Leader comment: Nicola Sturgeon is up for the indyref2 fight

It was hardly surprising that First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday told delegates at the SNP’s spring conference it was time for Scottish independence.

If you are the leader of the SNP, it is always time for independence. The party’s position is clear and the First Minister is unlikely to apologise for that.But regardless of the predictability of her remarks, there is no doubt that a new hunger for a second independence referendum is sweeping the Yes movement.

Whether Ms Sturgeon will - or, indeed, can - satisfy this appetite for Indyref2 remains to be seen. She can, as she told delegates yesterday, push ahead with legislation relating to the shape of a future vote but the fact remains that the Scottish Government simply does not have the authority to stage a referendum.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

That power remains with the United Kingdom government and it shows no sign of shifting its previously stated view that there should not be a second referendum.

First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon speaks during the SNP spring conference at the EICC in Edinburgh. Picture: PA

We wonder whether, even if the First Minister did have the right to hold Indyref2, she would do so.

SNP politicians yesterday seized on a poll that suggested a No Deal Brexit would swing the support of Scots behind independence but sources close to the First Minister have previously been quite clear that her preference is to hold a second referendum when support for independence has been at 60 per cent or more for a number of consecutive months.

We are, for now, some way from that being the case. But politics has never been such an unpredictable business and polls are liable to shift in the most unexpected ways.

The Scotsman has previously made clear that it is our intention not to declare support for either campaign in a future referendum.

But our neutrality on the question of whether Scotland should be independent does not mean we will shy away from examining the substance of claims made by both campaigns.

Today, the First Minister’s talk of another independence referendum in the near future may not stand up to scrutiny.

Ms Sturgeon hasn’t the power to call it and the political landscape seems too uncertain for such a gamble.

Nevertheless, unionist politicians would be well warned not be complacent.

Nicola Sturgeon may not have the power to hold Indyref2 but her political opponents should be in no doubt that she intends to fight for it.