{"JP":[ {"NewsSection":{"name":"scottishindependence","detaillevel":"full", "Articles": {"count":25,"detaillevel":"full","articlesList":[ {"article": { "url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/your-say/letters-dear-yes-voter-your-straightforward-facts-won-t-sway-me-to-scottish-independence-1-4815476","id":"1.4815476","articleHeadline": "Letters: Dear Yes voter, your ‘straightforward facts’ won’t sway me to Scottish independence","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539682463000 ,"articleLead": "

After Yes voters were challenged to change the mind of a unionist in our letters pages, one Scotsman reader says he has not been convinced to back Scottish independence.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815490.1539692764!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Edinburgh: AUOB March for Independence. Picture: Neil Hanna"} ,"articleBody": "

Mary Thomas (Letters, 13 October) presents “straightforward facts” to answer Doug Cowe’s basic questions on independence (Letters, 12 October). Few No voters will be convinced by them.

READ MORE: Letters: Reply to a No voter - here’s why Scotland must leave the Union

Ms Thomas claims the No vote in 2014 was built on a “tissue of lies” without identifying what those lies were. This looks a bit like the pot calling the kettle black. The Yes side were less than totally honest with their “once in a generation” promise, their claims of legal advice on EU entry and their assurance that after a No vote the Scottish NHS would be starved of funds/privatised.

READ MORE: Letters: Dear Scottish independence supporters, persuade a No voter you’re right

Worse, a “Yes” newspaper told families they would be £5,000 a year better off after a Yes vote. We now know from Alex Bell that not even the authors of the White Paper on independence believed that or much else contained within that paper – hardly an honest position.

The 2016 “mandate” for Indyref2 to which she refers was no such thing, as it relies on support from the Greens who reneged on a pre-election promise only to support another referendum if the Scottish people demanded one – they clearly do not.

Ms Thomas claims Scotland’s share of the UK national debt is somehow theoretical. In fact it is real, and in 2014 the SNP were committed to honouring it. One assumes they still are.

She also claims that at $85 per barrel oil revenues would bring in £6 billion a year to make a dent in the £13bn deficit.

You would think nationalists would have given up on predicting oil prices – besides, we were told in 2014 that oil was “just a bonus” so it can’t be relied on to bring down our deficit.

Ms Thomas goes on to say that Scotland could have a cheaper defence than at present. Not if the SNP stick by their commitment to Nato – they would insist a new member pays the full 2 per cent of GDP, just as we do at present, so there would be no savings there.

Keith Shortreed, Methlick

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4815490.1539692764!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815490.1539692764!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Edinburgh: AUOB March for Independence. Picture: Neil Hanna","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Edinburgh: AUOB March for Independence. Picture: Neil Hanna","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4815490.1539692764!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5803004865001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/all-under-one-banner-edinburgh-rally-20-000-take-part-in-pro-independence-march-1-4810993","id":"1.4810993","articleHeadline": "All Under One Banner Edinburgh rally: 20,000 take part in pro-independence march","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539674220000 ,"articleLead": "

A massive march in support of Scottish independence has seen thousands of people pack the length of Edinburgh’s Royal Mile.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4811081.1538893572!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Pro-independence supporters march through Edinburgh, during the All Under One Banner march. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire."} ,"articleBody": "

The All Under One Banner event began near Edinburgh Castle at 1pm on Saturday before making its way down the famous thoroughfare towards Holyrood Park.

Conservative estimates put the attendance in the tens of thousands, although there has been no official confirmation.

Linda Hamilton, from Glasgow, was one of those who took part.

She said: “I believe in Scottish independence and I believe today is a demonstration - a visual demonstration - that there is a need for independence in our country.”

Read more: All Under One Banner Edinburgh rally: Everything you need to know

Bob McKendrie, 67, originally from Dumfries but now living near Hull, said: “Westminster should listen to us, we’ve been ignored for too long - we want our independence.”

A small number of union-supporting counter protesters were on the Royal Mile as the pro-independence crowds walked past.

They shouted they are proud to be “Scottish and British”.

Police Scotland said there had been no reports of any disturbances.

Independence supporter Iona Young, 20, from Dunfermline, claimed the contrast in numbers for each side showed their togetherness.

She added: “It just proves that we all agree on the same thing. There were a few unionists back at the top there, but there’s only about 20 of them compared to how many we’ve got here.”

Scotland in Union chief executive Pamela Nash said: “Poll after poll shows that a majority of Scots don’t want a divisive and unnecessary second independence referendum.

“Those marching in Edinburgh are not representative of Scotland, and they are talking to nobody but themselves. The organisers should also be ashamed of the way they have attacked Historic Environment Scotland staff for doing their job.

“Rather than listen to these protesters, most voters want the SNP to listen to concerns about the NHS, schools and the economy - and they want Nicola Sturgeon to get back to the day job.”

Bands, bikers, people in fancy dress and countless Saltire flags were all part of the march towards Holyrood.

Those who gathered in the park listened to speeches and live music performances.

Others scaled Arthur’s Seat to get a better view of the event.

It comes despite Historic Environment Scotland - which looks after the green space - saying the rally had not been given permission to take place.

A spokesman for the Scottish Government body said: “Our position on use of the park for any rally after the march remains the same. It has not been overruled by Police Scotland.

“To confirm, we have not given permission for the set-up of stalls, staging, branding and other static presence within Holyrood Park.

Early estimates suggest that up to 50,000 people could attend today’s march and rally. But full figures will be supplied by Police Scotland after the end of the march.

Read more: Holyrood Park ban for Edinburgh indyref2 rally ‘remains in force’

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Conor Riordan"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4811081.1538893572!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4811081.1538893572!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Pro-independence supporters march through Edinburgh, during the All Under One Banner march. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Pro-independence supporters march through Edinburgh, during the All Under One Banner march. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire.","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4811081.1538893572!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/paris-gourtsoyannis-the-problem-with-nicola-sturgeon-s-brexit-plan-1-4815282","id":"1.4815282","articleHeadline": "Paris Gourtsoyannis: The problem with Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit plan","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539666000000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has cultivated a cautious approach on Brexit, but the First Minister’s plan has its own risks, writes Paris Gourtsoyannis.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815281.1539672944!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon may have more credibility than some political rivals but she has made some missteps (Picture: Stefan Rousseau WPA-pool/Getty Images)"} ,"articleBody": "

Nicola Sturgeon has won considerable praise for the calibre of her leadership in the two-and-a-half years since the Brexit vote. Much of it has been well deserved.

Because she carries so much more authority and credibility than many of her political opponents on this island, her missteps have been forgiven or forgotten.

She miscalculated badly in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote, assuming that it would boost support for independence when in fact, wary voters retreated deeper into their constitutional positions.

It also remains an open question whether she was right to weaponise Unionism so dramatically in the final leaders’ debate of the 2017 general election, by claiming Kezia Dugdale privately said she supported a second independence referendum.

By and large, however, Sturgeon has been judicious in her language, cautious in her strategy, and honest about the realities of the impossible position the UK finds itself in – rare qualities, these days.

That’s why her speech in London yesterday was so interesting, because in a few key ways, it departed from type. The Scottish Government trailed it as the presentation of a “common sense” alternative Brexit strategy in contrast to the reckless gambling of both the UK Government and the Brexiteer Tories and DUP snapping at its heels.

In fact, Sturgeon set out what amounts to an audacious gamble, in which the odds of success are, by any objective measure, less that 50:50.

The First Minister couched her speech in familiar measured tones and sound analysis. A no-deal Brexit would be hugely damaging for UK businesses and citizens. The Prime Minister’s preferred Brexit, as set out in her Chequers plan, wasn’t as bad, but still wasn’t any good: it left the mainstay of the UK economy – services – cut off from the EU market.

More to the point, as Sturgeon put it bluntly: “Whatever it is that the House of Commons comes to vote on later this year, it will not be the Chequers proposal.”

READ MORE: Ruth Davidson and David Mundell in quit threat over Brexit plan

Going out of her way to be constructive, the First Minister said that even though she thinks it’s wrong for Northern Ireland to get ‘special status’ within the single market while Scotland leaves with the rest of the UK, the SNP won’t stand in the way if that’s the price of preserving the Good Friday Agreement. With that statement of responsibility alone, Sturgeon set herself apart from the bulk of Brexiteers, Tory and Labour.

The least worst solution, as Sturgeon has consistently concluded, is for the whole UK to stay in the single market and customs union. But she then made two contentious claims.

The first was that her preferred Brexit outcome would mean the UK “would no longer have to be part of the common agricultural and fisheries policies” – the latter of which the SNP has long said it would seek to renegotiate as an independent EU member state. No state in Europe currently enjoys these terms.

It should also be recalled that the SNP would want an independent Scotland (re)joining the EU to avoid the requirement to commit to using the euro, at least initially. I was in Brussels last week to speak to senior EU figures, and asked whether the SNP vision for Scotland in Europe was realistic. That’s not any member state we recognise, came the reply.

The second claim was that voting down the Prime Minister’s Brexit deal offered a chance – indeed, the “only chance” – to get that ‘least worst’ deal which Sturgeon has been pushing vainly for two years. But how? The SNP’s Westminster leader Ian Blackford has spoken about trying to take charge of the parliamentary process when it comes to a ‘meaningful vote’ on the Brexit deal, but hasn’t explained the means to achieve that.

Even if he could, the vote is on an agreement with the force of an international treaty, and changing the words of a motion at Westminster doesn’t change the text in Brussels. Most importantly, this is not how the EU sees it. There are certain things that Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty doesn’t make clear – for instance, can the UK unilaterally change its mind and stay in the EU? – but it is explicit that any withdrawal agreement has to be approved by a two-thirds majority of the 27 EU member states, and a majority of the European Parliament.

READ MORE: Veteran Labour MEP ready to back indyref2 over no-deal Brexit

If MPs vote against the only deal negotiated between London and Brussels, what would be left to approve? And how would there be enough time to negotiate something new before March 29, 2019? Again, in Brussels I asked whether there was a route to restarting negotiations after rejection of the Brexit deal by Westminster. The only answer is that without the agreement of MPs, there is no deal.

Another reason why Sturgeon’s plan has awkward implications is that it relies on her political rivals. The SNP leader might help rally enough opposition to vote down May’s Brexit deal, but putting something new on the table almost certainly needs a new government – a truth that lurked in the wings during Sturgeon’s address, unspoken.

Sturgeon can’t guarantee that the next leader of the Conservative Party would be a reasonable Remainer but, instead, Boris Johnson – and she can’t sort out Tory party discipline, either. Nor can the First Minister force an election that puts Jeremy Corbyn into Downing Street. Unless the Labour leader offers the SNP another independence referendum, it isn’t even guaranteed that the two parties could do a deal at Westminster after a snap vote.

Sturgeon is right to point out that the UK Government, having spent two years arguing that no deal is better than a bad deal, can hardly turn around and warn MPs they’re endangering the economy by voting down May’s Brexit.

But if entertaining a no-deal Brexit is risky, then so is voting against the only deal on offer – because once that decisive step towards the cliff edge has been taken, it isn’t clear that the UK can turn around.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4815281.1539672944!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815281.1539672944!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon may have more credibility than some political rivals but she has made some missteps (Picture: Stefan Rousseau WPA-pool/Getty Images)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon may have more credibility than some political rivals but she has made some missteps (Picture: Stefan Rousseau WPA-pool/Getty Images)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4815281.1539672944!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5746108438001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/scottish-independence-fundraising-campaign-to-ensure-majority-for-yes-vote-1-4815196","id":"1.4815196","articleHeadline": "Scottish independence fundraising campaign to \"ensure\" majority for Yes vote","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539616695335 ,"articleLead": "

A new fundraising campaign has been launched aimed at persuading a majority of Scots to back independence.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815195.1539616779!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Pro-independence campaigners marched through Edinburgh earlier this month"} ,"articleBody": "

The Scottish Independence Convention, an umbrella collective made up of Scotland’s national pro-independence groups, is behind the drive which aims to ensure support for a Yes vote is \"consistently beyond 50%\" in the polls.

Nicola Sturgeon has indicated she will not move to stage for a second referendum unless polling evidence of majority among Scots for a leaving the UK.

Read more: Poll - Half of Scots would vote for independence after Brexit
Elaine C Smith, Convenor of the Scottish Independence Convention (SIC) said: \"The dream of Independence for Scotland has been kept alive by all the various groups who keep working, campaigning and marching. That work has been quite phenomenal at times.

\"The last two years have allowed us to contact and include as many of the Indy groups out there as we can, to set up a proper structure in which to operate, initiate much needed research, set up a campaign group and organise two very large conferences and all done with no funding.\"

She added: \"However I am always asked about a central/facilitating organisation/ resource hub that can distribute and communicate what’s going on with all the other groups.

\"That’s what we aim to try and provide. We know there is huge commitment and expertise out there already so I envisage that there will also be many volunteers who will be a big part of the new structure too.”

Read more: Pro-independence marchers ramp up pressure on the SNP
Most polls indicate support for independence is around 45%, with 55% of Scots wanting to stay in the UK - similar to the last independence referendum in 2014. Tens of thousands of pro-independence campaigners marched through Edinburgh earlier this month calling for a referendum to amind growing fears over the e disastrous impact of a hard Brexit.

The fundraising drive on ThisIsIt.scot will finance an as-yet-unnamed campaign body to provide the pro-independence movement with front-foot media handling, strategic support, resources, messaging and the administrative capacity to work with undecided people in Scotland who \"could back independence.\"

SNP leader in Westminster Ian Blackford said: \"I am delighted with this initiative. I have a burning desire to see a fairer and wealthier Scotland and the delivery of an inclusive open society - independence offers that opportunity. We need to inspire the people of Scotland to come with us on the journey to independence.\"

But Scotland in Union chief executive Pamela Nash said the latest move shows that the nationalist movement will \"never stop\" campaigning for a second independence referendum.

\"The majority of people in Scotland want to move on from the divisions of the past,\" Ms Nash insisted.

“Poll after poll shows that people know we are better off as part of the United Kingdom, but the SNP and the Greens simply don’t want to listen.

“Rather than spend time setting up an organisation in the hope of creating more constitutional chaos, most people would rather there is a fresh focus on improving schools, our NHS, and the economy.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "scott.macnab@scotsman.com" ,"author": "Scott Macnab"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4815195.1539616779!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815195.1539616779!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Pro-independence campaigners marched through Edinburgh earlier this month","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Pro-independence campaigners marched through Edinburgh earlier this month","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4815195.1539616779!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/neil-findlay-brexit-is-right-wingers-big-chance-in-tory-civil-war-1-4815181","id":"1.4815181","articleHeadline": "Neil Findlay: Brexit is right-wingers’ big chance in Tory civil war","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539614884000 ,"articleLead": "

The next few weeks and months will see the culmination of a 40-year civil war in the Conservative party.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815180.1539673949!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Boris Johnson is one of two 'far-right balloons' hoping to replace Theresa May in 10 Downing Street, according to Neil Findlay (Picture: PA)"} ,"articleBody": "

From the days of Heath taking us into the Common Market, Thatcher signing the Single European Act, Major the Maastricht treaty and Cameron’s referendum dilemma, each has faced a hostile onslaught of criticism from the within their own ranks – Enoch Powell, Norman Tebbit, Teddy Taylor, David Davis immediately spring to mind, all buoyed and sustained by a romantic and outdated notion of British nationalism where Britannia still rules the waves. For many Tory zealots, the EU and hatred of it is why they got into politics.

Their vision is one of a deregulated, ultra-free market world where corporations and capital can do what they like with no pesky interference from Government or any other institution. To hell with workers’ rights, consumer protection or environmental cooperation.

For the Tory far-right, this is their big chance and it won’t come again. It is all or nothing – all the chips are in in this insane game of chance. The stakes are huge.

It’s not their inherited millions that are at stake, they won’t need to wait weeks on a Universal credit payment to settle the bills, their private school fees will still be paid. As UK workers hold their collective breath, balloons like Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg jockey for position to be the far-right candidate when Theresa May is despatched.

READ MORE: Scots academics back People’s Vote to avoid ‘damaging’ Brexit

All through this process, Labour has called it right – suggesting and winning the argument for a transition period, suggesting and winning the argument for a ‘meaningful vote’, advancing and winning the public argument for a customs union.

Keir Starmer and Jeremy Corbyn set out six tests that Labour will apply to any Tory deal, the day of reckoning for these tests is almost upon us, any deal must:

1) produce a strong collaborative relationship with the EU, where we work with our friends and colleagues in countries across the continent to improve the lives of working people;

2) secure the benefits of the single market and customs union, protecting jobs, building a prosperous future for Scottish businesses and their workforce;

3) have a fair and transparent immigration system – ending the exploitation of workers wherever they come from;

4) maintain all rights and protections enjoyed by people currently, including rights over employment, health and safety, the environment etc;

5) protect our national security – and have a system of cross-border policing to ensure that dangerous and organised crime is tackled internationally;

6) ensure the deal delivers for the nations and regions of the UK.

In Scotland, the SNP are using Brexit as leverage to advance independence and to distract attention from their dreadful stewardship of our public services. They have had numerous positions over the last two years, including joining the Euro, joining EFTA, the EAA, rejoining the EU, single market and customs union membership and now a second referendum.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon appeals to MPs to seize ‘only change’ to change Brexit

If Brexit has taught us anything, then it is that the uncertainty and the economic consequences of withdrawing from any political union is complex, time consuming and riddled with problems, surely withdrawing from a 300-year-old arrangement and a market four times that of EU would be many times as seismic as leaving a 40-year-old institution.

So the next few weeks and months will be tumultuous and could end in a new Prime Minister.

I don’t want the UK’s next Prime Minister to be product of another internal Tory election – I want it to be Jeremy Corbyn after a General Election.

Neil Findlay is Scottish Labour’s Brexit spokesperson

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Neil Findlay"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4815180.1539673949!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815180.1539673949!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Boris Johnson is one of two 'far-right balloons' hoping to replace Theresa May in 10 Downing Street, according to Neil Findlay (Picture: PA)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Boris Johnson is one of two 'far-right balloons' hoping to replace Theresa May in 10 Downing Street, according to Neil Findlay (Picture: PA)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4815180.1539673949!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5796987730001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/general-election/nicola-sturgeon-appeals-to-mps-to-seize-only-chance-to-change-brexit-1-4815104","id":"1.4815104","articleHeadline": "Nicola Sturgeon appeals to MPs to seize ‘only chance’ to change Brexit","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539607906000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has appealed to MPs to vote down Theresa May’s Brexit deal, saying it was the “only chance” for Westminster to change course and secure a less damaging exit from the EU.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815128.1539673550!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

The First Minister said it was still possible for MPs to force the government into a softer Brexit, with just days to go until a crucial EU summit where the UK’s withdrawal agreement must be signed off by European leaders.

She hit out at Mrs May’s Brexit strategy, saying an exit from the EU single market would harm the economy, while a vague politics declaration on the future trade relationship between London and Brussels would leave businesses in limbo.

“This scenario - a ‘blindfold’ Brexit - is in my view completely unacceptable,” Ms Sturgeon said.

READ MORE: Brexit: Nicola Sturgeon to set out ‘common sense’ alternative plan

“It would replace a no deal Brexit with a no detail Brexit.

“It would keep the public and businesses in the dark. It would leave the long term position with the Irish border unresolved.

READ MORE: Brian Wilson: Nicola Sturgeon ends kidology about second independence referendum

“It would require the House of Commons to vote on whether to accept a deal, despite there being no way of knowing what that deal would lead to.

“By delaying key decisions until after we had left the EU, the UK Government would reduce its influence, and diminish its status, just before conducting the most important negotiations in its postwar history.”

The First Minister called for an extension of the post-Brexit transition period, warning that “if the last two years have shown us anything, it is surely that more time will inevitably be needed to agree the future relationship”.

Appealing to MPs to vote against the Prime Minister’s deal, she said: “The UK Government has spent two years asserting that no deal is better than a bad deal.

“They will almost certainly now try to railroad MPs into accepting a bad deal on grounds that no deal would be a catastrophe.
“They are threatening us with fire to make us choose the frying pan.”

Ms Sturgeon accepted that her strategy of rejecting the Prime Ministers plans posed a risk of a no-deal Brexit, but said it was the only way to “change track”.

“Voting against a bad deal of a blindfold Brexit deal isn’t a vote for no-deal,” the First Minister said in a speech in London attended by a number of EU ambassadors.

“It would be a vote for a better deal.

“Indeed, voting against a bad or ‘blindfold’ Brexit when the opportunity arises later this year is the only chance the House of Commons will have to reset these negotiations and think again before it is too late.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4815128.1539673550!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815128.1539673550!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Stefan Rousseau/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4815128.1539673550!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5746108438001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/letters-reply-to-a-no-voter-here-s-why-scotland-must-leave-the-union-1-4815008","id":"1.4815008","articleHeadline": "Letters: Reply to a No voter - here’s why Scotland must leave the Union","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539596241000 ,"articleLead": "

In response to a challenge from a No voter in our letters pages last week, one pro-independence Scotsman reader presents some “straightforward facts” on separation.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815010.1539598509!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Independence marcher in Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna"} ,"articleBody": "

There are some very straightforward facts to answer Douglas Cowe’s basic questions on independence (Letters, 12 October).

READ MORE: Letters: Dear Scottish independence supporters, persuade a No voter you’re right

Q: Why was Andrew Wilson’s Report, which confirms years of austerity if Scotland becomes independent, being ignored and not debated at the SNP conference?

- Far from being ignored, Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission was debated at three all-day assemblies, involving hundreds of participants, with more to come.

Q: If independent, Andrew Wilson confirms Scotland would be carrying a massive deficit, how will this deficit be reduced without incurring substantial tax increases, a reduction in public services and no Barnett Formula payments?

-The GERS “deficit” of £13 billion includes several items that don’t get spent in Scotland, such as a theoretical £3.6bn a year for Scotland’s “share” of interest on the UK national debt, or the £3.1bn charged as a pro rata share of UK defence when less than half that amount is spent in Scotland. With oil prices around $85 a barrel, if an independent Scotland levied taxes at the UK 2010 levels it would bring in £6bn a year. Combined, these items would almost wipe out the GERS 

Q: Why is the democratic No vote of 2014 not being respected?

- It has emerged that the NO vote on 2014 was built on a tissue of lies and, having been taken out of the EU against our democratic wishes, the SNP now holds two democratic mandates in 2016 and 2017 backing another independence referendum.

Q: Why would the SNP have us become independent only to try to have Scotland apply to Brussels to become part of a larger, more expensive and more regulated body?

- Small nations have much greater say in EU decision making, and often have a veto, whereas Scotland is regularly ignored without any say on UK decisions such as the Brexit negotiations.

Q: If independent, what sort of defence force would Scotland have?

- Scotland can have the same type of defence set-up as other small northern European countries at half the cost the UK charges Scotland under the GERS figures.

Economically, the UK remains the most unequal country in Europe, whereby London sucks government infrastructure investment at the expense of the rest of the UK.

Also, Scotland’s GDP per head is greater than France or Germany’s.

According to the recent IMF World Economic Outlook for 2018, the UK is forecast to fall from 163rd place out of 194 countries for growth to 173rd place over the next six years – not much of an advert for remaining in an isolated unequal union.

Mary Thomas, Edinburgh

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Scotsman Letters"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4815010.1539598509!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4815010.1539598509!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Independence marcher in Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Independence marcher in Edinburgh. Picture: Neil Hanna","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4815010.1539598509!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5803004865001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/general-election/ruth-davidson-and-david-mundell-in-quit-threat-over-brexit-plan-1-4814781","id":"1.4814781","articleHeadline": "Ruth Davidson and David Mundell in quit threat over Brexit plan","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539593699000 ,"articleLead": "

David Mundell and Ruth Davidson have threatened to resign over proposed compromises on the Irish border in a Brexit deal that could be signed off as early as next week, according to reports.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814974.1539595567!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Mundell and Ruth Davidson have threatened to resign over proposed compromises on the Irish border in a Brexit deal. Pictures: PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

Theresa May’s cabinet will meet on Tuesday amid widespread disquiet among Conservatives and their allies in the DUP at the plans, which would keep the UK in the EU customs union and boost regulatory checks on goods crossing the Irish Sea between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Downing Street has sought to calm speculation that the compromises will form the basis of a breakthrough on the UK’s Brexit withdrawal agreement ahead of a crucial EU summit that starts on Wednesday.

DUP leader Arlene Foster and her colleagues have reacted angrily to speculation about the contents of the proposed agreement, with Ms Foster warning the Prime Minister not to do a “dodgy deal” that undermines Northern Ireland place in the Union.

READ MORE: Veteran Labour MEP ready to back indyref2 over no-deal Brexit
It has emerged that a joint letter from Ruth Davidson and David Mundell to the Prime Minister this week warned that the issue of ‘special status’ in the EU single market for Northern Ireland would be a red line for both leaders.

Under existing treaties including the Good Friday Agreement, Northern Ireland already has separate regulatory regimes shared with the Republic in a number of areas, including electricity and animal health.

However, the EU has said that under a commitment agreed by London to prevent a ‘hard border’ on the island of Ireland, the north will have to effectively remain within the single market in a number of areas affecting trade.

Checks on goods travelling between the north and Britain would need to be enhanced, affecting 100% of livestock and agricultural products, a significant amount of which comes from Scotland.

“Having fought just four years ago to keep our country together, the integrity of our United Kingdom remains the single most important issue for us in these negotiations,” the letter from Davidson and Mundell states.

“Any deal that delivers a differentiated settlement for Northern Ireland beyond the differences that already exist on all Ireland basis (eg Agriculture), or can be brought under the provisions of the Belfast Agreement, would undermine the integrity of our UK internal market and this United Kingdom.”

The letter adds: “We could not support any deal that creates a border of any kind in the Irish Sea and undermines the Union or leads to Northern Ireland having a different relationship with the EU than the rest of the UK, beyond what currently exists.”

Meanwhile, as many as eight cabinet ministers are said to be considering their position over plans to keep the UK in the customs union as part of a ‘backstop’ to ensure goods continue to flow over the Irish land border whatever the future relationship between London and Brussels, without a firm date for when that arrangement would end.

Asked whether any backstop plan keeping the UK in the customs union would need to have a time limit, Health Secretary Matthew Hancock replied: \"I certainly hope so\".

\"There are different ways you can make sure something is credibly time-limited and that is what I want to see,” he added.

David Davis has called for a cabinet ‘mutiny’, telling his former colleagues to \"exert their collective authority\" to stop unacceptable compromises on customs and Northern Ireland.

READ MORE: Brexit: Nicola Sturgeon to set out ‘common sense’ alternative plan
The Scottish Government’s Constitutional Relations Secretary Michael Russell said there was “no stability in the [UK] government and no ability to deliver,” adding that an “extended” period in the single market & customs union was the only “sane and sensible proposal”.

SNP deputy leader Keith Brown said: “It is telling that Davidson and Mundell have not threatened resignation to protect Scotland’s place in the customs union or single market – which is eight times bigger than the UK market alone.

“After all of Davidson’s broken promises during the independence and EU referendums, and the hard-line unionism that is becoming clear for all to see, no-one can rely on a word she says.

“The Tories must stop pandering to the will of hard-line Brexiteers. Remaining in the single market and the customs union is essential for the economy, jobs and living standards - and it's high time the Tories put that before their internal squabbles.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "paris.gourtsoyannis@jpress.co.uk" ,"author": "Paris Gourtsoyannis"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4814974.1539595567!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814974.1539595567!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "David Mundell and Ruth Davidson have threatened to resign over proposed compromises on the Irish border in a Brexit deal. Pictures: PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Mundell and Ruth Davidson have threatened to resign over proposed compromises on the Irish border in a Brexit deal. Pictures: PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4814974.1539595567!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5814517363001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brian-monteith-nicola-sturgeon-s-hope-leaves-me-without-any-1-4814897","id":"1.4814897","articleHeadline": "Brian Monteith: Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘hope’ leaves me without any","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539583925000 ,"articleLead": "

If the First Minister’s hopes are all we have to look forward to then we really are in trouble, says Brian Monteith.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814896.1539583922!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

The word “Hope” worked wonders for Barack Obama. Often it was on his campaign poster instead of his name and his book The Audacity of Hope put him on the electoral map and inspired people around the world. What would using the word “Hope” do for our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in her closing address to the SNP conference?

The word “Hope” worked wonders for Barack Obama. Often it was on his campaign poster instead of his name and his book The Audacity of Hope put him on the electoral map and inspired people around the world. What would using the word “Hope” do for our First Minister Nicola Sturgeon in her closing address to the SNP conference?

Well, choosing that very word showed she was audacious, but then we knew that already, for blaggers usually are, are they not? What “Hope” could Nicola Sturgeon offer me, I wondered?

I could hope the First Minister would take a further independence referendum off the table and get back to doing the day job she is paid more than the Prime Minister for doing. I might hope she would reiterate education is her top priority rather than tell us independence transcends all – but I was disappointed beyond hope.

Nicola Sturgeon managed to mention education only once in her entire speech but could talk of independence 13 times – telling us there is still hope for a second independence referendum and still hope she and her fellow separatists can win it.

I could hope that in trying to convince sceptical unionists who might be persuaded to switch to her cause she would explain how her new business case for independence, produced by her own Growth Commission, would make independence attractive and possible.

Sadly it was not mentioned, indeed it was not debated at the SNP conference at all. Apparently it does not give any cause for hope, unless you hope for its super Scottish austerity recipe that would make anything suffered by Greece look like a Club 18-30 holiday.

Like Nicola Sturgeon I hope for better things. I hope to see our local authorities properly funded rather than starved of cash, but first I’d have to hope the First Minister could explain why she is cutting council funding when her own budget from Westminster has gone up.

I hope to see the falling literacy and numeracy among Scottish children reversed, I hope to see our national performance in maths and science improve to at least where it was before the SNP allowed it to fall, and I hope to see the £400 million cut in education restored.

Unfortunately I have no hope our First Minister will reverse the negative trends in our schools; she talks of priorities but cannot even deliver an Education Bill to parliament and would rather increase budgets to other favoured departments than her claimed first priority of education.

I hope to see the growing shortages of nurses and doctors reversed, but first she would have to explain why she cut back on training places for nurses when health secretary, why doctors should be taxed more in Scotland than England and why Scottish pupils with excellent exam grades are being denied places in our own medical schools. These scandals leave me without hope that she is up to the job required.

Indeed the ambition of my hope has fallen so low I even hope that one day, sometime within my lifetime, the Queensferry Crossing will not have to close lanes so the ever-present “snagging” can be attended to. Is that too much to hope?

I have a long list of improvements to Scottish public services but I no longer hope Nicola Sturgeon has even a scintilla of an idea what to do to improve them for all she appears able to talk about is independence, Brexit and blaming Westminster for her failings.

I’m not alone in hoping the First Minister would recognise Brexit presents opportunities that she should maximise to at least mitigate what she sees as the dangers. I could provide her with a list of positive initiatives to take but I don’t hold out any hope of being asked for it.

I could hope she would promise to fight to keep our fishermen out of the Common Fisheries Policy, but she promises to hand their hard won freedom back over to Brussels. I could hope she would join the campaign for free ports that could bring thousands of jobs to Prestwick and Grangemouth, but she would rather Scotland was inside the EU’s single market and customs union, which would make it impossible.

I often hope that Nicola Sturgeon would stop patronising and disrespecting those who do not share her goals.

We are not idiots, we can see when a grievance is being manufactured, we can recognise when she is saying black is white and we find her easy sacrifice of good relations with the rest of the UK embarrassing. It gives me no hope that she could run an independent Scotland and ensure cordial relationships with our nearest and most important neighbour.

Such is the damage done to Scotland during Nicola Sturgeon’s time in office, from Health Secretary through to First Minister, I hope readers who agree with me about the effrontery of her limited offer of “hope” to only those that follow her – rather than the whole of Scotland – might, when they are given the chance, choose to vote the SNP out of power. More so, I hope the Scottish people will bury their past differences and vote for any party best placed to defeat sitting SNP MSPs or MPs so we may begin to heal the open wounds and deep division that has grown in Scottish society since the SNP took office.

After all the false hopes, all the dashed hopes, I now only hope for one thing and one thing only. I hope the First Minister in all seriousness stands in front of the mirror to consider her litany of bad judgment calls and asks herself why she has failed on so many counts. She has failed on education, she has failed on health, she is failing on the economy – and by ignoring her day job has left us without hope. If she is then honest with herself, she must recognise her audacity has set back her hope of independence – for which I suppose I should be grateful.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4814896.1539583922!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814896.1539583922!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4814896.1539583922!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5846476683001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/leader-comment-blase-brexiteers-need-to-think-again-1-4814895","id":"1.4814895","articleHeadline": "Leader Comment: Blas Brexiteers need to think again","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539583433000 ,"articleLead": "

Recent polls suggest that a troublingly high percentage of Brexiteers are perfectly willing to pay what we consider to be unacceptably high prices for the UK to leave the EU.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4808184.1539583429!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Boris Johnson has dismissed concerns over the Irish border. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

When it comes to both the Good Friday Agreement which secured peace in Northern Ireland and Scotland’s continued membership of the UK, a great many Leavers in England have adopted the view that if these things are weakened by Brexit then that’s life and we shall all have to get on with it.

This blasé attitude to such incredibly sensitive issues give us all pause for thought.

The issues of Northern Ireland and Scotland after Brexit, though different in nature, are inextricably linked. If an arrangement is found which gives Northern Ireland special status and avoids a hard border with the Republic, many on the other side of the Irish Sea will be hugely relieved. But others would be infuriated.

Yesterday, it emerged that Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson and Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, have threatened to quit if the UK government reaches a compromise over Brexit that threatens to “undermine the integrity” of the UK.

The two are said to have made it clear to Prime Minister Theresa May that they would resign if Northern Ireland has a unique deal because such an arrangement would fuel the case for Scottish independence.

Leading Brexiteers are fond of saying that “nobody voted for” any of the proposed compromises, such as remaining in a customs union, that might make the Brexit process less painful. This may be so – but nor did anyone vote for a Brexit that threatened peace in Northern Ireland or undermined the integrity of the UK.

Yesterday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said Davidson and Mundell’s position was “bizarre”. In fact, there is some logic to their stance. From a unionist point of view, any agreement that gave Northern Ireland status denied to Scotland would, inevitably, play into the SNP’s hands.

It is the view of The Scotsman that continued peace in Northern Ireland is more important than the delivery of a “hard Brexit” for which nobody explicitly voted.

May is under intense pressure from within Conservative ranks to walk away from the EU without a deal. The truth is, however, that she should make the case for the UK remaining within the customs union. The price for leaving it is, we believe, too high.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4808184.1539583429!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4808184.1539583429!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Boris Johnson has dismissed concerns over the Irish border. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Boris Johnson has dismissed concerns over the Irish border. Picture: Victoria Jones/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4808184.1539583429!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/brexit-nicola-sturgeon-to-set-out-common-sense-alternative-plan-1-4814737","id":"1.4814737","articleHeadline": "Brexit: Nicola Sturgeon to set out ‘common sense’ alternative plan","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539493200000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon will this week set out a “common sense” alternative to the UK Government’s Brexit plans, warning the public are being presented with a “false choice” over EU withdrawal.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814736.1539464493!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon at last week's SNP conference. Picture: PA"} ,"articleBody": "

Tomorrow the First Minister will launch her plans in the latest Scottish Government paper on Brexit, which will re-emphasise her arguments for continued membership of the single market and customs union.

The paper will be published ahead of Wednesday’s key EU summit and amid reports the Brexit transition period could be extended by another year to help Theresa May find a solution to the Irish border problem.

The extension has been proposed by the EU’s chief negotiator Michel Barnier and would mean the UK being tied to the EU until the end of 2021 rather than 2020.

But the proposal has been met with fury by Tory Eurosceptics because it would add £17 billion to the Brexit bill and has angered the DUP, which May relies on to prop up her government.

Sturgeon’s paper will be released when she gives a speech to the Royal Society of Arts in London tomorrow.

The paper will argue the UK government’s “false choice” between a “bad, possibly blindfold” Brexit deal and a no-deal scenario should not be accepted.

Speaking in advance of its publication, Sturgeon said: “The UK is scheduled to leave the European Union less than six months from now – but both a withdrawal agreement and a clear, detailed statement on the future relationship must be concluded much sooner.

“As things stand, we still have no guarantee of a transition agreement or a detailed proposition setting out the future trading relationship between the UK and EU.

“The UK goverment seems intent on presenting a false choice between whatever bad, possibly blindfold, deal they manage to conclude and a no-deal scenario. However, the Scottish Government will this week set out our common sense, workable alternative and make clear why we believe there is now an opportunity to seize an alternative path.”

In the June 2016 referendum, Scotland saw a majority (62 per cent) of the electorate vote to remain in the EU.

Sturgeon said her administration had a duty to work to ensure the Scottish share of the vote was respected even though the referendum was conducted on a UK-wide basis. She said: “It is not too late for public duty and calm heads to prevail and for a no-deal or bad, possibly blindfold, deal outcome to be averted.

“MPs and the wider public should not accept the false choice that is being presented – there is an alternative and our proposals are the only way to truly protect our businesses, people and communities from the worst effects of Brexit.

“Scotland voted overwhelmingly to remain in the EU and our duty as a government is to work as hard as we can to ensure that vote is respected and for Scotland’s key interests to be protected.

“That means staying in the customs union and single market, which is around eight times bigger than the UK market alone.

“With time running short, the UK government must take stock and listen to our proposals.”

But Adam Tomkins, Scottish Conservative shadow secretary for the constitution, countered, saying: “The assertion that the EU single market is eight times larger than the UK single market is designed to be misleading.

“Two-thirds of Scotland’s trade depends on the UK single market, underlining the fundamental importance of the Union to Scotland’s economy.

“If the First Minister genuinely wants to act in the best interests of Scotland she must take indyref2 off the table and focus on improving Scotland’s stagnant economy, falling educational standards and lengthening hospital waiting times.”

Sturgeon’s intervention comes after she warned last month that extending the timetable for Brexit negotiations must remain on the table if the UK is to “avoid an economic cliff edge”.

Last week, she closed the SNP’s annual conference in Glasgow with a claim that her party’s goal of independence for Scotland was “clearly in sight”, although she urged activists to show patience when it came to breaking up the UK.

Yesterday the Department for Exiting the European Union said it would not comment on reports that the UK could remain tied to Brussels’ rules beyond the end of 2020 to give negotiators more time to finalise a trade deal.

The potential extension of the transition period, which would see the UK stay in the EU single market and customs union, is being considered as intensive negotiations continue ahead of Wednesday’s summit.

The year’s extension would allow extra time to draw up a deal on the future UK-EU relationship – and avoid the need to use a controversial “backstop” arrangement to avoid a hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland.

The need to resolve the backstop issue is a political headache for the Prime Minister, who is trying to fend off the threat of cabinet resignations after at least four senior ministers expressed concern over the way the issue is panning out.

The European Union’s version, which would see just Northern Ireland remain aligned with Brussels’ rules, has been called unacceptable by May and is fiercely resisted by her DUP allies.

May’s counter-proposal, set out in June, was for a “temporary customs arrangement” for the whole UK, but Tory Brexiteers are suspicious this could turn into a permanent situation – restricting the freedom to strike trade deals around the world. Pressure intensified on the Prime Minister when DUP leader Arlene Foster warned her not to accept a “dodgy” deal from Brussels.

Foster told May not to accept a plan that would “effectively cut Northern Ireland adrift”.

In a strongly worded article in the Belfast Telegraph, Foster warned against the EU’s backstop proposal and also stressed that she would not accept any measure that resulted in extra checks for goods travelling between Great Britain and Northern Ireland.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4814736.1539464493!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814736.1539464493!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon at last week's SNP conference. Picture: PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon at last week's SNP conference. Picture: PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4814736.1539464493!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/politics/general-election/veteran-labour-mep-ready-to-back-indyref2-over-no-deal-brexit-1-4814739","id":"1.4814739","articleHeadline": "Veteran Labour MEP ready to back indyref2 over no-deal Brexit","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539493200000 ,"articleLead": "

One of Labour’s most senior parliamentarians has warned a chaotic no-deal Brexit would push him towards supporting Scottish independence, and criticised Richard Leonard’s stand against holding a second independence referendum.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814738.1539464730!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Martin is the United Kingdom's longest serving MEP. Picture: Contributed"} ,"articleBody": "

Labour MEP David Martin said he feared the UK’s exit from the EU could turn England into “a very insular, inward looking country”, which could also change his mind on Scotland’s place in the Union.

Last month Scottish Labour leader Leonard restated his party’s opposition to allowing the second independence referendum to take place under any circumstances, saying the next UK manifesto would include a pledge not to allow such a vote.

Martin, who has represented Scotland in the European Parliament for more than 34 years, said the Scottish people should have the final say on whether another referendum is called.

“I disagree with Richard,” the Labour MEP said, speaking to journalists in Brussels. “If we leave the EU in acrimonious circumstances and there is a mood for a second independence referendum, then I think the Scottish people should have the right to make that decision.”

Martin said he had not discussed the issue with his leader in Edinburgh.

The fresh commitment from Leonard came after comments from UK Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who said in a recent interview he was “not ruling out” a new independence referendum and would decide “at the time” whether to grant a request from Holyrood for the powers to hold one.

Some of Corbyn’s advisers believe that in order to win back votes from the SNP, Labour should take a softer line, while senior figures in Scotland are convinced that would only fuel the Conservative revival.

“Jeremy Corbyn might be closer to me on that than Richard Leonard,” Martin said.

Asked how he would vote if there was a second Scottish independence referendum, Martin added: “It really would depend on the circumstances.

“If we leave without a deal and it’s a complete crisis, then I think that does edge towards the idea of independence.

“If we leave in a civilised, constructive manner, then it starts to depend on what the future trading relationship is and what the other relationships are. Frankly, what worries me more than Brexit is whether England is becoming a very insular, inward-looking country.

“And if it does continue down that path, then it would make me change my mind about remaining in the UK.

“I did campaign hard in 2014 for Scotland to remain part of the United Kingdom because my own politics are to look outwards; to look outwards from Scotland to the UK and from the UK to Europe.

“But if we become an insular country, it would make me reassess my view.”

Martin said an independent Scotland could rejoin the EU within three years and would be able to escape the requirement that new member states commit to joining the single European currency.

The 64-year-old confirmed he would retire from politics after Brexit.

Elected to the European Parliament in 1984, he is the second longest serving MEP in the 751-seat legislature.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4814738.1539464730!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814738.1539464730!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "David Martin is the United Kingdom's longest serving MEP. Picture: Contributed","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "David Martin is the United Kingdom's longest serving MEP. Picture: Contributed","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4814738.1539464730!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/brian-wilson-nicola-sturgeon-ends-kidology-about-second-independence-referendum-1-4814477","id":"1.4814477","articleHeadline": "Brian Wilson: Nicola Sturgeon ends kidology about second independence referendum","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539369764000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon has admitted what has long been clear – there is no appetite for a second Scottish independence referendum, writes Brian Wilson

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814476.1539362696!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon urged SNP members to be patient, saying the goal of independence was in sight (Picture: John Devlin)"} ,"articleBody": "

Among the clichés of Scottish life, none is more irritating than “the new Highland Clearances” when applied by the intellectually challenged to circumstances bearing no relationship to the original.

No surprise then that Christina McKelvie MSP regards Brexit as “the new Highland Clearances” on grounds so convoluted as to be not worth repeating. So far as I am aware, not even Jacob Rees-Mogg plans to burn us out our homes for voting to Remain.

Ms McKelvie last came to this column’s attention when she tweeted that “unionists will be a right miserable bunch tonight” after Scotland’s momentous rugby victory over England. I suggested she should be sacked as convener of Holyrood’s Equalities Committee on grounds that she clearly held some Scots to be more equal than others.

Instead, in recognition of her wit and wisdom, she was elevated to become Minister for Older People, whatever that entails. Some saw this as compensation for the redeployment of her domestic partner, Keith Brown, who is now in charge of addressing flag-waving rabbles in the public parks of Scotland.

READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon: Brexit makes Scottish independence ‘inevitable’

I do not subscribe to this theory and accept that Ms McKelvie was appointed on her merits since that tells us a lot more about the available talent pool. At least it is to her credit that she said something worth reporting at the SNP conference, even if it was on grounds of risibility.

What of the rest? In terms of debate, it made rallies of the Tory faithful look like hotbeds of dissent. No debate was allowed on either “Indyref2” or the economic masterplan drawn up by Andrew Wilson which promises an additional decade of austerity in the event of independence. And that was his good news.

The role of the SNP faithful is to provide patriotic applause but what exactly were they applauding? The dismal record on education? The ruthless treatment of local government? The crisis in Scottish health boards? The stagnant state of our economy? None of these was challenged. Just a procession of empty boasts and set-piece speeches.

If a Labour government was doing a fraction of the damage to council services that is being inflicted by Ms Sturgeon and her colleagues, there would be so much fire and fury from party members and trade unionists that retreat would follow. That’s what should make political activism matter – but not for those whose sole focus is the constitution.

READ MORE: Letters: Avoid tartan blindness, Scotland can’t afford independence

Behind the bravura and soft interviews, there was one substantive revelation – that “IndyRef2” is officially a mirage until “the fog of Brexit clears”. How they all clapped, spurred on by appeals to “patience” and “vision”, apparently oblivious to the fact that four years of kidology had just been declared null and void.

The “fog of Brexit” will not clear any time soon. Withdrawal is scheduled for next year with a minimum of two years’ transition, probably longer. By then, I guess, some things will be better, some worse and none apocalyptic. The “new Highland Clearances” will not have occurred nor indeed – in deference to Sir Thomas Devine – the Lowland ones either.

Ms Sturgeon has acknowledged out of necessity what has long been apparent – there is no appetite for a second referendum, no conceivable justification for it in the midst of negotiations that will affect every aspect of Scottish life, as much as the rest of the UK, and no prospect of any Prime Minister in his or her right mind agreeing to it.

So it has all been one big, ongoing publicity stunt. That begs a question, which is largely for Scotland’s broacasters to answer. If the same nonsense kicks off again, manoeuvring for the now officially distant objective of a second referendum, while Scotland’s interests in the Brexit negotiations and much else play second fiddle, will Ms Sturgeon be treated with the same deference?

Meanwhile, great to be reminded there is still a place for grown-up politics capable of good outcomes. If a change of policy is forced on the foolish underfunding of Universal Credit, to protect those who would suffer, that will be worth waving a flag for.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Brian Wilson"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4814476.1539362696!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814476.1539362696!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon urged SNP members to be patient, saying the goal of independence was in sight (Picture: John Devlin)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon urged SNP members to be patient, saying the goal of independence was in sight (Picture: John Devlin)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4814476.1539362696!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/letters-dear-scottish-independence-supporters-persuade-a-no-voter-you-re-right-1-4814381","id":"1.4814381","articleHeadline": "Letters: Dear Scottish independence supporters, persuade a No voter you’re right","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539358877000 ,"articleLead": "

Nicola Sturgeon said in her closing conference speech the SNP had to “persuade” No voters. One Scotsman reader challenges nationalists to do just that.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814380.1539358872!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "An independence march in Edinburgh earlier this month. Picture: Neil Hanna Photography'/TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

Nicola Sturgeon said in her closing conference speech that the SNP had to “persuade” No voters. So, can some SNP supporters try to persuade me as I set a few basic questions?

READ MORE: 4 key takeaways from Nicola Sturgeon’s SNP conference speech

- Why was Andrew Wilson’s Report, which confirms years of austerity if Scotland becomes independent, being ignored and not debated at the SNP conference?

- If independent, Andrew Wilson confirms Scotland would be carrying a massive deficit, how will this deficit be reduced without incurring substantial tax increases, a reduction in public services and no Barnett Formula payments?

- Why is the democratic No vote of 2014 not being respected?

READ MORE: Leader comment: Independence debate needs more reason, less passion

- If there ever is another referendum and the result is again No, will the SNP insist on yet another referendum and another until they achieve what they want? Why do they not respect democracy?

-The SNP marches appear to include supporters who would have us back in the Jacobite era, with Andrew Wilson’s austerity – is that where the SNP want to take us?

- The SNP detest Scotland being part of Great Britain, why would they have us become independent only to try to have Scotland apply to Brussels to become part of a larger, more expensive and more regulated body?

If independent, what sort of defence force would Scotland have? Would current UK Army, Air Force and Navy bases be closed with resultant massive loss of local employment and economic activity? How would Scotland finance defence forces?

These are but a few of the questions which I imagine most anti-separatists would appreciate answers to, so I would appreciate any SNP supporter enlightening me, especially those who regularly contribute to these pages.

If any SNP supporters have never really thought about these basic questions and don’t have satisfactory answers, perhaps they need to question their support.

Douglas Cowe, Newmachar, Aberdeenshire

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4814380.1539358872!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4814380.1539358872!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "An independence march in Edinburgh earlier this month. Picture: Neil Hanna Photography'/TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "An independence march in Edinburgh earlier this month. Picture: Neil Hanna Photography'/TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4814380.1539358872!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/kezia-dugdale-understands-why-brexit-might-cause-no-voters-back-independence-1-4814076","id":"1.4814076","articleHeadline": "Kezia Dugdale ‘understands’ why Brexit might cause no voters back independence","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539338686000 ,"articleLead": "

Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has said she can “understand” why a no-deal Brexit could lead “many” former No voters to back independence.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4806919.1539338682!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale. Picture: TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

Ms Dugdale insisted she personally would never back Scotland leaving the UK.

But she said she could “understand and fully respect” why some of those who had voted for Scotland to stay in the Union in 2014 might reconsider their ballot.

READ MORE: Analysis: Is an early Indyref2 now more likely?

The Labour MSP, who had previously said it was “not inconceivable” she would support independence if it would secure Scotland’s status as part of the European Union, acknowledged she had got herself “into a bit of trouble on this issue from time to time”.

She spoke out as the issue of whether Britain leaving the EU without a deal would result in a second vote on Scottish independence was discussed on the BBC’s Question Time programme - which was being broadcast from Holyrood’s debating chamber.

The former Scottish Labour leader said: “I just think it is very desperately sad, the question started with ‘will a no-deal Brexit lead to a second independence referendum, will it change minds?’

READ MORE: Academics back people’s vote on Brexit

“It won’t change my mind, but I understand why it would change so many others, because there is no good Brexit, there is no jobs-first Brexit.”

She added: “People are really worried right now and we have to do everything we can to stop Brexit, that’s what I’m committed to doing, it’s simply got to be done, it is the only way we can protect jobs, the economy, everything I hold dear as a Labour politician.”

Presenter David Dimbleby pressed her on the issue, asking Ms Dugdale if efforts to halt Brexit failed would she then support independence for Scotland.

She stated: “No I wouldn’t. I’ve thought long and hard about this and I’ve got myself into a bit of trouble on this issue from time to time.

“But no, I believe in unions, I believe in unions of people, I believe in unions of nations, I think collectivism is the best way to operate as a country, that’s my belief system.

“But I do understand and fully respect why some people - and I think it is just some people - are reconsidering what they think.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4806919.1539338682!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4806919.1539338682!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale. Picture: TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Former Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale. Picture: TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4806919.1539338682!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5803004865001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/scots-academics-back-people-s-vote-to-avoid-damaging-brexit-1-4814045","id":"1.4814045","articleHeadline": "Scots academics back People’s Vote to avoid ‘damaging’ Brexit","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539336129000 ,"articleLead": "

Leading academics have signed an open letter to politicians in support of a so-called People’s Vote on Brexit, saying “all possible outcomes” of the process of leaving the EU will be damaging to Scotland and the UK.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4811861.1539336126!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Academics are backing a people's vote. Picture: Ian Georgeson"} ,"articleBody": "

The names of more than 20 senior figures from the universities of Edinburgh, Aberdeen and St Andrews appear in the letter published in the Herald newspaper warning of the impact on research and opportunities for students.

READ MORE: 62 per cent think Scotland hasn’t been considered in Brexit talks

They include former Liberal Democrat leader Lord Menzies Campbell, who is chancellor of the University of St Andrews; Maggie Chapman, rector of the University of Aberdeen; and Malcolm Macleod, professor of neurology and translational neuroscience at the University of Edinburgh.

They say the loss of EU Horizon 2020 funding will hit students, lecturers and research in Scotland hard, and a post-Brexit Scotland will be a less attractive destination for academic talent.

READ MORE: Independence referendum must wait until after Brexit

The letter states: “These are just some of the reasons why more and more people in Scotland are now calling out for a People’s Vote.

“We support this demand and believe it would be a democratic way to allow the people to take a decision on what their futures should be at the end of the Brexit process. It is the people that started the process and they should be the ones to end it, too.

“Now is the time for Scottish politicians and Scottish political leaders to demonstrate that they are prepared to lead on this and commit to providing the people with their democratic say on the Brexit deal. Brexit is a big deal, but it is not a done deal.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4811861.1539336126!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4811861.1539336126!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Academics are backing a people's vote. Picture: Ian Georgeson","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Academics are backing a people's vote. Picture: Ian Georgeson","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4811861.1539336126!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/richard-leonard-snp-scared-to-be-radical-as-capitalism-fails-scotland-1-4813801","id":"1.4813801","articleHeadline": "Richard Leonard: SNP scared to be radical as capitalism fails Scotland","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539320400000 ,"articleLead": "

At least 94 women and men have died while homeless and sleeping on the streets of Scotland in the last 12 months. Meanwhile, in the same week as this stark fact was revealed, another party conference season drew to a close.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4813800.1539273274!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ex-soldier Darren Greenfield, who lived on Edinburgh's streets for years, died at the age of 47 days before Christmas"} ,"articleBody": "

Even at the best of times the conference season can appear more like an inflation of the political bubble, and less like a serious attempt to speak to the concerns of the real world.

This year, the contrast between the political insiders’ world and the harshness of life’s realities for many assumed a particularly acute edge, with the Scottish National Party gathering in Glasgow, just as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism – working with the Ferret website – published the data that showed the terrible toll on our streets.

I raise this not to make a glib link between the SNP conference and the brutality of life for some sleeping on our streets, but instead to make a broader point: it must surely be obvious that our political and economic system is failing and has to change.

At its most extreme end, our politics presides over visible homelessness and unjustifiably high numbers of deaths on our streets. For too many people, it means in-work poverty and a daily struggle to make ends meet. For many, it means worries about their health services, their children’s schooling or their quality of life in older age. And for others, it means precarious work or too few rights at work.

Our economic model of early 21st century capitalism is failing. It is not simply austerity that is failing people – although this makes matters worse – but the inbuilt gross inequalities in wealth and power in the economy.

And if these arguments sound like a socialist’s critique of our society’s failings then that is because they are. I have been a democratic socialist for my whole adult life and I have never known a time when the left’s solutions to our society’s problems were more urgently required.

READ MORE: Number of homeless Scots living in hostels soars

Instead of challenging the status quo, we have governments in Holyrood and Westminster that uphold it. In Scotland we have a Government that has been in power for 11 years and things simply have not changed for the better. The blueprint for independence contained in the SNP’s Growth Commission report amounts to a cuts commission that openly commits the party to ten years of austerity. So, we are offered not only the maintenance of the existing economic order but a plan to deepen it.

Indeed, the balance sheet of the SNP conference is a fascinating insight into where they stand on this matter. For a party in dominant first place, it is notable just how much time their leadership spent attacking the party in third place.

The SNP leadership are many things but they are not politically naïve. They know full well that politics is not static and that a progressive space has opened up. Their cuts commission is the much-heralded blueprint for independence but was barely mentioned at either of the last two SNP conferences after it was greeted with justifiable anger from the left of the Yes camp. Whilst the SNP has strapped itself into ten more years of the austerity rollercoaster, Labour’s UK and Scottish leaderships have both moved onto a radically different agenda.

With the Growth Commission kept quiet, a raft of announcements from the SNP leadership sought to wrap the Government in positions that echo those of Scottish Labour and Jeremy Corbyn.

On a range of policies, from using Government money to drive up working conditions, to ensuring more support for local business and our manufacturing industry as well as a Scottish Investment Bank, the First Minister is simply following the agenda set by Labour.

READ MORE: Bill Jamieson: Why UK may have to cut taxes and increase spending

But if we look beyond the spin we discover an habitual timidity. The First Minister has announced that the Infrastructure Commission “will explore the feasibility of a Government-owned National Infrastructure Company”. A commission to explore the feasibility of something is not a bold, decisive, radical step. The First Minister’s long-delayed national investment bank is a pale imitation of Labour’s plans: Scottish Labour is committed to delivering a Scottish Investment Bank with £20 billion of funding over the next decade – ten times more than the amount proposed by the SNP. And that’s in addition to the £20 billion from our National Transformation Fund for key infrastructure investment.

Similarly, the First Minister says the SNP will make Scotland one of the first carbon-neutral countries anywhere in the world but then falls short of promising to do so by 2050. Whereas the Government’s target is for a 90 per cent reduction, it ought to commit to the full 100 per cent, supported by Scottish Labour.

And so it goes on: an overall plan for austerity, with some progressive-sounding measures, that simply do not challenge the fundamentals of our failing economic system. There is a stand-off. A country in need of profound economic and social change, with a Government that seeks to preserve a progressive veneer, but one that is not equipped or willing to deliver the real change that is required.

The blunt truth is that a Jeremy Corbyn-led government in Westminster would deliver a far more radical and progressive agenda than anything that has ever been offered by the Scottish National Party. A Corbyn Government would govern to the left of Nicola Sturgeon’s administration. And a Scottish Labour Government, under my leadership, would go much further on an agenda of investment, public ownership, workers’ rights and reducing wealth inequality than the present incumbents.

What’s happened with the transformation of the Labour Party poses a very interesting question for progressively minded individuals who have looked to independence and the SNP as the vehicle for social justice. Of course, there will always be those whose support for independence is the driving force for their politics.

But there are many whose support for it has been more based on an idea that it might be a route to social change. Many of those people are likely to agree with a socialist’s critique of the problems facing our country than they will with the Scottish National Party. Indeed, many of them are socialists. If profound social, economic and environmental change is your motivating drive, then far greater change than anything offered by the SNP is available. It should be grasped with both hands.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Richard Leonard"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4813800.1539273274!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4813800.1539273274!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Ex-soldier Darren Greenfield, who lived on Edinburgh's streets for years, died at the age of 47 days before Christmas","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Ex-soldier Darren Greenfield, who lived on Edinburgh's streets for years, died at the age of 47 days before Christmas","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4813800.1539273274!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/analysis-does-an-earlier-indyref2-look-more-likely-after-snp-conference-1-4813840","id":"1.4813840","articleHeadline": "Analysis: Does an earlier Indyref2 look more likely after SNP conference?","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539276607000 ,"articleLead": "

With a rhetorical flourish from Nicola Sturgeon on her hope for an independent Scotland, 2018’s party conference season came to an end.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4813839.1539276603!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon at the conference. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

Weary journalists and fired-up activists went home to chew over what a near month-long blitz of political posturing, gossiping, and serious policy announcements meant for various parties and the country.

The First Minister touched on the SNP’s guiding principle perhaps a little more than many outsiders expected, but with precious little detail.

Instead, Ms Sturgeon spoke in more general terms about the ‘goal’ of independence, and how she remained optimistic about the prospect of Scotland seperating from the rest of the UK in her life time.

READ MORE: Kenny MacAskill: It’s game on for Indyref2

That’s not to say it wasn’t a central theme of the SNP leaders’ speech, there were 13 mentions of ‘independence’ and 16 mentions of ‘independent’.

Some believe this means that the ‘pause’ announced by Ms Sturgeon in 2017 on a second vote is over, and that the SNP is once again heading towards a referendum footage.

We look at whether another plebiscite is more likely after the speech.

‘Game on’

As Kenny MacAskill noted in his Scotsman column today, there were in fact significant external factors that may have pushed the First Minister away from her ‘pause’.

Tens of thousands of people marched in Edinburgh on the eve of the SNP conference, putting the First Minister, as the titular head of the independence movement, under pressure to ensure that the issue was front and centre in her address.

READ MORE: Recap Nicola Sturgeon’s speech

The former Justice Secretary said it was ‘game on’ for a second referendum, but agreed that ‘delay and change (within the party) there must be’.

However delay and change were not the buzzwords in the air at the pro-independence march in the capital on Saturday, with the organiser claiming afterwards that the ‘passion was there’ for constitutional change.

There was certainly passion in Nicola Sturgeon’s speech in Glasgow, but that might not be enough for non-SNP independence supporters to keep faith in her as the guarantor of Scotland’s constitutional future.

Impatience and fog

Perhaps most important to note from the First Minister’s speech was not her fulsome endorsement of independence itself, but the lack of concrete plans to achieve that goal.

For all the mentions of independence in the address, there were just two instances of the word ‘referendum,’ and both of those related to the Brexit vote in 2016 and the so-called ‘People’s Vote’ campaign for a second referendum on leaving the EU.

Ms Sturgeon’s announcement that SNP MPs would back a vote on that issue on the commons was perhaps as significant as any pronouncement that she made on Scottish independence.

It is clear that while initially thought an opportunity by some in the SNP (who assumed it would harden the views of pro-EU Scots), Brexit has been damaging for any nascent plans for a second vote on Scottish independence.

Even as the UK prepares to leave the EU in less than six months, the issue looks set to dominate the political landscape for years to come.

Whether there is an agreement or a ‘no deal’ scenario, it is likely that the effects of Britain’s departure will be felt in Scotland and beyond for years to come.

That arguably makes the crucial quote from Ms Sturgeon’s speech when she told activists: “But as we wait - impatiently, at times, I know - for this phase of negotiations to conclude and for the fog of Brexit to clear, be in no doubt about this.

“The last two years have shown why Scotland needs to be independent.”

There lies the best clue about the First Minister’s plans for another referendum, and those expecting one in the next 12-18 months are almost certain to be disappointed.

As Kenny MacAskill warns, however, there is Holyrood election in 2021 at which a pro-Union majority could feasibly be elected.

Even after Ms Sturgeon’s independence-heavy speech, those factors combine to make the latter half of 2020 still the most likely date of another referendum.

For those marching in Edinburgh on Saturday, and for many activists, that may feel like a lifetime away.

For Unionist politicians, its far too soon, and perhaps even undecided voters would prefer to wait until the ‘fog’ of Brexit has cleared further.

Ms Sturgeon’s speech offered clarity, but shows just how much of a tightrope she must continue to walk on Scotland’s constitutional future.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4813839.1539276603!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4813839.1539276603!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon at the conference. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon at the conference. Picture: Jane Barlow/PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4813839.1539276603!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/tommy-sheppard-let-s-march-towards-a-new-vision-for-the-nation-1-4812860","id":"1.4812860","articleHeadline": "Tommy Sheppard: Let’s march towards a new vision for the nation","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539269206000 ,"articleLead": "

We were supposed to set off from Johnston Terrace at one o’clock on last Saturday’s march for independence. In fact, it was a quarter past two by the time I turned into the Lawnmarket and began the walk down the Royal Mile to Holyrood.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812858.1539183585!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Pipers play as the All Under One Banner marchers make their way down the Royal Mile. Picture: PA"} ,"articleBody": "

That’s what happens when the biggest gathering in years descends upon the centre of Edinburgh and parades through narrow medieval streets. As a popular tweet quipped – we’re gonna need a bigger city.

Organisers claimed 100,000 people attended. The council said a lot fewer. However many it was, it was huge. It would be almost impossible to say for sure how many took part as there was never a time when everyone was together in the same place. By the time I got to Holyrood Park – an hour after leaving Castle Hill – those at the front were already leaving.

READ MORE: All Under One Banner Edinburgh rally: Tens of thousands take part in pro-independence march

If you were there you’ll know that it was an extremely good-natured and friendly event. Whole families were there – from Pensioners for Indy to babes in arms. Home-made humorous placards vastly outnumbered those produced by various political groups trying to get in on the action.

Many were veterans of past campaigns but there were lots, too, for whom this was their first protest. In particular, there were plenty who have become so disillusioned by the way the Tories are using Brexit to change Britain beyond recognition that they now believe Scotland becoming an independent country offers a better prospect for them and their families.

Some commentators claimed that the protest was some sort of embarrassment to Nicola Sturgeon – designed to force her hand into calling an early second referendum on independence. In fact, it was an incredibly canny and savvy crowd that was present last Saturday. They know only too well that the Brexit endgame has to come to some sort of conclusion before we can see what it is that independence is an alternative to.

The day after, the SNP’s annual conference began in Glasgow. By any measure this must be the most positive and united political gathering in the entire UK. Whilst other parties divide into squabbling factions, SNP activists come together in mutual support. I don’t pretend for one moment that we would rather be a lot clearer on what Brexit means so that we could get on with preparing a new prospectus for self-government. But the SNP rank and file are not lashing out in frustration; instead there is a purposeful patience.

READ MORE: Letters: This is why my family marches for Scottish independence

The message of the conference was hope. In every session delegates voted for policies to make things better in our country. For a more positive attitude to immigration built on welcoming people rather than trying to keep them out. For a policy to tackle the frightening number of deaths through drug misuse. For scrapping the punitive policies on child tax credits. For a policy of allowing refugee families to be united. What all these policies have in common is that they cannot be implemented by the Scottish Government – they can only be executed when Scotland becomes a self-governing country with the full powers of an independent nation.

One of the highlights of the conference was the address by Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price, who told us that under the Tories the old Britain was dying. We should let it die, he said, and, in its place, allow three new countries to prosper on this island – countries that would undoubtedly work together in a more constructive and effective way than the current antiquated British constriction allows. I wholeheartedly agree.

Tommy Sheppard is the SNP MP for Edinburgh East

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4812858.1539183585!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812858.1539183585!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Pipers play as the All Under One Banner marchers make their way down the Royal Mile. Picture: PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Pipers play as the All Under One Banner marchers make their way down the Royal Mile. Picture: PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4812858.1539183585!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4812859.1539183592!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812859.1539183592!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Tommy Sheppard is the SNP MP for Edinburgh East","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Tommy Sheppard is the SNP MP for Edinburgh East","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4812859.1539183592!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/lord-heseltine-appalled-by-prospect-of-scottish-independence-1-4813438","id":"1.4813438","articleHeadline": "Lord Heseltine ‘appalled’ by prospect of Scottish independence","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539239641000 ,"articleLead": "

Lord Heseltine has described the prospect of Scottish independence as “appalling”, questioning whether it “will really change anything very much” north of the border.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4813437.1539239637!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Lord Michael Heseltine has described the prospect of Scottish independence as "appalling". Picture: PA Wire"} ,"articleBody": "

The former deputy prime minister, who is a staunch Remainer, likened the arguments for leaving the UK to those for leaving the EU, and called for further decentralisation of power across the country instead.

He said independence would result in Whitehall being “substituted” by Edinburgh, arguing that greater autonomy should be given to cities such as Glasgow and Dundee.

The Tory peer made the comments during an appearance at the Festival of Politics at the Scottish Parliament.

“I am appalled by the prospect of the fracturing of the United Kingdom,” he said, when asked by an audience member for his views.

“It’s the same argument (as Brexit).

READ MORE: Kenny MacAskill: Why it’s game on for a second independence referendum

“If I look at the record of the British Empire and the British Commonwealth, and the incredible strengths which Scotland has contributed to this 200, 300-year human achievement, the idea of fracturing it, I find unbelievable.

“If I had one question I would ask about independence - is this really substituting Edinburgh for Whitehall, and substituting Edinburgh for Whitehall, with the centralism moved a few hundred miles north, will that really change anything very much in Scotland?”

He continued: “What I have been arguing for for many years now is the recreation of the power centres of the 18th century.

“If I was looking at the Scottish economy in that context, I would be asking myself about Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen, Dundee and whether they are being devolved power to.

“Whether they are being recreated as the dynamics that they were when those cities were in their heyday.”

Lord Heseltine’s remarks follow the SNP’s autumn conference earlier this week, during which Nicola Sturgeon called for “pragmatism and patience” from independence supporters.

The First Minister has said she is waiting until the shape of any Brexit deal becomes clear before she makes a judgement on a second referendum on leaving the UK.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "LYNSEY BEWS"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4813437.1539239637!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4813437.1539239637!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Lord Michael Heseltine has described the prospect of Scottish independence as "appalling". Picture: PA Wire","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Lord Michael Heseltine has described the prospect of Scottish independence as "appalling". Picture: PA Wire","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4813437.1539239637!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/tom-peterkin-the-english-tories-who-care-more-about-brexit-than-union-1-4813350","id":"1.4813350","articleHeadline": "Tom Peterkin: The English Tories who care more about Brexit than Union","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539234000000 ,"articleLead": "

Scottish Tories fear English nationalism could trump British Unionism in the great Brexit battle, writes Tom Peterkin.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4813349.1539248972!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The flags of St Andrew and St George have been entwined within the Union Jack for centuries, but some English Tories seem content if Brexit sees them unravel (Picture: Jane Barlow)"} ,"articleBody": "

For those concerned about the impact of Brexit on Britishness, there was some dispiriting research published by Edinburgh and Cardiff universities this week. Surveys conducted with thousands of adults across the Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland found what was described as “mutual indifference” towards the Union that ties those countries together.

Apparently a comfortable majority of English Conservatives would support Scottish independence (79 per cent) or the collapse of the Northern Irish Peace Process (75 per cent) as the price of Brexit.

Moreover, 87 per cent of Leave voters in Northern Ireland see the collapse of the peace process as an acceptable price for Brexit.

Still in Northern Ireland, 86 per cent of Leave voters say that a Yes vote in a second Scottish independence referendum is an acceptable price for EU withdrawal. Given that Leave voters in Northern Ireland are overwhelmingly of Unionist persuasion, these findings make one wonder quite what kind of Union it is that they actually believe in.

As one of the academics behind the study – Professor Ailsa Henderson of Edinburgh University – put it: “There is evidence that Brexit is dislodging long-held red lines about the Union. If even Unionists in Northern Ireland care less about the territorial integrity of the UK than pursuing Brexit, then it really raises questions about the type of Union we’re in, and indeed what Unionism means.”

But perhaps it is the attitude of English Conservatives, who appear to regard Scottish independence as tolerable collateral damage, that should be of most concern to those in Scotland who cherish what Theresa May has described as “our precious Union”.

READ MORE: Poll: 62% think Tories haven’t considered Scotland in Brexit talks

The figureheads of this strand of thought are the likes of Boris Johnson and Jacob Rees-Mogg, who may pay lip service to the Union but whose pursuit of a hard Brexit appears to pay scant regard to the UK at large.

The lax attitude towards the Union displayed by Brexiteers south of the border taking part in the study is also reflected in the views of a considerable and influential number of Conservative MPs. These English Conservatives are a different species to Tories north of the border whose belief in the integrity of the United Kingdom is absolutely fundamental to their politics.

There is anxiety amongst Scottish Tories that Brexit is creating a dynamic whereby English Nationalism trumps British Unionism. That’s exactly why Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson made such an impassioned plea for the Union in front of her fellow Tory politicians and the party rank-and-file at the recent UK conference in Birmingham.

“Let’s never lose sight of the fact that the Union that’s most important to us is our own: the Union of Scotland, England, Wales and Northern Ireland,” Ms Davidson implored conference.

Scottish Conservatives can take some comfort that the Prime Minister at least appears to be sympathetic to their concerns. They point to the short speech she made outside Downing Street two years ago when taking over from David Cameron.

“Not everybody knows this, but the full title of my party is the Conservative and Unionist Party,” ssid Mrs May, giving a reminder that was more pertinent to her colleagues south of the border than those north of it.

Of recent UK Tory leaders, Mr Cameron also had an acute sense of the importance of the Union, perhaps as a result of his own Scottish ancestry. But he is no more, having dashed his political career on the rocks of the Leave vote in 2016. And who’s to say that Tory divisions over Europe won’t also account for Mrs May?

READ MORE: No-deal Brexit does not threaten Union, says Prime Minister’s deputy

The ties that bind the UK together are looser than of old. The rise of the SNP, the independence referendum of 2014 and now Brexit have contributed to that. There are also more nebulous factors at play. The Second World War may still be in living memory (just), but the sense of common endeavour that defined Britain in its darkest hour is not as strong as it was a couple of generations ago. The trade unions with their ethos of solidarity across the UK are not the force they once were. With the death of a Queen Mother from Angus in 2002, the Royal Family lost a symbolic link with Scotland. Amalgamations and a reduced military footprint mean that the Highland Regiments do not offer the same sort of distinctive Scottish identity within the British Army as they once did. And the BBC, once an important expression of Britishness, has been scapegoated by political movements for its coverage of the two referenda.

Therefore Ms Davidson’s attempts to protect the Union over the next few months and years are not without challenges, especially when faced with an SNP desperate to exploit the chaos of Brexit and the prospect of Remain-voting Scots converting to the independence cause in dismay over the way things are going.

More encouragingly from her point of view, the 2014 referendum and subsequent polls shows that there is still sizeable support for the UK in Scotland – particularly when it comes to the economic benefits of the Union. So expect more arguments from the Scottish Tories that the economic consequences of exiting one political union (the EU) cannot be mitigated by breaking up another (the UK). Meanwhile – behind the scenes – Ms Davidson will urge her southern colleagues to stop playing fast and loose with the United Kingdom.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4813349.1539248972!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4813349.1539248972!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "The flags of St Andrew and St George have been entwined within the Union Jack for centuries, but some English Tories seem content if Brexit sees them unravel (Picture: Jane Barlow)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "The flags of St Andrew and St George have been entwined within the Union Jack for centuries, but some English Tories seem content if Brexit sees them unravel (Picture: Jane Barlow)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4813349.1539248972!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5796987730001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/kenny-macaskill-why-it-s-game-on-for-a-second-independence-referendum-1-4812947","id":"1.4812947","articleHeadline": "Kenny MacAskill: Why it’s game on for a second independence referendum","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539234000000 ,"articleLead": "

The SNP had a good conference with Nicola Sturgeon’s speech, containing the obligatory sound bites, enthusing activists. But the question is, where now?

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812946.1539243552!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon urged SNP supporters to be patient but said their ultimate goal was in sight (Picture: John Devlin)"} ,"articleBody": "

The SNP had a good conference with Nicola Sturgeon’s speech, containing the obligatory sound bites, enthusing activists. But the question is, where now?

They were lucky with timing, as rumblings within the party were increasing over the Growth Commission report and demands for a second independence referendum. Internal dissent could have overshadowed the conference, but internal party discipline remains strong and outside events conspired to provide a fair wind.

Tory dysfunctionality was laid bare for all to see at their conference a week earlier. The lunacy of Brexit and the price to be paid is becoming more obvious by the day. Independence has to be won but the union’s no longer so safe and secure. Activists know that.

That was followed by Labour where whatever radical agenda Corbyn promoted it was overshadowed by the Scottish wing ruling out a second referendum. It’s not the constitution but public services that are the major concern to the floating SNP/Labour voter. Labour’s parroting of the Conservative and Unionist Party is undemocratic and electorally damaging, but the SNP must have welcomed it all the same.

And then there was the independence rally in Edinburgh, a huge and symbolic event that can’t just be wished away by opponents. Smaller events around the country – akin to some travelling circus – are a distraction from the cause but a major one gives focus and shows strength, not just of feeling but numbers.

In the early 90s, another major rally in Edinburgh followed a fourth Tory victory in the UK but once again defeat in Scotland. Numbers were large then, though less than on this occasion, but it was still the precursor for constitutional change. This march galvanised the cause as well as the conference.

READ MORE: Brian Monteith: The polls don’t lie – Nicola Sturgeon has failed as a leader

A major morale boost, it saw activists enter conference on a high. There the First Minister didn’t explicitly rule out an early referendum but the coding couldn’t have been clearer. Her appeal for “Perseverance, Pragmatism and Patience” was a long way from the precipitous call to arms she’d made in spring 2017 and signalled a delay.

The First Minister’s a remarkably able parliamentary tactician but has been a much poorer political strategist. This gathering saw her begin to recognise the reality of the battleground rather than pandering to an adoring audience. It might not have been what some wanted but it was a long overdue recognition that Brexit complicates the independence case and some clarity on it is required.

But, the clock is ticking, not just with Brexit but with the Holyrood election cycle. It’s now half way through the parliamentary session and by the time, as the First Minister said, “the fog clears” it’ll be up against the wire to do anything before May 2021.

Waiting to go again is all that can be done, other than the UK falling apart as it goes over the Brexit cliff. Delay allows for the necessary work to be done, both in Government and at party grassroots level, that’s badly needed and has been lacking so far. The Growth Commission following the national conversation into oblivion.

The major argument for an early date is to avoid a unionist majority in the Scottish Parliament post-2021, making it not possible to call Indyref 2. But the political terrain is unclear and the base hasn’t been built. Support for independence is high but Nicola Sturgeon knows it’s not high enough, the risk of a second and crushing defeat too great.

But, why be so defeatist? Not just the independence vote but the SNP vote is holding up. Brexit, in whatever form, will not be pleasant and the Tories will pay a heavy price for their lethal concoction of incompetence and cruelty – and that’s why she’ll wait.

READ MORE: Leader comment: Independence debate needs more reason, less passion

Scottish Labour and Liberals are nowhere and becoming irrelevant. It’s already clear that the SNP will win another Holyrood election but can they get another overall or working majority with the Greens? That’s what the strategy has to be, getting a renewed mandate and even the option of an alternative one if another referendum is refused. Referenda remain the preferred course for constitutional issues, but not the only one. Thinking by the likes of Joanna Cherry MP is to be welcomed and the First Minister should widen her limited coterie of advisors. There needs to be more substance not just soundbite.

Changes are required, both in Government and in the party. New thinking and more dynamic action are needed. Announcements at conference on this and that are all very well, but what’s required is getting a grip on public services. They’re not as bad as some paint them but there are real issues. Action not words are needed and some of that will require being bold. The First Minister has been remiss on that to date, preferring to spread the jam thinly rather than make any major policy retreat or major structural change. It’s doubtful that can continue otherwise it’s simply about managing decline.

As Labour has had reviews, consultations and reviews of consultations, the SNP has plans for 2030 and beyond when folk want solutions now, not at a future date in some promised land. Triangulation and reaction to issues as they arise is insufficient. A bolder vison of a better society is needed along with practical implementation of it.

The danger for the SNP lies in a potential failure to get the vote out. Team Sturgeon’s council and Westminster campaigns were a warning of what can happen when the base is demotivated. But, it’s not about shouting independence louder but relating it to issues. The best and most successful SNP campaigns have been on oil, the poll tax, fuel and so on.

Keith Brown’s made a noticeable difference but needs to be able to build on that. The SNP hasn’t adjusted to its increased size whether in campaigning or discipline. It’s not a family business but Scotland’s major political party and should reflect that. HQ is there to support the party, not shamelessly promote the ‘chief executive’s spouse’.

Delay there may be and change there must be, but it’s game on for Indyref 2.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Kenny MacAskill"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4812946.1539243552!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812946.1539243552!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon urged SNP supporters to be patient but said their ultimate goal was in sight (Picture: John Devlin)","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon urged SNP supporters to be patient but said their ultimate goal was in sight (Picture: John Devlin)","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4812946.1539243552!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5846476683001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/poll-62-think-tories-haven-t-considered-scotland-in-brexit-talks-1-4813046","id":"1.4813046","articleHeadline": "Poll: 62% think Tories haven’t considered Scotland in Brexit talks","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539179714000 ,"articleLead": "

A majority of Scots voters believe that the UK Government has failed to adequately consider the views of Scotland in relation to Brexit, a new poll has found.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812568.1539179711!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon wants to extend negotiations with the EU. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL"} ,"articleBody": "

The SNP-commissioned survey by Survation showed that just 27 per cent of those questioned agreed that the Conservatives had given ‘an appropriate amount of consideration’ to the views of people in Scotland.

READ MORE: Recap Nicola Sturgeon’s speech to conference

62 per cent believed that Theresa May’s party hadn’t given the appropriate amount of consideration to the views of Scottish voters.

There was a significant variation by party support, with 69 per cent of Conservative voters believing Scotland had been adequately considered, with just 4 per cent of SNP voters agreeing with the statement.

60 per cent of voters in the poll, which comes on the heels of the SNP conference, support Nicola Sturgeon’s proposal to extend Brexit negotiations with the EU in order to avoid a ‘no deal’ Brexit.

READ MORE: Independence referendum ‘must wait until after Brexit’

27 per cent of those polled were opposed to the delay to the negotiations, which are due to end in November.

SNP MP Stephen Gethins said: “Scottish voters from every political party support the SNP’s call to extend the negotiating period with the EU as Theresa May’s disastrous handling of Brexit negotiations goes from bad to worse.

“A ‘No deal’ or ‘no detail‘ Brexit simply isn’t acceptable to Scotland, where we voted decisively to remain in the EU - a position that has been completely ignored and disrespected by Westminster at every turn.

“The SNP has argued from day one for a compromise that, after Brexit, the UK should remain in the single market and customs union – which is around eight times bigger than the UK market alone – to protect Scottish jobs and household incomes, and it’s becoming clearer by the day that Theresa May’s extreme approach to Brexit needs to change.”

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4812568.1539179711!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812568.1539179711!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "Nicola Sturgeon wants to extend negotiations with the EU. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "Nicola Sturgeon wants to extend negotiations with the EU. Picture: John Devlin/TSPL","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4812568.1539179711!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/your-say/letters-avoid-tartan-blindness-scotland-can-t-afford-independence-1-4812820","id":"1.4812820","articleHeadline": "Letters: Avoid tartan blindness, Scotland can’t afford independence","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539166107000 ,"articleLead": "

Monday’s Letters page reveals a standard cross section of opinion over the question of independence for Scotland – much impassioned claims that 100,000 or so marched in Edinburgh, contradicted by counter assessments of 20,000 or thereabouts, and comparisons with the Jacobite cause, and a wonderful shout for the “next generation” who “are not feart”.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812822.1539166103!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP Conference fired up independence activists. Picture: John Devlin"} ,"articleBody": "

Monday’s Letters page reveals a standard cross section of opinion over the question of independence for Scotland – much impassioned claims that 100,000 or so marched in Edinburgh, contradicted by counter assessments of 20,000 or thereabouts, and comparisons with the Jacobite cause, and a wonderful shout for the “next generation” who “are not feart”.

READ MORE: RECAP Nicola Sturgeon’s live speech to SNP conference

Fine. Let us be clear. A ­popular vote in 2014 said No to independence. Had the vote gone the other way, can we presume that a continued whine from the Unionist camp would have emerged, seeking another vote, because they didn’t like the first one? ­Possibly, but unlikely.

The main argument against Scottish independence is that the country simply does not have the economic strength to sustain it. Forget potential Brexit outcomes, of which no one is sure, and any statistical smoke and mirror fantasises that suggest otherwise.

The track record of the Scottish government since 2014 has made it quite evident that the country just doesn’t have the wherewithal to create and sustain policies that ­support a health service, an education system, a police force, a ­transport infrastructure and a welfare state ­without punishing taxes that cripple the people who voted against independence in the first place.

We must ignore the tartan-blinded minority, who would rather perish on the raft of ­idealism than wake up and recognise the truth, which the thinking majority came to realise years ago – we cannot afford it!

Hamish Alldridge

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": ""} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4812822.1539166103!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812822.1539166103!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "SNP Conference fired up independence activists. Picture: John Devlin","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "SNP Conference fired up independence activists. Picture: John Devlin","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4812822.1539166103!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} , {"article": {"url":"https://www.scotsman.com/news/opinion/brian-monteith-the-polls-don-t-lie-nicola-sturgeon-has-failed-as-a-leader-1-4812198","id":"1.4812198","articleHeadline": "Brian Monteith: The polls don’t lie – Nicola Sturgeon has failed as a leader","commentCount":0,"publishedDate":1539165984000 ,"articleLead": "

There is something about party conferences that often brings out the worst in politicians. The demonising of opponents, the flag waving – and of course the ­appearance of eccentrics that make you question the idea of universal suffrage (every party has some) – this week’s SNP conference is up there with the rest of them.

","articleThumbnail": {"thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812821.1539254537!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during day two of the SNP autumn conference at the SEC, Glasgow. Picture; PA"} ,"articleBody": "

As is often the case before a party conference, there were some polls about the public’s voting intentions – especially if there is ‘no deal’ over Brexit. Westminster leader Ian ­Blackford MP claimed: “A majority of people would support an independent Scotland in the likelihood of a hard Brexit.”

This was not quite the truth for the three polls all told a different story. With a ‘hard Brexit’ a Panelbase poll said there would be a 52 per cent to 48 per cent vote to stay in the UK; a Survation poll said the outcome would be 50 per cent - 50 per cent and a ­private SNP poll said it would be 52 per cent to 48 per cent to leave. Without a ‘hard Brexit’ outcome they all showed a continuing support for staying in the UK.

READ MORE: Poll: Half of Scots would vote for Scottish independence after Brexit

All pollsters agree that the ‘what if’ polls are far less reliable than making judgements on the here and now – so the reality is there really is no change in where we are. It’s only after we know what Brexit will mean – and can see the outcome – that polling will have any relevance. In fact, the polls contained bad news for the SNP with each one showing ­Sturgeon would lose further seats in the Holyrood elections, and depending on the vote for the Greens, could also lose the slim majority in favour of holding a second referendum. That the best Nicola Sturgeon can do when faced with the uninspiring Theresa May and a divisive Jeremy Corbyn is deliver a fall in SNP ­support surely requires questions to be asked about her leadership – but don’t expect that this week.

Typically the First Minister sought to deflect attention away from the damning rejection of her tenure as First Minister by ignoring the issue all SNP ­delegates wanted to know – when will they get a second independence referendum?

In announcing she would back a ­second referendum on EU membership Sturgeon raised hypocrisy to new levels. Her position is obvious for all to see – when she loses a referendum there must be a rerun, but if she were to win one it would be binding and beyond challenge.

Add to this the menacing tone ­coming from Edinburgh South West SNP MP Joanna Cherry, that there is no need to have a referendum to gain independence and we see that the utter contempt some SNP MPs have for voters.

READ MORE: Joanna Cherry: Indyref2 not necessarily needed for independence

There was a time previously when it was accepted that if the SNP had a majority of MPs it could enter into negotiations with Westminster regarding independence.

The SNP decided it might be easier to win a referendum that concentrated voters’ thoughts on the question, rather than the many issues that decide a general election. By backing the referendum as the legitimate ­democratic vehicle to achieve ­independence it also meant people could vote for an SNP candidate without fear of causing independence. That’s why it was possible for the SNP to win so many elections.

To change that relationship with the voters the SNP would have to be upfront in advance of an election – risking a considerable fall in SNP support.

To change the democratic requirement without public endorsement must demonstrate how some in the SNP will stop at nothing. What next, an illegal referendum, ­followed by a unilateral declaration of independence?

Such are the ways bitter division is sown and in other countries previously mild-mannered people turn to violence. The likes of such tactics here should be condemned out of hand. Does Nicola Sturgeon offer any hope for the acceptance of legitimate democratic outcomes? I’m not convinced.

" ,"byline": {"email": "" ,"author": "Brian Monteith"} ,"topImages": [ {"image": {"url":"/webimage/1.4812821.1539254537!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/box_600/image.jpg","thumbnailUrl":"/webimage/1.4812821.1539254537!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_170/image.jpg","alt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during day two of the SNP autumn conference at the SEC, Glasgow. Picture; PA","width":600,"height":315,"thumbnailWidth":170,"thumbnailHeight":"auto","imageAlt": "First Minister Nicola Sturgeon during day two of the SNP autumn conference at the SEC, Glasgow. Picture; PA","landscapeurl":"/webimage/1.4812821.1539254537!/image/image.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_595/image.jpg","landscapewidth":595,"landscapeheight":398}} ] ,"bodyImages": [ ] ,"polls":[ ] ,"videos":[ {"video": {"brightcoveId":"5746108438001"} } ] ,"imageGallerys":[ ] ,"externalLinks": [ ] ,"relatedList":{"count":0,"list":[ ]} }} ]}}} ]}