Pop Culture

Scoxit?: Boris Johnson’s Flailing Charm Offensive May Not Be Enough to Keep Scotland From Splitting

Boris Johnson was forced to curtail a family holiday in Scotland after the press appeared, revealed the remote location of his holiday cottage, and interviewed a livid nationalist sheep farmer who accused the prime minister of pitching a voluminous cream bell tent in his field without permission. Perhaps it was inevitable that Johnson’s trip didn’t go to plan. Navigating both the final stretch of the Brexit process and the ongoing pandemic—which has claimed over 41,000 lives in the U.K. and plunged Britain into a chasmic recession—Johnson is currently grappling with another looming problem: Scotland is straining to break away from the United Kingdom. While 44% of Scots voted for independence in a 2014 referendum, recent polls indicate that 52.5% would now vote to sever the union, forming a consistent majority for the first time. 

Currently under the leadership of Nicola Sturgeon, who recently told the BBC she believed in independence with “every fiber” of her being, the Scottish National Party has governed Scotland for 13 years. Ahead of the country’s elections next May, in which the SNP is expected to attract more voters, the party has declared it will include a commitment to a second independence referendum in its manifesto. Britain’s Brexiteer government emphatically does not want to oversee the disintegration of the United Kingdom. Equally, it understands the allure of such a referendum: the appeal of breaking with a centralized bureaucracy from which many voters feel geographically and culturally distant. 

And so it has embarked on a hasty charm offensive, dispatching a cadre of leading ministers across the border. Johnson chatted to crab farmers on the Orkney Islands and firmly emphasized his opposition to defection. He was tailed by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, whose furlough scheme has supported nearly 900,000 Scottish workers. Meanwhile, Michael Gove, a chief architect of Brexit who was raised in Aberdeen, has been helming private talks with various political figures. He’s even forged an unlikely partnership with socialist George Galloway, who hosts a program on Russia Today called Sputnik Orbiting the World. As the Johnson administration rallies to protect the union, it faces an uncomfortable conundrum. Did Brexit, with its pugnacious emphasis on both Britishness and self-determination, fuel the very independence movement they are now trying to squash? 

Scottish disdain for English dominance is not contemporary. In 1320, long before the 313-year-old union between the two countries was enshrined, a group of Scottish aristocrats wrote to the pope imploring him to recognize their country’s independence: “It is in truth not for glory, nor riches, nor honours that we are fighting, but for freedom,” they wrote. Centuries later, still in pursuit of that freedom, the SNP was founded in 1934. Though the independence movement pulled some powerful stunts, like stealing the Stone of Scone (snatched from Westminster Abbey by four University of Glasgow students), the SNP didn’t gain significant momentum until the 1970s, following the discovery of oil in the North Sea. In 1974, arguing the economic case for independence, the SNP won 11 seats in parliament, campaigning with the slogan: “It’s Scotland’s oil.” 

This ascendance ultimately paved the way for Scotland to secure devolved powers from Westminster—including the formation of the Scottish governing body in 1999—and, later, the 2014 independence referendum, called and won by Britain’s then prime minister, David Cameron. Then, the stakes shifted with another Cameron referendum: Brexit. While the United Kingdom narrowly voted to leave the European Union, Scotland voted to remain by 62%. Sturgeon framed the result as an excuse to push IndyRef2, as it has been dubbed, arguing that Scotland is being dragged out of the E.U. against its will. Crucially, it’s not just Brexit that has played badly across swathes of Scotland, but the Brexiteer brand of nationalism. Typified by Johnson’s upper-crust take on everyman politics, it jars with the Scottish sense of cultural difference and national identity, which is broadly represented by Sturgeon herself who, from a working-class background, joined the SNP at 16 in protest against Margaret Thatcher. “Boris Johnson is one of the biggest recruiting sergeants for independence there is at the moment,” she told the Times of London earlier this year. 

Products You May Like

Articles You May Like

The Radford Family on Channel 5: Sue opens up about horrific online trolls
NCIS: Los Angeles Season 12 Episode 11 Review: Russia, Russia, Russia
SAGA – A Black Metal Viking Biker film with Zombies – Available Today from Bayview Entertainment
Gemma Arterton & Jason Tobin Starring In Martial Arts Comedy ‘Enter The Dragons’ For ‘Persepolis’ Director; WestEnd Launches Sales – EFM
Stop Sleeping on FX’s Crack Drama Snowfall

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *