…To the SNP, the next general election is just a staging post. Winning a majority of Scottish seats would be an excellent start, but influencing the governance of the UK is of relatively minor importance. Any deal with Labour — or even a stage-managed week of negotiations — will be conducted with the 2016 Holyrood elections in mind. An SNP majority next year would bring the power to call for a second referendum. And if a majority of Scottish voters call for one, through an SNP (and Green) vote, how can Westminster reasonably say no? This is why so many Scottish unionists will vote tactically in May: it is crucial that the nationalists’ momentum is checked now.
Then comes Europe. Should Cameron lose the election less badly than Miliband and earn a second term, he is committed to a referendum on EU membership. While Scots are more Eurosceptic than the SNP allows (a third say they would vote to leave), the English are still far more likely to vote to leave the EU. If they do, and Scotland votes to stay in, the thirst for independence might prove unquenchable. (Equally, how would England react if Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish votes determined the outcome of the EU referendum?) Cameron’s European difficulties are another opportunity for the nationalists. And a reminder that the Union can be lost in London as well as in Scotland….
Nationalism is contagious, mind.