There’s going to be a second independence referendum. There always was of course. It’s just that it’s come around a great deal faster than anyone ever imagined, regardless of whether Theresa May tries to delay it or not.
Brexit has presented Indyref1 veterans with an opportunity to do it all over again. But what should we do? This isn’t a repeat, it’s a rebirth. To mix my metaphors … there’s a whole new landscape.
The last campaign set Better Together against Yes Scotland. Project Fear against Project Vision. The ‘devil we know’ Union against the ‘uncertainty’ of independence. It was all somehow very clearly defined. They demanded answers and we responded … politely.
This time it’s different. This time the No campaign will be placed on the defensive. This time Yes will be asking the questions. Last time they had the EU. This time we have Brexit.
Nicola Sturgeon has set the tone already. Her Bute House speech caught everyone off guard, in particular the Prime Minister. That was the intention of course. Theresa May has been left looking unsure, weak and reactive – “Now is not the time” – yea, right.
In Scotland the 2017 version of Better Together spluttered and stuttered their way from microphone to microphone when the FM effectively called ScotRef. Ruth, Kez and Willie complained and whined but said little of substance. The only coherent narrative from Scotland’s Unionist opposition was ‘nobody wants a referendum’. For nobody, read ‘Unionists’.
This was Unionism on the defensive. They couldn’t think on their feet. They had been out-manoeuvred and out thought. If this is how they react to a simple speech they should have long been anticipating, what will they be like when the Brexit time-bomb goes off?
Bit by bit the reality of Brexit is going to hit home. This isn’t the 2014 Scottish referendum when UK politics, when it strayed north, came in the form of George Osborne’s currency threat or Philip Hammond’s shipbuilding scares.
It’s coming in the shape of desperate Brexit negotiations, unwanted trade tariffs and job losses by the tens of thousands. It’s coming in the shape of a devalued pound and more expensive imports. It’s coming in the shape of an isolated, xenophobic little-England as it turns its anger on everyone else.
Jose Manuel Barroso has been replaced by Jean-Claude Juncker. The EU is no longer a Better Together asset. It’s a Brexit Together liability.
This is the backdrop of a new referendum that will be peppered with examples of promises that were made by the No campaign prior to 2014. Promises that were subsequently broken. Unionism will be exposed for all to see.
How will the No campaign respond to the shoe being on the other foot? Not that well if the last few days are anything to go by. Threatening to block a referendum? Really?
At least as important is who will respond? There’s a distinct lack of big-hitters this time around. Ruth and Adam, Kez and Anas, Willie and … who? They have three MPs, one of which had his reputation trashed in court after being labelled a liar.
Dare they wheel out Lord Darling and Gordon ‘Home Rule’ Brown to consolidate the depleted squad? Incredible as it may seem, there are reports that Superbroon is indeed set to make an ‘intervention’ this weekend. Will the BBC cut away from the SNP conference?
The Yes campaign will face the weakest UK government in living memory and an opposition that attacks its own leader as often as it attacks a Conservative administration that is waging war on the most vulnerable.
The de-facto No-campaign group ‘Scotland in Union’ has started the campaign by unveiling giant billboards at the SNP conference.
It takes a special kind of genius to believe you’ll increase support by calling voters stupid.
If the independence movement could have scripted its perfect scenario in the lead up to a second referendum, this would be it.
But bad as things are within this Union, as dreadful as the UK government is and as poor as the all-new Better Together squad might be, there is still work to be done. Yes starts this campaign as it did the last, trailing … by far less … but still trailing.
There may not be an all-encompassing Yes Scotland organisation this time around. That means the SNP will be the focal point for opposition and media attacks. What’s new? That may be no bad thing when you factor in the popularity of Nicola Sturgeon. The party has raised over one third of its million pound fighting fund appeal. It’s clearly preparing to lead from the front.
We need to be disciplined. Let’s not provide the Unionist elements within the media with cheap ammunition. We can sort our differences out after a Yes vote.
Let’s learn to differentiate between a referendum and an election. Referendums do not require manifesto policies. You want the SNP to be more radical? Cool, offer your prospectus to the electorate of a newly independent Scotland.
Let’s keep our eyes on the prize. We stumbled in 2014 and came up short. We’re up again and going in the right direction. Let’s get there this time.
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