It is one of the great impressive ironies of September’s referendum, that despite the ‘Yes’ side losing, the SNP have gone on to make historic gains in Scotland.
With the SNP’s landslide it might appear that the union is in a very weak position, about to break just months after a referendum. But that is not the case. The union is in a precarious position, but it remains nonetheless.
The SNP’s Westminster breakthrough was not about independence, as clearly stated in the party’s manifesto. Furthermore, whilst the party got 95% of the seats in Scotland, it only got 50% of the votes. Whilst the SNP have grown in support since the referendum, by encouraging “yes” voters to vote for them, support for independence has not grown since the referendum. The SNP have merely turned the “yes” bloc into an SNP bloc (generally speaking, as there will be “yes” voting Conservatives and “no” voting SNP voters).
But support for independence has been unchanged since the referendum. Polls on the issue suggest people want more powers but that Scotland is still split on independence itself. Many have put the “no” side ahead, but a few others have put the “yes” side ahead. Whilst the campaign is over both sides still remain rather close in the polls, just like in the weeks leading up to the referendum.
Is there hope for the union? I think we are at a turning point. What the SNP put in their 2016 manifesto, how Scottish Labour deal with their losses and how the case for unionism - or federalism - is made in the coming months will be vital for Scotland’s future. There is hope for unionism, but also hope for independence. And with polls showing that older people are more likely to favour the union and younger people the opposite then independence looks achievable in the long term.
The referendum campaign ended on September 18th, but the question of Scotland’s future will definitely be asked again.