Friday, 16 September 2016

Shouldn't this be the dawn of IndyRef2?

My Daily Record column for today

Two years on from the first independence referendum shouldn’t we be waking up this Friday morning to the result of the second one? In other words, hasn’t Nicola Sturgeon missed her chance? 

If the First Minister had been bold on that dawn of June 24th, when it became clear the UK had voted to leave the European Union while Scotland had overwhelmingly chosen to stay, she would have called an independence vote for this very week.

An immediate declaration of intent from the steps of Bute House, an unprecedented emergency sitting of Holyrood on Saturday, an overwhelming parliamentary mandate to go for a referendum. All of it delivering a knock-out blow to a British state reeling from the biggest crisis since Suez.

Remember, power had been sucked out Westminster that weekend. You could feel that walking around the tented media village on College Green outside parliament. It wasn’t a broadcasting centre, it was a first-aid station for a political class hit by a hurricane.

The story since is that Sturgeon was the calm centre of the storm, that she projected purpose and a plan by demanding Scotland remain in the Single Market or that she may, just may, trigger a second independence referendum.

That’s reading it wrong.

There were only two possible reactions for the SNP leader to have had that day - to strike fast and summon Scottish patriotism to the European flag or to meekly pick at the details, rather important details, of how to replace EU funding and rules for Scotland’s fishing, agriculture and environment.

Instead Sturgeon went for the middle path, demanding status in the UK negotiations - the Tories never fail to be amazed at how obsessed the nationalists are with status - or threatening to pull the plug on the Union. History might judge this as kind of seven and half out of ten endorsement of independence.

If she had gone for broke the question on the ballot paper would be “should Scotland remain a part of the United Kingdom?”.

But the terms of the debate would be do you want an independent Scotland to be in the European Union? In in the heat of a turnaround summer of politics who knows what the outcome a short, sharp campaign might have been?

A gambler would have bet the farm on lifting independence over the 50 per cent plus one vote barrier. Alex Salmond appeared to suggest so in his intervention on Wednesday, demanding that Sturgeon “block Brexit”.    

Now, it looks like she overplayed the slim hand she had.

Now, she sends Mike Russell to vacuous meetings to David Davis while she and Theresa May adopt a holding pattern until the heat goes out and the Brexit landing lights come on.

There still has to be hope for Sturgeon, that a hard Brexit will make Scots rush into her arms.

But then she has the difficulty of outlining the alternative to being outside Scotland’s biggest trading union and adopting the currency of the union we want to be part of. Did someone mention currency? Let’s not go there, most Scots will think.  

Meantime backing for independence has not surged since Brexit and Sturgeon’s own ratings show signs of deflation. 

Support for independence is still high but depressingly two polls this week show that all nationalism has achieved as we mark this two year anniversary is to continue to divide Scots, not from England, but from each other.

The task of any post-referendum leader was to move the nation on from that sorry state. Instead Nicola Sturgeon has chosen to play the game again, but to roll only one dice. 

No comments:

Post a Comment