First Minister Nicola Sturgeon can hardly be blamed for trying to use the result of last year’s EU referendum to further the cause of Scottish independence. The extraction of Scotland from the UK is, after all, her primary political objective.
But while Sturgeon was certainly entitled to attempt to gain advantage with a narrative that said Scotland had been “dragged out of Europe against her will”, it soon became clear that voters were not to be moved.
Polls show that Scottish independence remains the preference of the minority, regardless of any uncertainty over Brexit.
Two months ago, the First Minister announced plans to push ahead with a second independence referendum either late next year or early in 2019. The result of the recent council elections, showing great advances for the Scottish Tories, confirmed Sturgeon made a miscalculation when she promised a return to the constitutional question. All the evidence suggests she would lose.
And so it makes perfect political sense for the SNP now to refocus its attention on the Brexit negotiations to come.
The nationalists’ general election manifesto will make membership of the European single market their top Brexit demand. This is certainly asking a lot, but it is perfectly in keeping with the mood of the nation.
The First Minister should forget a second referendum and commit herself to playing a properly constructive role in the Brexit negotiations. Rather than seeking short-term political advantage, let her rise to the occasion, leading with confidence and dealing with the UK government in good faith.
Sturgeon may have changed her priorities for purely political reasons but if she is to stand a chance of making her mark on negotiations with the EU, she will have to act with conviction and complete sincerity.
The SNP has used grievance to great advantage for years. How refreshing it would be if the First Minister could show she’s willing to co-operate with her opponents in the national interest.