The first minister beats the independence drum but voters are fed up with constitutional wranglingby Adam Tomkins / April 25, 2019 / Leave a comment
Nicola Sturgeon made a statement to the Scottish parliament on Wednesday in which she called for a second independence referendum to be held within the next two years. Or, at least, that is what she wants her supporters to believe. In reality the first minister knows that calling a re-run of the 2014 referendum too soon will lead to certain defeat and to the crushing end of her own political career. In any case there is surely no chance of a Conservative government in Westminster consenting to a second independence referendum this side of the next Holyrood elections, which are due to take place in May 2021. And without Westminster’s consent any “indyref2” would be unlawful under the devolution arrangements established in the Scotland Act.
Sturgeon knows all this, so why did she make her statement this week? There are three reasons: short, medium and long-term. The most immediate is that this weekend sees the Scottish National Party conference. Sturgeon’s party and, even more so, the broader “Yes” movement, are champing at the bit for another crack at the independence question. Wiser heads in the SNP know that to build a coalition capable of delivering a majority for independence will take time and effort. The reasons for defeat in 2014 are as valid now as they were then—not least on the vexed question of the currency an independent Scotland would use. And the experience of the last three years is sobering. Brexit, as we all know, is proving extraordinarily difficult to deliver. If leaving a loose confederation of European states which has been in existence for only 50 years or so is difficult (and costly and divisive), how much more so leaving a close Union of more than three centuries’ duration?
But not all heads in the SNP are wise. Sturgeon’s authority is not what it was, and she needs to work to hold her troops in line. Throwing red meat to the pack was in large measure what this week’s statement was about.
In the medium term Sturgeon knows that a high-speed train is heading directly for her, and may yet derail her administration entirely. Her predecessor (and, for 30 years, her mentor) Alex Salmond faces 14 counts of sexual misconduct,…