Today marks a decade since the SNP matriarch Winnie Ewing, as the oldest MSP, began proceedings in Edinburgh with the famous declaration that “The Scottish Parliament, adjourned on the 25th day of March in the year 1707, is hereby reconvened’.
So much has happened in ten years: we have had four First Ministers; “father of the nation” Donald Dewar died in office; his successor Henry McLeish was forced to resign over an office expenses scandal, then his replacement Jack McConnell was beaten by Alex Salmond.
According to Labour’s Lord Robertson, the Scottish Parliament would kill nationalism “stone dead”. At first glance maybe not the most prophetic of predictions given that the SNP are in minority government at Holyrood and won the popular vote at last month’s Euro poll – and their government continues to be viewed as doing well by even the harshest critic.
But looking at the BBC commissioned opinion poll on the 10th birthday of the recreation of the Scots Parliament and things are a bit more interesting. It does appear the support for independence has not been strengthened by the reconvening of the Scottish Parliament. The BBC poll indicates that Scots favour more powers for their legislature over issues such as pensions and tax – more radical even that the recent Calman Commission findings – but they are still reluctant to break away from the UK. Westminster should retain control over defence and foreign affairs according to 63% of those polled.
The SNP may be popular but their key policy of independence does not have the same backing. Voters are still prepared to put their cross against the SNP but don’t support separation from the UK. So SNP leader Alex Salmond may achieve electoral success but his ultimate ambition may forever be thwarted.
And 10 years on, the electorate north of the border are also clear – they want a say in increased powers for the Parliament or independence. Scotland’s First Minister has been banging the drum for an Independence Referendum but his opponents say they will not back this or a referendum on increased powers. But it now seems the opposition parties are out of step with the Scottish people – with 56% saying in the BBC poll that they want a referendum before Holyrood’s powers are increased.
So a decade on Scotland has changed and continues along the route of change. Whether Lord Robertson’s prophecy comes true is another matter but the demands of a say in increasing the powers of the parliament or Independence surely can not be ignored.