by Henry Hill
Thursday, 15
April 2021
Reaction
07:00

Delaying the ‘indy’ vote will leave Nicola Sturgeon vulnerable

The SNP leader's concession will be music to Alex Salmond’s ears
by Henry Hill
Simpler times. Credit: Getty

Here we go. While Nicola Sturgeon continues to bullishly insist that she will be calling an independence referendum if she wins next month’s Scottish elections — despite it not being in Holyrood’s power to authorise one — the SNP leader’s natural caution has surfaced once again.

The First Minister has suggested that she might push back any vote until 2024 if Scotland was still grappling with the aftermath of Covid-19 for the next year or two. Apparently, this is the first indication she has given of holding it later than 2023, the mid-point of the next Scottish Parliament.

Such a delay is, within the context of another referendum being generally a very bad idea, perfectly sensible. It is inevitable that a referendum campaign would consume the bandwidth of a separatist Scottish Government to the detriment of almost anything else — and a cynic might say that if there are great costs to be borne, it is best they are borne by Britain’s broader shoulders.

But the concession will surely be music to Alex Salmond’s ears. His new Alba Party exists to reflect and exploit deep divisions in the separatist movement, and one of the deepest is over the timing and tactics of the push for ‘indy’.

He’s an old man in a hurry, desperate for the glory of delivering independence, but near the end of his political life. Thus, he says a vote for Alba is a vote for the Scottish Government to begin immediate negotiations with London and explore alternatives to even having another referendum.

Sturgeon is more cautious. She knows that a second defeat will probably do for Scottish independence what it did for Quebecois sovereignty. Her goal has been to try and build up support for it; first by waiting for a Brexit backlash that never really arrived, and latterly by adeptly harnessing the backlash against the UK Government’s mishandling of the pandemic.

Which is fine, as far as it goes. But it’s one thing to take such a dispassionate view as a freshly-installed First Minister in 2015, and quite another to stick to it in 2021, scandal-worn and almost certainly in the autumn of your time in the top job.

If Boris Johnson holds fast to his commitment to refuse another referendum, he can easily justify putting one off until at least after the next general election in 2023 or 2024. Assuming that the Government then accedes to a referendum, there would then be a protracted process of negotiations over the question and so on. That is, plus the time needed to get the relevant legislation through Parliament.

Forget 2024, it isn’t impossible to see how Westminster could string the process out until 2025 or beyond. At which point the SNP will have racked up four more years of poor government whilst Alba airs the movement’s dirty laundry at Holyrood, and Sturgeon will have been First Minister for 10 years.

Which may be why, in addition to the new pressure being brought to bear by Alba, there is just a whiff of the old woman in a hurry about her now.

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Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

I copy a previous contributor, Mr Revealed.

Why not offer to discuss the terms of an agreed separation before a referendum? These discussions would allow the Scots to see exactly what they would gain and lose.

Today, being separate might sound interesting and exciting but if separation meant that Scottish currency would not be legal in the UK, if it meant that everyone knew how much poorer the country would be, if Scots needed to produce a passport to cross the border….

To discuss these things after a referendum would invite cries of ‘sour grapes’ as with the final Brexit separation. Also, if every other UK person could also see the advantage of a separation from their point of view, the UK government could actually encourage the Scots to go.

Last edited 1 year ago by Chris Wheatley
Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  Chris Wheatley

But that would mean the campaign would not be based on false promises on one side and fear mongering on the other – do any politicians even know how to run such a campaign?
Worse still they would have to spell out a clear and realistic vision for the future and how it could be funded – no chance of that!
Nope the bitter internecine row followed by either a messy divorce or continuing in an unhappy marriage is the preferred solution for all self interested politicians, who have no real ability to cater for the needs of the people who put the crosses on the slips of paper and slot them into the black boxes.

Pierre Pendre
Pierre Pendre
1 year ago

Salmond’s game is as much anti-Sturgeon as pro-independence. He knows the Scottish economy is in no shape to support independence at the moment (not that it ever was or is likely to be). His likeliest motive is to prevent independence happening under Sturgeon should a conjunction of the SNP’s stars happen while she’s still a viable prime minister.
The SNP is in deep trouble enough internally with Salmond emerging as a figurehead for those in the party who want a referendum tomorrow while knowing that it’s not on offer and would be lost if it were.
Henry Hill mentions Quebec. Mark Steyn always says that the Quebec separatists were always careful not to achieve their goal while retaining the ability to blackmail the rest of Canada.
It’s not implausible that this is the SNP’s private objective as well, aka having your cake and eating it.
If that’s the case, the question for the English is whether to let themselves be locked permanently into a costly partnership with a Scottish government whose demands are unappeasable.

conall boyle
conall boyle
1 year ago

Subtly, the word ‘separatism’ is being slid into these discussions. That is a sneer. The most neutral way to call it is ‘Independence’. Still the S word is a useful pointer to know if the article is reliable and impartial!

William MacDougall
William MacDougall
1 year ago
Reply to  conall boyle

How is calling it what it is a “sneer”? It is indeed separatism, the misguided desire to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK.

Suze Burtenshaw
Suze Burtenshaw
1 year ago
Reply to  conall boyle

How is it not separatism? To me, that’s a far more accurate description of what the SNP want than ‘independence’, given Sturgeon’s desire to become part of the EU.

Chris Wheatley
Chris Wheatley
1 year ago

If you were a believer, independence would sound more important and ‘adult’.

David Fülöp
David Fülöp
1 year ago
Reply to  conall boyle

Looking at it as a mostly neutral observer separatism is the right word to use as Scotland was not invaded or absolved into England.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
1 year ago
Reply to  David Fülöp

Given that the first king of the newly formed union was a Scot (James I / VI) arguably it was the Scots who took over England. Maybe we should be seeking independence / separation from their endless moaning and demands for our money.

Jon Redman
Jon Redman
1 year ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

James I predates the union by ~100 years.
The reason there were Scotch rebellions in 1715 and 1745 was because a substantial number of Scotchmen were only content with a union as long as they provided the king. When they didn’t they promptly revolted against the house of Hanover.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  Jon Redman

To be frank, I wonder how long a Catholic king would have lasted anyway. If they didn’t want the house of Hanover they could have carried on with the Stuarts. Even though I am Catholic, I can see that would have been quite misguided.

Andrea X
Andrea X
1 year ago
Reply to  Adrian Smith

I was about to make the same point.