Leader: Sturgeon must engage with indyref doubters

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to unveil the first in a series of papers making a case for an independent Scotland this week in preparation for a referendum she insists will take place before the end of next year.

A spokesperson for the First Minister said the document would be a “scene-setter” ahead of the publication of more detailed work on a prospectus for independence carried out by civil servants at her request.

If Ms Sturgeon’s supporters have a nagging feeling they have been here before it is because they have been. Several times, in fact, since the 2014 referendum.

Yet for all the talk of another vote, the dial has barely shifted on support for independence, while key questions on the ramifications remain unanswered.

Former first minister Alex Salmond has said he believes support for independence will rise with the start of a new campaign.

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When she took over from Alex Salmond in November 2014, Ms Sturgeon rightly pledged to be “First Minister for all of Scotland”.

“Regardless of your politics or your point of view, my job is to serve you,” she said. “And I promise that I will do so to the best of my ability.”

It was the same attitude that had helped Mr Salmond gain enough popular appeal for the SNP to take his party into government.

Perhaps inevitably, however, in the campaign for the 2014 referendum Mr Salmond became a divisive figure, wildly popular with his own side but unable to secure the support of waverers needed for victory.

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In the wake of Brexit, and with a deeply unpopular Tory prime minister embroiled in the Partygate scandal, it is hard to envisage more propitious circumstances for the independence campaign.

Mr Salmond said yesterday he believes support for breaking with the UK would rise once a campaign gets under way, as it did in 2012.

But in the seven and a half years during which she has been First Minister, Ms Sturgeon has done little to convince her critics of the merits of independence.

The forthcoming series of documents outlining steps towards a second referendum must address legitimate concerns many Scots hold on issues such as currency, pensions, the border with England and obstacles to EU membership.

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Otherwise Ms Sturgeon risks becoming as divisive as her predecessor and – like him – failing to achieve her life’s defining political ambition.​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​​