YESTERDAY’S political earthquake is pregnant with possibilities for the SNP - but also many risks, writes Tom Peterkin
The extraordinary political events of the last day are pregnant with possibilities for Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP’s dream of Scottish independence. As the First Minister noted, the result of the EU referendum has confirmed that Scotland and the rest of the UK are determined to take divergent political paths. Hence Ms Sturgeon’s talk of a second poll yesterday.
The prospect of Indyref2 will delight the thousands who flocked to the SNP in the aftermath of the 2014 poll. There is a feeling that the SNP can capitalise in a climate of political uncertainty as the UK enters negotiations to quit a European Union that most Scots want to stay in.
Ms Sturgeon claimed No voters were coming around to Yes because of yesterday’s result and it is easy to imagine more conversions. A new Tory leadership, which is perceived as more right wing, will encourage feelings that Scotland is becoming increasingly dislocated from Westminster.
But if the aftermath of yesterday’s political earthquake is pregnant with possibilities for the SNP it is also abundant with risk.
Ms Sturgeon has always said that she will hold Indyref2 when she believes she can win it. Despite the anger and dissatisfaction over yesterday’s result, it is still a huge ask to deliver a Yes vote a mere four years after independence was comfortably defeated.
In the past, the SNP’s vision of Scottish independence is predicated on both Scotland and the rest of the UK being members of the EU.
The goalposts are moving rapidly. The Scottish people are forced into a choice between a political union with the EU or the Union with the rest of the UK. Will Scottish allegiances be stronger with Europe than with our neighbours in England and Wales?
The UK’s departure from the EU will kill off any notion of an independent Scotland in the EU sharing the pound. The SNP will have to come up with another currency plan. There are also likely to be questions around Scotland’s EU membership. Another economic difficulty has been created by the falling price of oil. A further complication would be the need for a hard border with England. While hardline Yessers will be desperate for another shot at independence, there will be a large section of the public who feel the opposite. Having emerged battered and bruised from bitterly fought campaigns on independence and the EU, there are those who don’t want to be plunged into another.
It was noticeable that while Ms Sturgeon said Indyref2 was “highly likely” she did not make an absolutely firm commitment to hold one. Her exploration of “all the options” will include Scottish Government discussions with European institutions and member states to see if Scotland’s relationship with the EU can be salvaged.
Ms Sturgeon knows that staging a referendum can be an enormous gamble – something David Cameron has found out – to his cost.