For decades it was an axiom of Nationalist politics that, if the SNP won more than 50 per cent of Scottish seats in a Westminster election, this would be a mandate for independence.
It is a curious irony that the recent Ipsos Mori poll – outlining the prospect of the party winning every seat north of the Border – has prompted a modest response from Nicola Sturgeon (your report, 30 April).
She claims that the 7 May election is “emphatically not about independence”; in some ways this is a shrewd response to the staggering opinion poll findings.
But the claim that the SNP surge is simply about making sure a minority Labour government sticks to its promises and recognises Scottish interests can only be credible for so long.
A party with 59 seats in a hung parliament is in a powerful position. The question of independence, whether through the device of another referendum or through parliamentary pressure, can only be put off for so long.
It is a problem of success for the SNP Convener. It is nonetheless a very difficult dilemma for her.
An electoral landslide in one direction can within a decade become a landslide in another direction.
You only need to consider that Labour’s success after the Second World War turned into a comfortable Conservative majority by the mid-1950s; or Mrs Thatcher’s enormous majority in the late 1980s turning into a three-figure majority for Labour by 1997.
Within the next few months it seems certain that the SNP Convener will need to display a heroic act of statesmanship. That will be to declare to her party and to the country whether or not she intends to push for another referendum by the end of the decade.
In my view she would be unwise to do so simply because of the prospect of another rejection so soon after the last one. Whether she can withstand pressure from within her own party to go in another direction remains to be seen. We shall shortly see of what mettle she is in fact made.
I worry about the SNP’s apparent idea of democracy. Already they are talking about another referendum on independence.
Do they hope that by repeatedly testing a sentiment that waxes and wanes, it will eventually happen on a peak and carry the day?
In perhaps a true word spoken in jest, Alex Salmond has said that in a coalition he would write Labour’s budget – although Labour might have five times as many MPs as the SNP.
The Nationalists say Scotland should have a greater voice at Westminster. Yet the average constituency in Scotland is 69,000 voters, against 71,200 in rUK, so Scots already have about 1.03 votes each. What does the SNP want? One rUKian, one vote; one Scot, two votes?
Democracy means accepting the decision of the majority, no matter how right one thinks one is. It means respecting those whose views differ, not characterising them as fearties. I wish I could believe the SNP subscribed to this.
Comely Bank Avenue
As there is no way the SNP tail is going to be permitted to wag the UK dog, SNP success may lead to the very opposite of what Ms Sturgeon wishes – a grand coalition of Labour and Conservatives to form a government of national unity.
Admittedly that would require twin miracles of Messers Cameron and Miliband emerging as statesmen, and their supporters holding their noses over certain of the nuts and bolts necessary to secure a five year agreement, but for Unionists the end will justify such heaven-sent interventions.
As most Brits, including a majority of we Scots, wish to preserve the Union, the next Parliament could be the first ever to possess the support of a majority of voters.
It could thus be very popular.