Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon may not have a Plan B after Boris Johnson's refusal to grant second referendum, but others do – Kenny MacAskill MP

Boris Johnson says no to another independence referendum, so is that it?

Well, that may suit some and even the First Minister seems phlegmatic about it, saying she has time on her side.

But for many, independence cannot wait, and with the hardship being inflicted and the economy being wrecked, it’s neither an option nor sustainable for many.

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So, it’s no wonder many in the independence movement are looking at other democratic ways of delivering change.

In any event, circumstances are making a second referendum less and less likely. Not only did the First Minister cede a veto to Boris Johnson with her requirement for Westminster consent but she even conceded the timing, by saying not until after the Covid recovery.

No amount of posturing by the Scottish government or bellicosity by SNP representatives can hide that there’s just been no preparation made for a second plebiscite.

Organisation, strategy and funding have all been left by the wayside. The now almost annual statements by senior party leaders of another one coming later this year, definitely next year or whenever, have as much authenticity as saying there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

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The First Minister Nicola Sturgeon welcomes Prime Minister Boris Johnson on his last visit (Picture: Jane Barlow/PA)

Faux outrage over the recent Supreme Court rulings against the Scottish government on children’s rights and local government can’t hide the fact that they’ve conceded the Westminster veto.

To be fair, it’s always been there but to explicitly cede it was inept and to continue to pursue an Indyref2 strategy dependent on Westminster consent when it’s doomed is an abrogation of leadership. Bluster can’t change what they already knew. If it’s a reserved competency, they need Westminster consent.

Remarks by the SNP president about the striking down of recent Scottish Parliament legislation were fatuous. The signing off of a Bill by the Presiding Officer simply says that it’s within scope at the stage when it’s lodged. Not that it will be if amended, as the Bill incorporating the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) into Scots law was, or even that it won’t be liable to challenge in the courts.

Similarly, Lord Advocates, as with any legal adviser, can declare a case to be statable but that’s a far cry from them viewing it as winnable.

There’s precedent. Legislation on minimum unit pricing for alcohol was always within scope but arguable. It was clear at the outset that it was going to be challenged all the way through the legal process. Neither the Presiding Officer’s sign-off, nor Lord Advocate’s advice could change that. However, they were always confident of the legal position and were justified by the outcome.

In the most UNCRC instance though almost every legal voice thought differently. It was a political move to be seen to be doing something, when you weren’t doing much at all.

But it’s reaffirmed that Westminster calls the shots and no Scottish Parliament Bill will achieve a second referendum without their approval. A consultative one was possible but disdained by the Scottish government and now, with a unionist boycott, it’s doomed.

Nicola Sturgeon mightn’t have a Plan B but others do. The referendum road may be run, but independence’s still going, albeit down new routes. There are other ways.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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