The pressure is building on First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to put up or shut up on a second independence referendum, and with a meeting with the Prime Minister scheduled for tomorrow, the stakes could go higher.
So far, Theresa May has stood firm on Brexit negotiation being UK-wide, and has left Sturgeon with nowhere to go other than continue down the path she identified after the vote to leave the EU. It is hard to imagine the Prime Minister will do anything other than stick to her position tomorrow.
What then for Sturgeon? This stand-off has gone so far that she risks serious damage to either her reputation or her political ambition – possibly to both.
If she retreats from her pursuit of a referendum, she will be judged to have “lost” and will be pilloried, and if she presses on, she risks triggering a referendum ending in a defeat that would deliver exactly what her opponents want – independence off the agenda for a very long time.
The vote to leave the EU did make some who voted No in 2014 say that they could rethink their allegiance to the Union, but that mood has changed. The initial increase in support for independence has not been sustained, and there is no evidence that a second referendum would see a majority of Scots back independence.
There are increasingly louder murmurings within the SNP over the Sturgeon’s strategy, and if her own charges are not convinced, then the rest of the country will not be persuaded.
As ever in situations like this, the worst decision to make after recognising that a strategy isn’t working is to press on. If the appetite for independence is not there, then recognition of that position and a change of strategy is the only option. It will be painful for the First Minister, and could seriously wound her, but she has to find a way of talking herself out of the corner she is backed into.
Extracting a concession from the Prime Minister would help. But in the absence of such a development, she needs a Plan B which saves face – although it may be too late for that.