The Scottish National Party (SNP), which seeks Scotland’s political independence from the United Kingdom (Scotland already has a devolved government), is a strange phenomenon. Europe may have fought two major conflicts in the last century, but the SNP continue to ruminate about the colossal defeat of the ‘Young Pretender’ Charles Edward Stuart, better known as Bonnie Prince Charlie, by a mainly English army at the Battle of Culloden in 1746. Meanwhile its anthem celebrates the Scots’ victory at Bannockburn, over 700 years ago. It is currently the majority party in the Scottish Government led by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Bonnie Prince Charlie considered that he had a legitimate claim to be the real King of Great Britain and attempted to reclaim the throne for the Stuart dynasty to which he belonged. The SNP has been accused of misrepresenting Bonnie Prince Charlie and the Jacobite cause for their own ends; rather than liberating Scotland, he aimed to gather an army of Jacobites—mainly Scots who supported the Stuarts—in a bid to win the crown. He made remarkable progress, reaching Derby but then losing momentum, being driven back to Scotland and finally witnessing the slaughter of his clansmen by better-organised troops. He fled the battlefield, and Britain, to Rome where he eventually died. The immediate outcome of Culloden was brutal decades-long subjugation of the Highland Scots by the English and the non-Jacobite Scots who fought with them. The clan structure was dismantled and even the wearing of tartan was prohibited.
The SNP mistakenly identify with the Jacobite cause and have been called to account over this. The SNP want separation from England and, therefore, the rest of the United Kingdom. The Jacobites, while they aimed to maintain separate governments in England, Scotland and Ireland, wanted these to be united under a single crown. Nevertheless, the SNP consider that the cause of independence was ‘punctured’ at Culloden.
The SNP was formed in 1934. Initially the SNP was almost indistinguishable from the Scottish Conservative party both in membership and policies. Largely formed of the landed gentry and rich farmers, it existed to protect their interests. But, after much infighting and factionalism over the decades, the SNP has emerged as a left-wing party with an avowedly socialist agenda. It is expressly anti-English and is essentially a nationalist socialist party.
The SNP resembles a political turkey which spends its time praying for Christmas. It contains within its policies the seeds of the destruction of Scotland. With its customary myopia, the SNP refuses to acknowledge the economic dependence of Scotland on the rest of the United Kingdom, principally England. Specifically, the SNP turns a blind eye to the disproportionately high levels of public expenditure allocated to Scotland, which, courtesy of the Barnett formula, recently received £32 billion from central government in Westminster, an incentive not enjoyed by England’s poorer regions. Judging by Gross Domestic Product (GDP), Scotland is simply a poorer country than England. Most wealth in the United Kingdom is generated in the Southeast, principally in London, where GDP is approximately £55,000 compared with approximately £32,000 in Scotland. The problem with the Barnett formula is that, in an effort to stem the tide of Scottish nationalism, Westminster keeps increasing the Scottish subsidy: a vicious circle by which they swell the coffers of the Scottish Government.
Despite denials that Scotland is dependent on central government subsidy, the SNP never eschew the Barnett formula. Instead, they point to spurious sources of income which they claim will keep an independent Scottish nation afloat. These include North Sea oil, whisky, and tourism, but none of these will sustain Scotland. Admittedly, revenue does flow to the Scottish Government from the oil industry. But the oil is running out and, even before it dries up, international pressure to seek energy from ‘greener’ sources—to which the SNP subscribes—threatens to make North Sea oil an antediluvian concern.
The Scottish whisky industry is worth £5.5 billion annually (a sixth of the Barnett formula subsidy) and most of it is exported by the London based firm Diageo. The whisky industry supports over 40,000 jobs but only approximately 10,000 of these are in Scotland, and the historical neglect of Scottish ports means that most whisky, along with other Scottish exports, ships out of England. Tourism normally raises £12 billion for the Scottish economy (a quarter of the subsidy) but the COVID-19 pandemic has illustrated how fragile the tourism industry can be. This has been compounded by the SNP’s own Draconian response to the pandemic, which has seen some nationalists advising English people, in colourful terms, to stay away from their country. Nonetheless, in some ways the pandemic has been a godsend to the SNP, helping to distract attention from internal broils and sexual scandals.
The SNP displays little gratitude to the other regions of the United Kingdom without which Scotland’s very survival would be in question. Remarkably, however, it seems wedded to the idea of being part of the EU (a significant plank of the SNP manifesto is devoted to this commitment), and members were furious when the United Kingdom voted to leave, ignoring the fact that, had their own independence referendum succeeded in 2014, they would automatically have voted themselves out of the EU with no guarantee of being welcomed back in.
Herein lies a warning for the EU. The SNP appears to be financially incompetent with no clue what an independent Scottish economy would look like. When asked about which currency they would use after independence, Nicola Sturgeon said that they ‘would use sterling for as long as possible.’ Thus, an independent Scotland would be dependent on England to support its currency: a remarkable stance. She had not, it seems, consulted Her Majesty’s Treasury since, at the time of the referendum, Westminster declared they would oppose Scotland keeping the pound. In effect, Scotland would enter independence without a currency.
Scottish banks issue their own paper money, but this is merely pounds sterling with added pictures of Robert the Bruce and Robert Burns. It is not an independent currency. Should Scotland replace the pound with the euro, the European Union can look forward to decades of pouring its money into an independent Scotland and a profligate SNP. In the rest of the United Kingdom, university students pay fees, often funded by low-interest loans. In Scotland, students do not pay fees. When English nurses were offered a 1% pay rise in the midst of the pandemic, Scottish nurses were awarded a 4% rise.
Finally, the SNP’s political agenda is destructively left-wing. While they have reduced alcohol-related deaths through introducing a ‘minimum unit pricing’ policy, their answer to the high rate of drug-related deaths has been to liberalise drug use. The Scottish Hate Crime and Public Order Bill is a totalitarian piece of legislation which prohibits making controversial comments about any aspect of identity, such as gender, race, or religion, in your own home. Douglas Murray once described Scotland as a banana republic. That may be true, but there is no shortage of fruitcakes either.
Roger Watson is a British academic and former professor of nursing at the University of Hull. He is the editor-in-chief of Nurse Education in Practice and an Editorial Board Member of the WikiJournal of Medicine. He was the founding chair of the Lancet Commission on Nursing, and a founding member of the Global Advisory Group for the Future of Nursing. In 2020, Watson was elected vice president of the National Conference of University Professors. In 2022, Watson was elected president of the National Conference of University Professors.