Parliament a mandate in June 2016 – but nobody can explain what the mandate was for, given the multiple versions of Brexit on offer. So the critical decision is constantly postponed.
Scotland voted to stay in the UK in 2014 and to stay in the EU in 2016 but has been told that it cannot do both. The Scottish Parliament has a pro-independence majority but in the nation at large there is no combination of Yes/No and Remain/leave commands majority support.
SNP members have been pushing for another independence referendum but support for independence remains where it was in 2014 and Brexit has failed to provide the expected boost.
The SNP has already thrown its weight behind a second Brexit referendum, joining the Liberal Democrats, the Greens, Change UK and some Labour MPs but the prospects for this are uncertain. The First Minister’s statement yesterday is another attempt to break the deadlock. There will be another independence referendum bill, which should pass given the independence (SNP and Green) majority in the Scottish Parliament.
It will not, however, be activated without Westminster’s agreement. As that will not be forthcoming, the bill will become SNP policy for the 2021 election. If there is another pro-independence majority, it may then be difficult for Westminster to refuse, given the precedent of 2014. The hope for the pro-independence side will be that the fallout from Brexit will push support up from the 45 per cent where it has been since then.
l Professor Michael Keating is Director of the Campaign on Constitutional Change at the University of Edinburgh.