Prepare for the IndyRef that never was
Writing for Conservative Home today, Paul Goodman makes an intriguing argument, namely that Nicola Sturgeon is fast turning into Gordon Brown.
Perhaps that’s an overstatement of Goodman’s analogy, but the point he makes is a good one.
Like Gordon Brown who, in 2007, let speculation over an early general election spiral out of control, Nicola Sturgeon is losing control of the narrative around a second independence referendum.
For Brown the abrupt decision not to proceed with plans for an election following George Osborne’s commitment to cut inheritance tax was the beginning of the end, the point at which the iron man of British politics become the man who bottled it. His reputation never recovered.
Is Nicola Sturgeon now heading the same way?
In all likelihood, as Theresa May has today suggested in her speech to the Conservative Party conference, the SNP will continue to make idle threats about referendums but never really call for one. Why? Because they have overestimated how strongly Scots feel.
The reality is that for those in team Sturgeon, support for independence would need to be at around 60 per cent for a sustained period of time for them to have the confidence that they could go to the country and win.
But a BMG poll for the Herald last month — produced after the PM delivered her Lancaster House speech on Brexit — put support for independence at 49 per cent.
What should be more worrying still for the SNP is the timing of all of this. Even if they had a referendum and won it before Brexit happened, the UK Government would not have the resources, let along the will to be negotiating Scotland’s succession from the UK as well as the UK leaving the EU.
You would then have a situation in which Scotland would be on its own, out of the UK and out of the EU as it looked to renegotiate entry back into the EU.
Would the people of Scotland accept their political leaders becoming so consumed, for so long, by the UK/EU question that they neglect, as they are already, vital public services?
Would business in Scotland just sit back and simply accept the double whammy of uncertainty about Scotland’s place in the UK and the UK’s relationship with the EU?
The answer to both is no. Whatever the rhetoric from the SNP, reality will bite that, pure and simple, they do not have the votes for Scotland to go it alone. If they had, they would have called for a referendum already.
Perhaps Sturgeon should be compared to the Grand old Duke of York. She marches her troops to the top of the hill, just for them to march down again, disappointed and wondering what the point of the SNP is if it cannot secure its prize of independence.
The Daily Record today puts it best:
“Independence activists are demanding Sturgeon call another vote at her party’s gathering in two weeks. May is under equal pressure from her supporters to block any move to do so.
“Whatever happens, there is one thing we can say for certain: Scotland can’t afford to waste much more time and energy on this unrelenting war of attrition.”
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot ForwardLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.