The Scottish National Party (SNP) lost a referendum on Scottish independence last September; now, just seven months later, they are set to win an extraordinary, historic election victory in the British elections, which take place next month. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. The question is no longer whether they will win the Scottish portion of the election but by how much. The SNP lost the war but they’re winning the peace.
The latest opinion polls suggest that, however improbably, the nationalists could take as many as 50 of Scotland’s 59 constituencies. They have never previously won more than 11; five years ago they took just six. Even if the SNP vote is squeezed in the final weeks of campaigning they are still liable to be the largest party in Scotland.
To appreciate the full scale of this revolt, it is necessary to remember that in 2010 the Labour party, dominant in Scotland for more than half a century, won twice as many votes as the SNP. Labour won more than 50 percent of the vote in no fewer than 18 constituencies in its west of Scotland heartlands. This is the kind of political fortress that is supposed to be impregnable. Now, however, Labour’s defenses have been breached.
For the first time ever the SNP will be a relevant political force at Westminster. And since the Liberal Democrats seem likely to lose half their seats it is possible that the nationalists will become the third largest party in the House of Commons. The SNP’s rise is, in many ways, the greatest domestic threat to the integrity of the British state since Sinn Fein won a landslide victory in southern Ireland in 1918. That laid the way to Irish independence and it is quite possible the SNP’s victories will, eventually, lead to another, this time peaceful, constitutional revolution.