Lesley Riddoch: Green light for ‘indyref2’ could be flashing before 2016 ends

The SNP have said another referendum could be held ufcurrent round of Brexit talks fail.   Picture: Lisa Ferguson
The SNP have said another referendum could be held ufcurrent round of Brexit talks fail. Picture: Lisa Ferguson
Share this article
0
Have your say

Who’d have guessed it? Within hours of the Brexit vote, Scottish independence has once again become the talk of the steamie across the UK and the world.

Of course the prospect of a second indyref has been on the cards for months as each Euroref poll revealed the likelihood of a cross-border split vote.

Until 2014 however, such a “regional difference” would have been duly noted and swiftly filed.

Now though, the difference is stark enough to merit attention.

And of course since Indyref1, the context of constitutional debate in Britain has completely changed.

READ MORE: David Cameron to resign after European Union referendum loss

A demonstration takes place outside the Scottish Parliament to maintain pressure on the UK Government to deliver on devolution promises.

Picture: Malcolm McCurrach/ TSPL

A demonstration takes place outside the Scottish Parliament to maintain pressure on the UK Government to deliver on devolution promises. Picture: Malcolm McCurrach/ TSPL

Scots are now, supposedly, being given “the most powerful devolved parliament in the world” – even if talk of it being “as near federalism as possible” has receded.

Would such a meaty, powerful parliament expect a clearly stated desire for EU membership to be totally cast aside?

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon announces plans for second indyref Nicola Sturgeon announces plans for second indyref

In his resignation speech, David Cameron has already given a nod to the Scots’ desire to remain in the EU, promising the Scottish Parliament and other devolved assemblies will be fully involved in Westminster’s Brexit negotiations. But there’s “being involved” and there’s trying to head in precisely the opposite direction from almost all rUK save London.

Small nations like Greenland and the Faroes were allowed to opt out of Denmark’s EU membership – and whilst that’s obviously different from a small nation trying to remain in whilst the “Mother Ship” departs, it might not be impossibly different.

Constitutional lawyers suggest Scotland’s best chance for a Brexit optout is to make that argument whilst Britain makes arrangements to leave.

David Cameron has said he will let the new Conservative leader and Prime Minister trigger the Article 50 process – and that successor must be found within 3 months.

So Sturgeon’s window for a successful EU intervention is short and --since the outcome could dramatically change the way Scots view the desirability of continued UK membership -- the Scottish Government must prepare legislation now to let a second indyref take place if the need arises.

Even a week ago such an explanation from Nicola Sturgeon would have prompted cries of protest, broken promises and manipulation from supporters of the Union. Now many prominent Unionists seem to regard Brexit as a last straw for many Scots.

JK Rowling tweeted “Scotland will seek independence now. Cameron’s legacy will be breaking up two unions. Neither needed to happen.” Spectator columnist Alex Massie wrote; “Yes, the practical difficulties of independence remain immense.

More so than 48 hours ago. But the psychological hurdle is lower too.”

Suddenly, as the prospect of Prime Minister Johnson, deputy Gove and Lord Farage is transformed from the stuff of political pulp fiction to a serious probability, Scottish independence may resemble the fastest route to relative stability or at least the lesser of two evils – for more and more Scots.

But no-one can be sure. After four elections and referendums in two years, voter fatigue must be ready to kick in. Maybe Europe animates the political elite but it might not be a gamechanging issue for voters.

Nicola Sturgeon’s challenge is to seize the moment without frightening the horses and reactivating the UK Government’s scaremongering assertions about borders, currencies and economies. Unless she is very careful the SNP leader will discover – to paraphrase the Bard – that political opportunities are like poppies spread; you seize the flower, its bloom is shed.

But should the decision to hold Indyref2 be the choice of Ms Sturgeon and the SNP alone?

The wider Yes movement is cranking back into gear this weekend with the relaunch of the umbrella group, the Scottish Independence Convention to discuss the situation.

The SNP and the Scottish Greens have been invited to participate though neither has yet replied.

The Greens’ have wasted no time in launching a petition calling on Nicola Sturgeon to do all in her power to keep Scotland in Europe – and if the First Minister’s succeeds in pulling off this Herculean feat, the green light for indyref2 could be flashing before the end of 2016.