Election 2020

Scotland’s Pro-Independence Leaders Fret for U.S. Democracy

For the Scottish National Party, Trump is an easy target—and a way to bash Brexiteers at home.

This article is part of Election 2020: America Votes, FP’s round-the-clock coverage of the U.S. election results as they come in, with short dispatches from correspondents and analysts around the world. The America Votes page is free for all readers.

Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon campaigns ahead of the  2019 British general election in Perth, Scotland, on Dec. 3, 2019.
Scottish National Party leader Nicola Sturgeon campaigns ahead of the 2019 British general election in Perth, Scotland, on Dec. 3, 2019. Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

For Scotland’s pro-independence leaders, U.S. President Donald Trump is the gift that keeps on giving.

Trump remains deeply unpopular in his mother’s homeland. Criticizing him—and by extension his British Brexiteer allies—is easy politics for the ruling Scottish National Party (SNP). After Trump early on Wednesday prematurely claimed victory, made baseless allegations of electoral fraud, and threatened legal action to stop vote counts, Nicola Sturgeon, the SNP leader and Scotland’s first minister, expressed fears for the “integrity” of U.S. democracy.

“Crucial hours and days ahead for the integrity of US democracy,” she tweeted. “Let’s hope we start to hear the voices of Republicans who understand the importance of that.”

Over the years, Sturgeon has made no secret of her contempt for Trump, this summer saying it is sometimes “hard not to conclude” that the U.S. president is a racist. As America began tallying its votes, the SNP saw another opportunity to link Trump to the party’s real opponents: Britain’s pro-Brexit Conservative government and Boris Johnson.

Speaking in Westminster, Johnson declined to condemn Trump’s claims of “fraud” in the U.S. elections. “We don’t comment as a U.K. government on the democratic processes of our friends and allies,” Johnson said. The SNP’s leader in Westminster jumped on that remark, as did Johnson’s English opponents.

“With his reputation as ‘Britain’s Trump,’ Boris Johnson has a particular duty to speak out and distance himself from his friend’s false claims of major fraud and unsupported declarations of victory before the votes have been counted,” said Ian Blackford, the SNP leader in Westminster. 

“The fact that he won’t speaks volumes.”

David Leask is a freelance journalist who has covered the international impact of Scotland's independence movement.

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