To put this in some context, the Scottish Parliament was set up with an electoral system that was designed to prevent any single party ever achieving an overall majority. If it had been suggested to anyone with an interest in Scottish politics in 1999 that in little more than a decade the SNP would be the party to achieve this supposedly impossible feat there would have been cries of laughter. But if a week is a long time in politics, a decade is game changing. There will be a referendum during the current year five year term of the Scottish Parliament. Scots will have the opportunity to take full control of their own affairs. That is of course a very big decision and before anyone is asked to commit to anything there will have to be a great deal of debate and discussion involving people and organisations from all sections of Scottish society.
Having the opportunity to discuss and debate the very fundamentals of our constitution, governance and society is a huge privilege. How many generations have an opportunity to do that? It is essential that we make the most of this opportunity, it is unlikely it will come again soon.
I’m lucky to be part of the SNP during the most successful period in the party’s history – a time when we can talk about the prospect of independence and know that it is a real possibility in just a few years. Inevitably many are thinking of those who have worked so hard to make that reality a possibility; many are no longer with us. It is for them that we must not focus too long on the past but look to the future and decide how we want that future to look and how we will shape it.
I was in London recently and was discussing the SNP’s recent success with someone who is a member of another party, one that supports the Union. It was incredibly satisfying to hear them say that they and their colleagues in a rival party consider the SNP to be one of the most impressive campaigning forces, not just in Scotland, but the UK. It makes working with my friends and colleagues in the SNP all the more a privilege. I hope what the SNP has achieved and how it has achieved it can help other movements that seek autonomy or independence elsewhere in Europe. I especially hope that we can share some of that experience by inviting our friends in Europe to come to Scotland to fight the referendum campaign with us!
What the SNP has achieved is the result of many decades of hard work and absolute determination. It comes after many years of electoral misery that would cause many to give up. All of us in the SNP are eternally grateful to those who didn’t give up; it is because of them that we have the opportunity of a lifetime.