Nicola Sturgeon calls for calm and caution when scheduling a second referendum. Alex Salmond, on the other hand, wants to immediately start negotiations for the separation of the United Kingdom. There are strategic differences between the chief minister and her predecessor in office, but also a personal confrontation that ended in court and revealed internal disputes between Scottish nationalists.
While waiting to know the results of the elections to the Scottish Parliament this Thursday, the pro-independence forces are confident that they have achieved the greatest victory in their history. A triumph that paradoxically can exacerbate the fight between those who do not want to risk the failure of a new consultation and those who want to step on the accelerator. A fracture that would benefit the defenders to continue in the union.
The independence movement in Scotland had until now been governed by a single formation. The Scottish National Party (SNP) has brought together all the forces, in the face of a fragmented unionism and at odds with each other. His success at the polls has been unstoppable.
Sturgeon, the current leader and chief minister since 2014, is preparing to renew her term. In the last legislature it has been governed in alliance with the Greens, but the entry on the scene of Salmond’s new party, Alba, has broken unity in the SNP for the first time and has been able to steal precious votes from him.
“The greatest risk for the SNP to achieve its ambitions lies in its own internal divisions,” says Professor John Curtis , a political scientist and leading polling specialist.
Rival, wanting revenge
At the end of last year, support for independence reached a record 58% as a result of the rejection of Brexit and the good management of the pandemic by the Scottish Government. Since then that support has been dwindling and supporters of staying or leaving are now evenly matched. One of the causes of this decline has been the virulent dispute between Sturgeon and Salmond.
The latter turned against who had been his ‘disciple’ when she refused to intervene in the investigation into 12 allegations of sexual assault for which he was tried and found not guilty, although his reputation was greatly affected.
In March, shortly after the verdict, Salmonf created Alba. He returned to politics and ran for election as a rival and wanting revenge. The fight showed the lawsuits, conspiracies and feuds existing within the nationalist movement. “If I wanted to destroy it, I could have done it,” Salmond told The New Yorker, referring to Sturgeon.
Alba can capture the frustration among certain militants over Sturgeon’s step-by-step, stepping on solid ground strategy. “I am an absolute believer in independence, I want Scotland to be independent, but first we must get the country out of the crisis (of the pandemic) and of course we must build a majority in favor of independence, with patience, with persuasion. I think people who want to achieve independence understand it that way ”, he declared during the campaign.
The SNP could have obtained an absolute majority in the Scottish Parliament in these elections. The last time was in 2011 when Salmond led the party and the Scottish Government.
Faced with that resounding victory, the then British Prime Minister, David Cameron, gave in to the request to authorize a referendum, which took place in 2014 and in which the split with the United Kingdom was rejected. The independentistas trust that now the same can happen with Boris Johnson.
If the victory over Sturgeon is confirmed, great pressure will fall . If you fail to make headway with your consultation preparations, or if you fail to unfold an alternative path to independence, the feeling that you are betraying the cause will increase.