The Scotsman did not immediately back calls for a second referendum on the UK’s departure from the European Union. And it is a course of action that would not be without problems. It was only after Theresa May’s Withdrawal Agreement was voted down in the Commons by a record majority of MPs that we came to the conclusion this was the most sensible way to resolve the situation.
Our reasoning was that if our elected representatives were unable to agree on a Brexit deal, the choice was between staying in the EU or leaving without a deal. Both these options were contrary to the result of the 2016 Brexit referendum, so the only logical course of action would be to return to the people.
The 52 per cent of voters who backed leaving did so on the basis that Brexit would make life better and part of the pitch was that the UK would get a good deal from the EU.
The idea that almost all of them would back a no-deal Brexit is beyond far-fetched. But, equally, the vote did not endorse staying in the EU. With MPs at an impasse, the only thing to do was to return to the people, to ask for their instructions, based on a different situation and considerably more information.
Gradually, people have been coming round to the idea and now comes the news that the politician responsible for calling the first referendum, David Cameron, thinks it should be considered.
“I don’t think you can rule it out because we’re stuck,” Cameron told the Times. “I’m not saying one will happen or should happen. I’m just saying that you can’t rule things out right now because you’ve got to find some way of unblocking the blockage.” He described “proroguing parliament, pretending it doesn’t exist” – in order to find a way to “unblock the blockage” – as a “bad thing”.
It is not a surprise that the most committed Brexiteers, those who prepared to leave without a deal, have opposed a second referendum, but they need to realise it is actually their best hope too.
Boris Johnson’s commitment to bring about Brexit “do or die” by 31 October is why he finds himself suspending parliament and suggesting he might break the law or find a way around it to avoid a delay.
There is a danger he could be pushed into or persuaded to take even more radical steps that will damage democracy and the rule of law in this country.
A second referendum, with all the options on the ballot, will tell us what the will of the people truly is.