On May 13th 2021, a Home Office van arrived in Glasgow Pollockshields to deport a pair of asylum seekers. Local people halted the deportation and the police were called. The police protected the van but eventually had the men released back into the community “meanwhile”.
The protest came just over a week after First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had been berated by an extreme right party candidate for for “filling the area with immigrants”. Nicola Sturgeon told her Glasgow rejected her views. In the election a few days later that candidate got just 46 votes. Nicola Sturgeon was reelected, her party came close to achieving an absolute majority under a voting system designed to prevent this and the election resulted in a sizeable pro independence majority.
This protest shows once more that Scotland and Westminster are increasingly culturally divergent. How might this affect the prospects of Scottish Independence?
The View From Westminster
Westminster has reserved immigration policy to itself, and set up a “Hostile Environment”, aimed at (poor, I.e non millionaire) immigrants, made more hostile by the present Home Secretary, who happens to be the daughter of immigrants. This policy panders to the Tories' ingrained racism and their more extreme nativist English supporters but is opposed to mainstream Scottish culture, although there is a minority that want to expel all non-native residents of Scotland, regardless of skin colour, and all non-white native residents regardless of place of birth.
Although Westminster seems to have chosen to remain deliberately ignorant of this protest, their latest anti-democratic anti-protest proposals may be used against future protests. This can only increase support for independence. For now, though, they are scared of driving support for independence even higher and may well stay silent hoping this will be forgotten and they can spirit away the asylum seekers when everything has quietened down.
The opinions of the Scottish people are of course irrelevant to Westminster, as are the opinions of those English that are poor, not millionaire Tory donors, and non-racist. Nevertheless this protest, by ordinary people, will be spun into an attack on the SNP and on independence.
A Tipping Point?
Historically major consequences often flow from minor events such as the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand that led to World War I. It is unlikely that this event will be a turning point in the struggle for Independence, more probably this incident will fade into the mist of mainstream media silence the political situation is close to a critical point. Something small could turn the bemused mockery of Westminster into a wholesale rejection of Westminster, and the Union of 1707, if not the Union of Crowns of 1603.
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Westminster could carry on ignoring the desire of the people of Scotland, perhaps using the police against future protests, they could paint the protesters as extremists, create an armed force to enforce deportations, they could devolve immigration policy to Scotland or they could use Henry VIII powers to fulfill their long-held dream of abolishing the Scottish Parliament.
If they abolish Holyrood, thus losing the screen disguising their malice and incompetence, it is likely the constitutional status will revert to the old position that a simple majority of pro-independence Westminster MPs will able to declare independence. Should they seek to make that illegal anything could happen but with no legal route to independence it is likely the international community will feel forced to recognise an independent Scotland.
Most likely Westminster will pretend this did not happen and try to deport the asylum seekers later.
Abolishing Holyrood would be stupid, but that has not stopped Westminster before.
They are least likely to devolve immigration policy.
Devolving immigration policy has advantages for the Tories: they drop a hot coal, can paint the SNP as soft on immigration and may temporarily reduce support for independence enough that they feel they can safely call and win a referendum on independence. The downside is it may drive independence support higher, alienate their natural supporters north of the border and be seen as a creeping and irreversible accretion of powers by Scotland that will result in de facto independence.
The Future is Obscure
In the short term this incident may have no effect. In the long term it may be seen as an event that led to Scotland becoming independent. If Westminster handle this properly it could be an amicable separation. If not (and remember how well they handled Brexit) it could be long and painful for both countries.
This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.