WHAT might be the consequences of a Westminster government decision to hold the referendum on the European Union on the same day as the Holyrood parliament elections next May? And how should the Scottish Government react?
Until now First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has focused on the question of “double” support. That is to say that all four UK nations would have to support withdrawal from Europe for this to happen. Otherwise, if Scotland opted to stay in but England, for example, opted to go out, and thus carries the vote, the Scottish people would then deserve another vote on autonomy.
In some ways a decision to have the European referendum next May would solve any dilemma she may have had. She can simply say to her autumn conference that the case for a referendum would be unanswerable if two things happen.
One is for the voters to elect a majority SNP government at Holyrood; the other is for the Scottish people to vote to stay in the European Union but to find that the rest of the United Kingdom has voted to come out.
Alternatively she can simply say it will be a factor to be considered in deciding on a fresh independence vote.
One thing looks certain. It will take years not months for withdrawal from the EU to happen. It will take years not months for another referendum on Scottish independence, and independence itself, to happen. Voters should not hold their breath about seeing either prospect come to fruition.