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29/5/2020 | View in browser
Coronavirus: Why independence won’t go away

Polls all point one way at the moment for both Scottish independence and the SNP. According to another Ipsos Mori poll published on 26 May, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon enjoys a massive 82 per cent approval for her coronavirus performance. Meanwhile, 55 per cent of Scots think Prime Minister Boris Johnson has done "badly" during the pandemic.

After a slew of such polls, it is clear the early optimism on behalf of many unionist commentators that the independence movement had been struck dead by the global pandemic (for how could independence supports fail to appreciate UK solidarity in such a dangerous and changeable world order) was badly misjudged.

This failure is one of political analysis, in two ways.

First, the Scottish independence movement emerged precisely as a response to war, economic crisis, environmental decline, national, local and global inequalities. It identifies the British state as a road block to sound governance and a serious orientation on the social, economic and geopolitical problems we face. Since it is a response, fresh stimulus will not quiet it.

Second, it implies (as unionism generally does) a recourse to settling grievances through the existing institutions of the British state. These have scarcely ever been weaker.

The Conservative party won a stunning victory in December 2019. Since then, the official opposition has been more quietist and a-political than any time in recent years; perhaps in living memory. Sir Keir Starmer has made no secret at all of his courting of elite circles, touring the Tory press from the Times to the Telegraph making the case for a more subdued Labour with a collegiate attitude to the British establishment.

He has been largely absent from the enormous controversies of the pandemic era. And he wants to be seen to be absent. As the Dominic Cummings scandal rolled into its sixth day, he said: "This was the week when we should have been talking about how we ease the lockdown safely. How we restart our economy, support businesses, get more children back to school."

That is, he wanted to lift the pressure on Johnson’s government and engage in appeasement of big business interests, who want a rapid re-launch for the economy.

So as Britain emerges from lockdown with the worst per-capita death rate in the world, and with the government’s leading strategic thinker himself a flouter of government measures, the official British state channel for dissent is closed. This will breed extra-parliamentary developments, and in Scotland one of those, indeed a central one, will be the independence movement.

Yet many problems unquestionably remain for independence supporters. Indeed, rather than kill-off the independence cause as many unionist commentators had hoped, one could make a strong case that the pandemic rescued Sturgeon from her independence woes.

It seems like a lifetime ago, but was only January, that the first minister drove a second vote through the Scottish Parliament demanding the powers from Westminster to hold a vote on Scottish independence. Johnson of course rejected the request, just as his predecessor did. The ‘gradualist’ road to independence, the staple of decades, had finally reached a dead-end. Largely because of this, the cohesion of the independence movement was beginning to show fractures.

All of the pressing strategic questions that faced independence campaigners before the pandemic remain, and they do not go away because of polling figures or political framing. Yet it remains the case, as a political response to a world disorder and a failing state, the national question will not disappear.

David Jamieson, Source Direct
Top Story

Lockdown easing means that for the first time in months Scots will be allowed to meet outside with in groups of up to eight persons from Friday 29 May.

However, the groups should be drawn from no more than two households in one day, and continued social distancing of at least two meters must be maintained, according to Scottish Government advice.

The changes come as Scotland moves into phase one of the four stage gradual lifting of lockdown measures. Other changes in phase one also allow Scots to sit and sunbathe in parks.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said she was "a bit nervous" when it came to the changes, but said they were justified on the basis of a "sustained and unmistakable" decline in the spread of Coronavirus.
In England, groups of up to six person will be permitted to meet outside from Monday.

Thursday (28 May) also saw the commencement of new test-and-trace measures across the UK.




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Other news

  • Easyjet, Scotland’s largest airline, has announced that it will slash 4500 jobs, despite being in receipt of a £600 million bailout from the UK treasury in April. Earlier in May the budget airline announced that it was increasing services on some of Scotland’s most popular routes in order to absorb capacity lost by competitor Flybe when it collapsed. (The National)
  • Prime Minister Boris Johnsons’s special adviser Dominic Cummings may have broken lockdown rules in a "minor breach" according to Durham police. The Number 10 strategist has been at the heart of a controversy since last week after it was revealed he travelled from London to the North East town at the height of lockdown. (The Mirror)
  • The Scottish Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has warned the costs of tackling the coronavirus pandemic and its consequences far outweigh central UK Government funding for Scotland. She has previously complained that a pledged £60 million in business assistance for Scottish business never materialised. (Herald)
  • Four in five Scottish engineering firms have warned they will cut jobs due to the economic slowdown. The warning comes as part of industry lobbying into speading up the end of lockdown. Industry bosses want Scotland to end its lockdown in tandem with England. (Herald)
  • The UK has joined the US, Australia and Canada in condemning the Chinese state for imposing a new security law in Hong Kong during the pandemic. The special administrative area in China was once a colony of the British Empire and the statement declared that the four powers have a "significant and long-standing stake" in the territory. In 2019 Hong Kong was rocked by waves of anti-government protests. (BBC)
  • US President Donald Trump has told Minneapolis protesters against the police killing of George Floyd that he will send in the National Guard and "when the looting starts, the shooting starts". The threat to gun down US citizens comes after the city was seized by protest, with clashes between the police and protestors.
 
Around and about the Scottish media
- Darren McGarvey urges that mental health services are prioritised during the lifting of lockdown (Daily Record)
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