I watched Nicola Sturgeon make her statement yesterday. I watched the question and answer session that followed.
I was extremely happy when it all concluded. From what I saw on social media, fellow Yessers were similarly impressed. Make no mistake, Scotland’s First Minister has outmaneuvered her British Nationalist opponents again.
Sure, the SNP lost momentum when Theresa May called her snap election. Both Brexit and the indyref were placed on the back-burner as the party quickly switched to general election mode. The SNP reeled when it lost twenty one seats including those of Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson. However it still won a majority of Scottish Westminster seats.
That shock was temporary. Ruth-mania was always going to die down. Brexit was always going to re-emerge. As I confidently predicted four days ago, the First Minister has not dropped her plans for a second indyref. What she has done is to hitch the referendum onto the Brexit cart. It’ll be unhitched just before the cart goes over the cliff.
The media is finding it difficult to frame Nicola Sturgeon’s statement, just as the Unionist parties are. They want to crow about how a second referendum is dead, they want to proclaim Sturgeon as damaged goods. However they know that little has in fact changed. If anything it is they who are now on the back-foot. Brexit is coming.
Talk of the second referendum being kicked into the long grass, postponed or that Nicola Sturgeon has U-turned and has suffered a setback are more a reflection of the wishful thinking that infests the Unionist media than a description of reality.
They need it to be so, so they report as fact their own subjective desire. The BBC, as expected, is at the forefront of that drive.
The presenter above claims Nicola Sturgeon has said a second indyref won’t take place until after the UK has left the European Union. Below is a short excerpt from the First Minister’s statement which shows that it is the end of negotiations that any second ballot would take place and not when the UK has left the EU – something Nicola Sturgeon has always said.
And, in the meantime, whatever their [voters] scepticism about the likely outcome of the negotiations, they want the Scottish Government to focus as hard as we can on securing the best possible outcome for Scotland.
Indeed, that view has even more force now that the general election and the weakness of the UK government has re-opened the possibility, however narrow, of averting a hard Brexit and retaining membership of the single market.
I have a duty to listen to those views and I intend to do so.
The Scottish Government remains committed – strongly – to the principle of giving Scotland a choice at the end of this process.
The presenter also claimed that the First Minister had “scrapped plans” for a second indyref before the Spring of 2019. I must have missed this part of Nicola Sturgeon’s statement. It rather puzzlingly turned up again on Good Morning Scotland.
The only thing that has definitely changed is that legislation to hold a second indyref has been pushed back. Scottish voters will still be given a choice at the end of the Brexit negotiations. There will still be a second indyref within the term of this parliament.
What Nicola Sturgeon has in fact done is to cleverly modify her approach to the timing of the second independence referendum. It is now very clearly a floating timetable determined by the Brexit talks where previously the media were able to portray it – erroneously – as the First Minister’s own preferred timetable [See Sarah Smith above].
A second independence referendum might still be held by the Spring of 2019, but crucially the timetable will now run in parallel with the Brexit negotiations. If these negotiations collapse, and remember Theresa May has threatened to walk out if talks don’t go her way, then an early referendum may be required to avoid the catastrophe.
Such a situation would justify emergency legislation at Holyrood. Indyref2 legislation may currently be on pause, but remember civil servants at Holyrood have been working on it for a year so it is near good-to-go.
Nicola Sturgeon has conceded that talks will most likely not conclude until Autumn next year and has given that date for a return of the referendum issue to the Scottish parliament. By then the negative impact on Scotland of any Brexit deal will be known and arguments well-rehearsed. The Scottish parliament will vote to ratify its earlier decision to hold a second referendum. There is no reason, barring an outright refusal by the UK government, that a second indyref cannot be legislated for quickly and a snap ballot announced.
Back in February I predicted that the next Yes campaign will be short and will run on the message that time is of the essence. I argued it will present Scots with an opportunity to save themselves from Brexit. But that they will have to act quickly! The First Minister’s statement has convinced me that is exactly what is going to happen.
There is no U-turn. There is no change. Scots will have a choice at the end of the Brexit negotiations.
This is the Brexit indyref. Campaigning is about to begin. The damage to Scotland of leaving the EU will be at its heart.
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