Scottish independence referendum: Why 2021 election should be the decider – Brian Wilson

The challenge for pro-Union politicians is to stop pro-independence parties from winning a majority of seats at the 2021 Holyrood election. The challenge for the Scottish Government is to ditch the constant division and fix Scotland’s many problems, writes Brian Wilson.

Nicola Sturgeon sets out the case for a second referendum on Scottish independence (Picture: Neil Hanna/WPA Pool/Getty Images)

Whenever I hear Nicola Sturgeon purporting to speak for “the people of Scotland”, there is one consolation – for every Scot who answers her definition, at least one more is turned off even further by this rhetoric.

Like any politician, Ms Sturgeon speaks for herself and her party. Nobody else. In the recent election, slightly more than one-third of Scots voted for non-separatist parties. Slightly fewer than one-third voted for the Nationalists. And one-third didn’t vote at all.

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Her claim is further diluted by 25 per cent saying they voted tactically, including many incited to do so by the same Sturgeon assuring them their votes would not be claimed for either referendum or independence. Even by her own brazen standards, the volte face on that one has been spectacular.

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On first-past-the-post, the Nationalists cleaned up. I have no complaint since the same system benefited Labour disproportionately for decades. To the victor the spoils and all that. But it is a mandate for nothing other than representation in the UK Parliament.

When David Cameron offered the 2014 referendum, the SNP had six Scottish seats at Westminster. There was no talk then of this negating a mandate. People vote for a multiplicity of reasons and even now, only a minority say they want another referendum in any timescale, far less 2020.

Cameron made a political judgment that the Scottish constitutional issue should be resolved once and for all – or at least, as promised repeatedly by Salmond and Sturgeon, for “once in a generatlon”. That is what any future decisions on referendums will flow from – political judgments not endless clamour based on assertions of mandate.

I have previously opined that if there is a pro-referendum majority at Holyrood after 2021, its view should be respected, just as Cameron did. The challenge for opposition parties between now and then is to make sure this does not happen – not to get drawn into pointless positioning on a demand that is going nowhere in the interim.

Meanwhile, every effort to falsify the narrative should be challenged. We are not victims. We are not “imprisoned”, as Ms Sturgeon asserts. On that score, she speaks only for her own psyche.

“The people of Scotland” are being denied nothing and I suspect a considerable majority, from all persuasions, would regard it as a blessed relief if Ms Sturgeon would turn down the volume and give it a rest. But then, what else would she talk about?

This week’s headlines remind us why she must remain a one-trick pony. Scotland’s railways – a shambles. Scotland’s ferries – £100 million or maybe a lot more down the drain. Scotland’s hospitals – a scathing report from the Auditor General. Scotland’s homeless – chaotic failure to deal with a crisis.

On my own home patch, the last of 140 jobs at Arnish went yesterday because of the Scottish Government’s utter ineptitude in failing to secure work from the offshore wind boom that has been coming down the tracks for a wasted decade. And so drearily on.

Once the immediate post-election clamour dies down, greater attention will be paid to such realities. As the newly resurrected elected representative Kenny MacAskill pointed out, there isn’t going to be indyref2 “any time soon” while people are actually more interested in public services – most of which are heading in exactly the wrong direction.

We are being subjected to a phoney war in which nobody – including Ms Sturgeon – thinks there is going to be a referendum “any time soon”. So what is all the clamour about? Is there nothing more meaningful to use the Bute House podium for than to pursue what is really little more than a prolonged stunt?

More than half “the people of Scotland” who express a preference want nothing to do with Ms Sturgeon’s agenda of constant division. They too deserve a podium.