What will reaction be to Nicola Sturgeon's postponement of indyref2?

Nicola Sturgeon's pronouncements on a second referendum on Scottish independence have a habit of being overtaken by events.

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to make an announcement this week
Nicola Sturgeon is expected to make an announcement this week

When she declared back in March her preferred timetable for another vote, she might not have expected to have been so swiftly shot down by the UK Government.

When the First Minister promised to return to the issue in the light of that public rebuke, she was unlikely to have anticipated that Theresa May would call a snap General Election.

Now, however, the SNP leader is seeing her mooted delaying of that vote become somewhat overshadowed by the conclusion of a deal between the Conservatives and the DUP to keep Mrs May in office.

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Some details of that planned u-turn were revealed in the weekend’s papers, covered in-depth in the Scotland on Sunday.

With the announcement expected from Ms Sturgeon sometime this week, we look at how opponents, and supporters, of another referendum might react.

The announcement

It is, of course, slightly trickier to gauge the response to the First Minister’s announcement until we have the details of it.

Ms Sturgeon isn’t averse to keeping the press guessing – when she revealed her intention to hold another referendum it was expected until her speech that she would stop just short of calling one.

It is expected, however, that the SNP leader will, at the very least, alter her previously announced timetable for another vote.

In March, Ms Sturgeon said that she wanted that to take place towards the end of the Brexit process, meaning either Autumn 2018 or Spring 2019.

It seems this is now seen as too close to the last vote, and too close to the SNP’s partial defenstration at the General Election.

The First Minister will give herself longer to persuade the Scottish people of the merits of going it alone, it would seem, but that task appears as difficult now as it did the first time around.


If Nicola Sturgeon believes that there are some sections of the population that she just can’t win with, its probably because that’s true.

Any delay will be cautiously welcomed by Unionists, for all of about five seconds, before Ms Sturgeon is urged to take it off the table entirely.

The ‘once in a generation’ talk of the first referendum might have been supplanted with the claim that Scotland’s constitutional circumstances have materially changed since Brexit, but that is unlikely to wash with vast swathes of the country.

Ms Sturgeon’s opponents will challenge her to push the date of her planned plebiscite further and further back.

Therein lies the risk for the First Minister.

The election of this month, and the local election before it, became veritable referendums on holding another referendum.

While there is uncertainty over her preferred date, even after a delay, the spectre of opposition to that vote will hang over Ms Sturgeon’s head.

A future general election, or even the Holyrood election of 2020 or 2021, could see the SNP fall even further back, even losing the ability to form a Government.

Friendly Fire

Perhaps more worrying for the First Minister is the reaction of her bedfellows in the independence movement.

There are now a number of senior SNP politicians without seats in the House of Commons, and their reaction to any Nicola Sturgeon will be pored over.

The likes of Alex Salmond and Angus Robertson will need to be brought onside in advance of any delay.

The SNP is often called a broad church, and for a party with so many differing views, the party’s internal discipline is remarkable.

It is independence which is credited with keeping the movement’s varying political factions united, and if it is off the table for the foreseeable future, that discipline could fast fall by the wayside.

Whatever her opponents, or supporters, think, the First Minister will have to walk a tightrope on independence – and as outlandish a thought as it may have seemed even 6 months ago, it could yet cost her the keys to Bute House.