The cost-of-living crisis and the war in Ukraine could banish hopes of independence for years – or even a generation.
One of the more interesting phenomena in the Scottish media microculture has been the emergence of a cadre of pro-independence, anti-SNP writers. A significant number of columnists once closely aligned with the party have lost patience with what they see as the slow pace towards a second referendum, or with the nature of the devolved government, and sometimes with the extremes and intolerances of the Yes movement. Outside of the Daily Mail, they have quickly become the angriest and most dedicated critics of Nicola Sturgeon’s administration.
And these are disruptive and disrupted times. Lord knows what the British economy will look like in a few years if the current conditions pertain, but it is not wrong to say that the UK Treasury has deep pockets and is in a position to absorb the kinds of shocks that seem to be hitting us almost weekly. Launching an independent Scotland into these hurricane-tossed waters is unlikely to appeal to the undecided or, as McMillan puts it, “the cautious middle ground”. These problems are not going away anytime soon.
The same cannot be said for Sturgeon. The consequences of her departure, presumably before the next devolved election in 2026, are unknown. She is a colossus in Scottish politics, and it is hard to imagine the scene without her. It is even harder to predict the future of the SNP, or how voters will view the post-Sturgeon party. Presuming her replacement is someone less experienced and newer to the electorate, they will be taking over leadership of a tired party that will have been in power for two decades and that has a track record of failure as well as success. They will have to earn their place and their power, and change is never a simple, linear process – its effects will ripple out in unforeseeable ways.