IN the days before body shaming was a thing they used to say it's not over until the fat lady sings, but in Scottish politics it's not over until Labour and Tory politicians take to the media to Britsplain to us why their parties losing an election to the SNP does not in fact mean that voters in Scotland want an independence referendum.

Recently the Labour Party's Scottish Optional Identity Mark had been gearing up to triumphantly proclaim that the next Westminster General Election in Scotland really was a de facto referendum on independence after all - despite previously denying it was any such thing. 

This was because the branch office had been buoyed up by a series of opinion polls which appeared to show that Labour was making substantial inroads into the SNP vote and even stood a chance of overtaking the SNP as the largest party in terms of vote share and Westminster seats won.

Labour was all set to play the traditional British nationalist game of shifting the goal posts after the final whistle was blown, and was poised to tell us that voters in Scotland had rejected independence or another independence referendum.

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Now, however, Labour will be going back to plan A - denying that the SNP has won an election that it looks increasingly likely to win and insisting that the election was not a de facto vote on independence.  Heads the British nationalists win, tails supporters of Scottish independence lose.

This is because this week a new poll from YouGov has burst Labour's red balloon, or rather, Labour's blue balloon with faded tinges of red. It appears that the more that voters in Scotland see of Keir Starmer (below) and his wholesale adoption of right wing Conservative policies, the less they like it, and they are increasingly inclined to return to the SNP.

The poll from YouGov found that, in Westminster voting intention in Scotland, the SNP has extended its lead over Labour to 11%.

The National:

Although polls still suggest that Labour will increase its number of seats in Scotland, reports of the SNP's demise look like British nationalist wishful thinking.

This week's YouGov poll would see the SNP comfortably remain the largest party in Scotland in terms of vote share and Westminster seats won.

This will come as welcome news to the SNP which this week unveiled the motion on its independence strategy which is to be put to party members at the annual conference next month.

As set out by the First Minister at the SNP's special conference in June this year, the motion states that if the SNP win the next Westminster general election in Scotland, this will be regarded as a mandate to open independence negotiations with the Westminster government, given the anti-democratic intransigence of both Labour and the Conservatives in refusing to accept that the people of Scotland clearly voted in favour of holding a second independence referendum at the Holyrood election in May 2021. 

Moreover the motion states that winning the General Election will be measured by the normal rules of Westminster elections, that is by number of seats won, not by vote share or any other special pleading by the anti-independence parties seeking to delegitimise the electoral decisions of the people of Scotland.

The relevant section of the motion reads: "Conference agrees that the SNP manifesto for the UK General Election should state on page one, line one, the following simple and powerful statement: Vote SNP for Scotland to become an independent country."

It adds: "Conference believes that if the SNP subsequently wins the most seats at the General Election in Scotland, the Scottish Government is empowered to begin immediate negotiations with the UK Government to give democratic effect to Scotland becoming an independent country; and to take the following actions as part of preparations for Scotland’s independence: Publish ‘Withdrawal from Westminster – a New Partnership Agreement’, which would set out the detailed terms we would seek in discussions with the UK Government for Scotland becoming an independent country and include draft legal text on the transfer of powers from Westminster to the Scottish Parliament necessary to prepare for independence.

"Conduct a nationwide consultation on a draft interim constitution, which would be the founding document of an independent Scotland.

"Prepare the ground for Scotland to become an independent member state of the EU, by establishing an envoy position, who would be a representative of the Scottish Government in Brussels."

The urgency of Scotland escaping this increasingly dysfunctional so-called Union has been highlighted by a new report from Justice,  a cross-party law reform and human rights charity which aims to strengthen the justice system. 

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The report makes for alarming reading, highlighting how the Conservatives introduced a series of measures which have greatly expanded the state's powers while limiting government accountability. It notes that many of these new laws conflict with the UK's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). 

These include, but are not limited to, new restrictions on the right to protest peacefully, measures which strip undocumented migrants from protection against modern slavery, the Covert Human Intelligence Sources (Criminal Conduct) Act 2021, which granted immunity for criminal offences committed by undercover operatives, and the Overseas Operations (Service Personnel and Veterans) Act 2021, which granted immunity to members of the Armed Forces accused of war crimes.

Starmer's Labour party will not repeal most of this legislation, while the Conservatives are looking set to seek to withdraw the UK from the ECHR entirely. 

Democracy in the UK is already fragile, the Westminster Parliament has repeatedly proven that it is ineffective at holding the government to account. With a Conservative party which is moving ever further to the right and a Labour party which is adopting Conservative policies as its sole means of taking a turn in government, the future of democracy in the UK does not look bright.