Friday, 30 June 2017

Time for the real "reset" report to be published

From my Daily Record column
GATHERING dust somewhere in a filing cabinet in the First Minister's office is the real "reset" button on the independence debate.
The Andrew Wilson Growth Commission - the 2.0 economic case for Scotland going it alone - is being kept under lock and key, I suspect because it contains the devastating truth about the cost of independence.
When Nicola Sturgeon stood up this week to announce her own political "reset", she was delaying nothing - and changing nothing.
She put the TV on standby, she didn't switch it off.
The referendum burner can be re-ignited by Sturgeon at any point. Even though most people don't want a second vote, she doesn't have the power to hold it and the polls tell us she would lose it.
Understandably, the SNP leader looked uncomfortable acknowledging that core truth while being brutally barracked by the opposition.
For Sturgeon, time is running out to get the project back on track.
She would have to force the vote before the next Scottish election in 2021, in which she might well lose the Holyrood majority for independence.
Stage a second referendum against the tide and the cause is lost forever.
This doesn't need to be spelled out to SNP members. The party executive urged Sturgeon to bide her time - a commodity which, like her personal approval ratings, she has less and less of.
It is beginning to look like it may be left to others to reforge the case for independence because Sturgeon can't switch channels any more than she can switch off the dream.
The task of Wilson, assisted by several SNP luminaries, was to re-write the future because the milk-and-honey White Paper version punted by Alex Salmond and Sturgeon became a soggy, tearstained mess.
To a tight deadline, and with considerable intellectual gymwork, the job was done.
Wilson, the soul of discretion, won't tell us what is in the report, but we have been given hints.
A leaked account of a Craigellachie Hotel briefing, attended by Sturgeon, had the Wilson report suggesting an independent Scotland "could see a recovery of the position it now finds itself in over a five to 10-year period".
Wilson denied the claim. But a scenario which leaves Scotland worse off for a number of years but harnesses the country to the hope that pain will be worth the long-term gain chimes with many other projections.
If the report were published we would know.
But with the Scottish economy this week hovering on the brink of recession - while the rest of the UK bizarrely continues to grow - it is asking a lot of any electorate to wed themselves to that kind of proposition.
Yet without that reset economic case the torch that burned brightly in 2014 is in danger of becoming a flickering candle.
Brexit is the biggest uncertainty, and as I have written before, Sturgeon's best last hope.
But time and tide wait for no one and I agree with others that for Sturgeon this has been a watershed moment.

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