I don’t presume to know the First Minister’s mind. Rather than speculate about her thinking on the matter, I would prefer to examine the factors which might influence her thinking.
GA Ponsonby’s article basically envisages Nicola Sturgeon restating the Scottish Government’s position as it was before the recent UK general election. To me, this seems unlikely. The anticipated statement must be seen to take due account of the outcome of that election. Goodness knows, the FM has not been short of advice as to how she should respond. That advice may be summed up as falling into two opposing camps – ‘Step back!’ or ‘Step up!’.
My sense of things is that the ‘step up’ argument carries the most weight. This is partly because the First Minister has already done the ‘stepping back’. She’s done the reasonable, patient, willing to compromise thing. Some would say she’s overdone it. To whatever extent that may be true, it is certainly forgivable. When being reasonable, it must surely always be better to err on the side of excess. But I also feel that, amidst the complex, swirling currents of political pressures, the tide is running in favour of something that will reinvigorate the independence campaign.
There is a way for Nicola Sturgeon to do this which is perfectly consistent with her position to date. A way simultaneously to begin the process of disengaging a new referendum from Brexit; maintain the argument that Scotland’s relationship with the EU must be maintained in accordance with the will of Scotland’s people; and provide a fresh stimulus for the Yes movement.
The First Minister can, quite sensibly, argue that we don’t have to wait to know what the outcome of Brexit negotiations holds for Scotland. We know it’s going to be massively detrimental. The compromise tabled by the Scottish Government was almost certainly unrealisable..It was publicly offered mainly so that it could be publicly rejected. But it is not politically possible for the FM to take this offer off the table. The reasonable approach which contrasts so starkly with that of Theresa May must be maintained.
As I see it, the best way forward, and what I would expect from the FM, is that the Scottish Government’s approach be re-framed. Rather than saying a new referendum is a possibility if the UK Government doesn’t deliver the Brexit deal we want, Nicola Sturgeon can now say a new referendum is definitely happening UNLESS the UK Government delivers that Brexit deal. The circumstances are now such that a date can be set for #ScotRef.
When Nicola Sturgeon makes her statement in the coming week, I anticipate that she will announce plans to hold a referendum on Thursday 13 September 2018. I expect that she will make this a firm commitment. She will argue that, by next September, enough will be known about the terms of the Brexit deal and the implications for Scotland for people to make an informed decision.
But she will also argue that there is more to the constitutional issue than the issue of Scotland being ripped out of the EU against the wishes of the Scottish people. She will argue that this, and the UK Government’s open disdain for Scotland’s democratic will, is merely symptomatic of a much deeper malaise in the current constitutional settlement. She will argue that pretty much everything that has happened subsequent to the first independence referendum, not to mention the deplorable manner in which the anti-independence campaign was conducted, all provides more than sufficient justification for a new vote.
She may also argue that, if unionists really want to lay the constitutional issue to rest then the only way to do this is by satisfying demand for a new referendum. With at least half the electorate wanting #ScotRef, the matter must be addressed. And the only way to do that is to let the people’s voice be heard. Scotland’s right of self-determination must be respected. Respecting that right, it is the solemn duty of government to ensure the people have the opportunity to exercise their right of self-determination.
This is all speculation, of course. I could be wrong. Nicola Sturgeon may well make a very different political calculation. I totally respect her right to do so. And I will continue to support her – because I can be certain that, whatever her calculation may be, it is always informed by her estimation of what is best for Scotland. All I saying is that the approach I have outlined above is now an option. There are other options.
Having said all that, my heartfelt hope is that, by the end of the week, a revitalised independence movement will be gearing up for a new referendum campaign with aim of securing an emphatic Yes vote on Thursday 13 September 2018.Views: 3616
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