Glasgow, Scotland – British Prime Minister Boris Johnson was fighting for his political life after London’s Metropolitan Police opened an investigation on Tuesday into parties being held at his official residence at 10 Downing Street during the coronavirus pandemic.
A British official had previously been tasked with conducting an internal inquiry into the matter, which is also due to be made public shortly.
But while vultures circle the embattled Conservative Party leader and calls from opposition politicians – and even from some within his own party – for him to resign are now reaching boiling point, independence campaigners in Scotland have redoubled their efforts to get more ammunition for their cause.
“The scandals surrounding Johnson – and in particular the utter inability of the UK’s unwritten constitution to allow for his removal – underscore the ongoing slow collapse of the British state and how distant Westminster politicians are from their communities,” says the Scottish Green Party and pro- Independence activist Laura Moodie told Al Jazeera.
“The challenge for pro-independence advocates is to show how an independent Scotland will be different; how we ensure better accountability, more integrity and democratic control.”
The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has governed the Scottish Lower Parliament in Scotland’s capital Edinburgh since 2007 and last year reached a power-sharing agreement with the pro-independence Scottish Greens.
SNP leader and Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has pledged to hold a second referendum on Scotland’s independence before the end of 2023, after the first such referendum was held in 2014 when voters in Scotland rejected statehood by 55-45 per cent. Polls currently put support for Scottish sovereignty at around 50 per cent – but Johnson’s recent struggles have made the independence debate even more uncertain.
“The conventional wisdom within the independence movement is that Boris Johnson is almost uniquely unpopular in Scotland and that anything that threatens to shorten his tenure as Prime Minister could deprive us of the most effective recruiting sergeant for the independence cause we could ever dream of ‘, per -Scottish independence blogger James Kelly, to Al Jazeera.
“But the biggest impact of the scandals so far is that Johnson’s unpopularity has dramatically extended to England, which could mean that if he stays in office there will be a sense of inevitability about a [UK] Labor government after the next general election.”
With regard to Scotland, a largely left-leaning nation, pro-independence campaigners and the SNP itself have often pointed to the now 12-year right-wing rule of London as one reason for supporting Scottish sovereignty.
But with Britain’s Labor Party now leading Westminster polls, the prospect of a left-leaning Labor government in London could put the brakes on separatist sentiment, analysts said.
“One of the main arguments of the SNP is that Scotland rejects the Conservatives and that there is little prospect of the Conservatives losing a Westminster election,” James Mitchell, a professor in the University of Edinburgh’s School of Social and Political Science, told Al Jazeera.
“That argument now looks less credible. A Labor government [in London] or even the prospect of a Labor government undermines this central claim. Scottish voters who see the possibility of a Labor government in Westminster may be tempted to return to Labor in Scotland. It may not happen immediately, but it is becoming a real possibility.”
Indeed, Scotland was once dominated by the pro-union Labor Party but – given the SNP’s dominance in the elections – is struggling to remain relevant with Scottish voters, many of whom now vote on constitutional principles.
However, should the UK Labor Party maintain its poll lead and secure victory in the next Westminster election in 2024, a comeback by the Scottish Labor Party in the Scottish Parliament could see the issue of independence being sidelined indefinitely .
With at least two years of Conservative rule likely to remain in London before the general election, pro-independence campaigners remain focused on the here and now – and what might happen if Johnson is forced to leave office.
“Whoever [the Conservatives] The election is likely to have little understanding of the lives and aspirations of the people of Scotland, and all are affected by the cost of living crisis… and treat voters with contempt,” Moodie said.
“Johnson currently serves as a silly caricature for many pro-independence activists, but the pro-independence case has always run deeper than frustration with the current ruling elites. This whole sad episode underscores that in an independent Scotland we can and must do better and enable people to hold their representatives accountable.”