Nicola Sturgeon is expected to reveal the results of her party’s general election ‘reflection’ this coming week. That reflection will of course include the small matter of a second independence referendum [IR2].
The First Minister deftly avoided being bounced into discussing IR2 in the aftermath of the election result. The media portrayed the result as something of a disaster for the SNP. A bogus narrative emerged that said the SNP had somehow lost its mandate to hold a second independence referendum by dint of having lost a few more seats than it expected.
By accepting, rightly or wrongly, that her party’s stance on IR2 had contributed to seats lost in the general election the First Minister was able to show humility. By refusing to be bounced into making a statement specifically on IR2 itself, the First Minister denied Ruth Davidson the platform the Scottish Tory leader craved.
The hype of Ruth Davidson’s election ‘win’ has since faded. In its place is the very real threat of Brexit. It’s against this new backdrop that Nicola Sturgeon will make her eagerly anticipated statement.
So what will she say? Before addressing this question it’s worth looking back at something the SNP leader said almost exactly one year ago. Take a look at the video clip below.
Pressed by Gordon Brewer on a second independence referendum, Nicola Sturgeon says: “I’m not going to make judgements over the period ahead on what’s right for me as leader of the SNP or the SNP as a party. I’m the First Minister of Scotland and I’ve got to try and make judgements about what’s in the best interests of Scotland.”
The key is what is in the best interests of Scotland … and a hard Brexit isn’t it.
Since the general election, Brexit had dominated the news.The negotiations are underway and it ain’t going to plan.
The chaos that has engulfed Theresa May’s minority government and the confusion over what kind of Brexit she is seeking is creating an altogether different atmosphere to the one that prevailed immediately after the general election.
It’s been so bad for the Tories that Ruth Davidson has virtually disappeared, unless you count the ridiculous spectacle of the leader of the opposition strutting around dressed like Tank Girl.
This is precisely why Nicola Sturgeon delayed saying anything about IR2. She’s been waiting for the inevitable Brexit backlash to hit the Tories.
So what about the statement this coming week? My belief is that the First Minister will re-affirm her commitment to holding a second independence referendum if it is the only way Scotland can avoid falling off the Brexit cliff. She’ll couch her commitment in carefully chosen language, i.e. IR2 is insurance against a hard Brexit, but IR2 will definitely not be off the table.
I also fully expect Nicola Sturgeon to resurrect her offer of compromise so arrogantly dismissed by Theresa May before the Prime Minister announced her shock snap election. That compromise pledged to remove the ‘Brexit Indyref’ if Scotland’s Single Market status was protected.
What happens if a weakened Prime Minister rejects a repeat offer of compromise? Given Ruth Davidson fought the general election campaign in Scotland pledging to oppose such a repeat ballot then a rejection is a near certainty.
A rejection means we will be back to where we were immediately prior to the snap general election when even the Daily Record was calling for a second independence referendum. We will then have a waiting game to see what kind of Brexit deal emerges and how much damage it is likely to cause Scotland.
And what of Ruth Davidson? The Scottish Tory leader is a bobbing cork on the Brexit waters. Her ‘No Indyref2’ was a good soundbite during a general election that didn’t feature Brexit. I’m not so sure people will be as receptive to this message as the reality of Brexit looms and a second independence referendum looks more and more like a lifeboat.
Scottish voters may even begin to recall that they actually voted to remain part of the European Union.
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