Any doubt that there was insufficient “clear blue water” between the SNP and Scottish Labour on the issue of a second independence referendum has now been removed.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has firmly declared that if the UK vote on EU membership resulted in a majority of English voters opting for exit and a majority of Scottish voters opted to remain, this outcome would make it “very highly likely” that there would be a second independence referendum.
Meanwhile Scottish Labour leader Kezia Dugdale has rowed back on earlier statements that she could back an independence referendum if the UK votes to leave the EU.
The First Minister’s stance does pose a double risk to the SNP’s ambitions. A UK-wide vote to remain in the EU could inhibit any further calls for a second Scottish referendum: the threat cannot be credibly deployed on every occasion there is a divergence of view with Westminster.
And many may regret that an issue as fundamental as our membership of the EU should be clouded by considerations over a quite separate referendum.
However, at the same time, there will be a number of SNP supporters, including the veteran Jim Sillars who would consider it quite logical for Scots to vote for BREXIT – given their concerns over parliamentary sovereignty and the wish to ensure that a Scottish parliament would not have its democratic rights undermined by continuing EU encroachment.
Given the interventions in favour of ‘Vote Remain’ last week, the issue may well prove academic – but it is clear that the SNP does not wish to wait a generation before having a second bite at the independence cherry.