I was asked to explain the recent rise of Scottish Nationalism and its electoral triumph in the British General Election last Thursday, by my friend Ralf. This is what I said and no doubt others can give a different perspective perhaps?
“My take. It got started in the Margaret Thatcher era when she devasted traditional industries and destroyed the unions, as both were strong in Scotland. They also could not stand her tortured (like President Bush 2s) artificially learned (in his case Texas in hers “posh” English) accent.
They also had the idea that she used Scotland’s oil wealth to fund the UK, while she destroyed said traditional industries. Some truth in that. She certainly didn’t invest North Sea in building UK infrastructure or a sovereign wealth fund, but in financing consumption and a welfare state to handle all the unemployed she created especially in Scotland, Wales and the North of England. SE England thrived under her via the City of London finance sector. At least this is how the Scots see it.
While there was a Labour government, this hatred of English Conservatism went dormant from 1997-2010, because while Labour was not what the Scots wanted, as they wanted a more left wing Labour, it was far better to them than the previous Thatcher and post-Thatcher Conservative governments.
As soon as the Conservatives (in a coalition) took power in 2010, it ignited the political divide between a Scotland that overwhemingly voted Labour, but got a Conservative dominated coalition ruling them. And Cameron also is privately educated with a pompous accent, but at least his is the real thing, unlike Thatcher’s. (This is me reflecting what I have heard Scots say not necessarily what I think :))
So they want shot of this and while Labour was in office, Tony Blair had given them a Scottish Assembly with some powers, which started doing things like free university education and better elder care that the Scots like. So they now think (even though the North Sea oil production has fallen greatly and the price of oil too) they can create a stronger welfare state funded by “our oil” if only they can break free of those English who keep voting in the Nasty Party aka Conservatives with posh accents. By the way I have English friends with posh accents, who get insulted any time they visit Scotland. Not all North Sea oil and gas is in Scottish waters btw.
I personally have no problem with their anti-Conservative feelings as such, but they basically just helped deliver the destruction of the Labour Party for a long time, making the thing they hate: dominance by Conservatives in London more extreme. But I think their plans for Scotland are unaffordable. Also their only major growth sector outside oil (which is declining) is financial services, which will stampede back to England if independence ever happens. And I hate the idea of breaking up the UK.
But that’s my take on the dynamic. It will get worse if the UK votes to leave the European Union as Scotland is generally pro-EU as a balance to what they see as Conservative nastiness. Hope this helps.
Personal Note: I have been to Scotland a number of times over the years, but haven’t been there since 1997 so this what I hear from Scots in exile and others who have been there more recently.