Scottish independence referendum by 2023? How Nicola Sturgeon has turned unionists' 'neverendum' jibe into SNP government policy – Kenny MacAskill MSP

Well blow me down with a feather, Nicola Sturgeon says that the new Covid variant may impact on an independence referendum.

Nicola Sturgeon addresses independence supporters at a rally in Glasgow's George Square in November 2019 (Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Of course it will – it’s the world in which we live. Delta, Omicron and whatever else still to come are with us and here to stay for a while anyway.

So long as 4.7 billion people remain unvaccinated in the developing world, it’s the risk we face. But life goes on and so too must democracy. That’s why elections took place whether at Holyrood or for the US presidency.

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Maintaining democracy is essential. Indeed, control of your own borders becomes essential, especially when Boris Johnson treats four-nation approaches on travel restrictions with the same contempt that he has for a section 30 order to allow a referendum and for Scottish democracy.

Who could possibly have thought that she might yet again find a reason to kick the can down the road? Certainly not I or even growing numbers of people who still remain in the SNP but are now doubting her word.

My former parliamentary colleague Angus MacNeil says he wouldn’t bet on the Scottish government holding a referendum. I’m not a betting man but, if I was, I’d positively bet against it being held and certainly not in the timescales the First Minister has bandied about.

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Alex Neil, who served in her Cabinet, made it clear that there was “no sign of any necessary” work being done. It’s not just the preparatory work that’s not been done but the basic essentials. By this time ahead of the 2014 referendum, the Edinburgh Agreement had been signed and a date was soon to be announced.

This time there’s no agreement and the legislation hasn’t even been laid. Even when it is dutifully rolled out to the exuberant applause of her docile MSPs, it means absolutely nothing. She’s already agreed that it requires Westminster consent, and the legal position of the Supreme Court’s pretty well set.

Dates are already slipping once again and will soon join the abject promises of later this year, or definitely next year, that have rolled out by the leadership’s stooges, happy to take the fall for her. The hapless Ian Blackford’s now spouting that one being held by the end of 2023 depends on “an ideal set of circumstances”.

When you don’t control any of the critical factors, that’s not fumbling, it’s a fraud. A “neverendum” was meant to be a pejorative word bandied about unionists – not become the settled policy of an SNP First Minister.

It’s doomed and she knows it is. That’s why her trusty stooges have been rolled out to reduce expectations and prepare the excuses – we would if we could, but we can’t. But give us another mandate and that’ll definitely swing it for us.

But it’s falling on stonier and stonier ground. A groundswell of opinion is growing in the Yes Movement for action. Scotland cannot wait for coronavirus recovery.

Our people’s health and well-being are threatened, as much as our society and economy are being traduced. Moving now’s essential. Further false promises and platitudes no longer wash. If Sturgeon’s SNP won’t lead, others will.

Kenny MacAskill is Alba Party MP for East Lothian

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