Magazine article The Spectator

Scotland's Unwon Cause

Magazine article The Spectator

Scotland's Unwon Cause

Article excerpt

The successful launch of a nationalist newspaper shows just how much trouble the Union is still in

Nearly 20 years ago, during one of the many impasses on the road to 'peace' in Northern Ireland, Gerry Adams reminded his opponents that the republican movement would set the terms of any agreement. The IRA reserved a power of veto. 'They haven't gone away, you know,' he said.

Scotland is not Ulster, of course, but the Scottish nationalists haven't gone away either. Anyone who thinks the referendum settled this country's constitutional future hasn't been paying attention. The long war continues, albeit -- and mercifully -- in figurative terms. If anything, defeat has encouraged the nationalists to redouble their efforts.

The SNP is the only political party in Scotland that can credibly claim to be a mass organisation. It will soon, in all likelihood, have 100,000 members. Last weekend Nicola Sturgeon, its new leader, addressed a crowd of more than 10,000 enthusiasts in Glasgow, the largest such rally in Scotland in 40 years.

This week a new newspaper, the National , was launched to press the case for independence. It sold 50,000 copies of its first edition -- almost twice what the Scotsman averages -- and then doubled its print run. Copies of its launch issue were soon selling for £10 on eBay. Owned by the Herald group, it remains a shoestring operation for now -- but its mere appearance is more significant than its quality. It is a reminder that the thirst for change in Scotland remains unquenched.

There are other tributaries of discontent feeding the national sense of grievance. As Sturgeon addressed her tribe, 3,000 'activists' gathered for the Radical Independence Campaign's latest conference. They produced a 'People's Vow'. This specifies that industry should be nationalised, a republic declared, land ownership reformed, fracking banned, Nato left and a 'people's budget' published that would offer an alternative to 'austerity'. It is easy to scoff, but the referendum opened a box of dreams that cannot easily be closed.

So the Scottish question is not settled. It is barely even paused. Secession, its partisans believe, is not a lost cause, merely (as John Steinbeck once put it) an 'unwon cause'. The general election next May will be fraught with peril for unionists -- and for Scotland. …

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