Jim O’Neill says a second independence referendum isn’t about to happen, and Nicola Sturgeon knows it fine well.
At the time of the last independence referendum, Alex Salmond said it was a “once in a generation” decision. Now here we are, scant years later, with another consultation on what is being called Indyref2. Maybe I am getting old, but generations seem shorter these days!
Nicola Sturgeon has “warned” Theresa May that there will be a referendum if Mrs May pursues a hard Brexit. But we will not learn the negotiating position of the May government until they invoke Article 50, which will be no earlier than March 2017. From then negotiations will require to be completed within two years.
Nicola is misleading the Scottish people, and she knows it. Or, if she doesn’t, she is being blinded by her own fantasies at a time when, with all the new powers coming to Holyrood, she should be focusing on the day job.
It was clearly established in the Scotland Act and confirmed by the Edinburgh Agreement that Holyrood does not have the power to run a constitutional referendum without the agreement of the UK Parliament. Where David Cameron was secure enough to agree to this, Theresa May has made clear that she will not. She is up to her neck in the Brexit (non) negotiations, with a cabinet leaking like a sieve and her authority deeply weakened by splits between hard and soft Brexiteers. She is not up for another fight. Any Scottish Government demand would be mired in court action for years and years. How long has the Indycamp case taken?
Furthermore Ms Sturgeon’s baseline position, made clear when she took the SNP leadership, that she would not call another referendum until it is absolutely clear that she would win it, has not been achieved. And, even were she to manage to hold a referendum, and indeed win it, the subsequent discussions to extract Scotland from the unitary state of which it has been a core part for 300 years, and to set up all the organs of an independent country, could not be achieved in the timescale of the Brexit negotiations.
Thus Scotland would be outside the European Union on Independence Day, and would have to apply to rejoin it, with all that entails. We would have to use the Euro, join the European Bank and accept all the rules of the European club. There would be no starting opt-outs for Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon also knows that Scotland’s financial position is substantially worse than it seemed to be at the last referendum. The substantial contribution to the budget from the oil and gas industry has fallen away, and the pound has fallen massively in the exchange rates. An independent Scotland is even less viable than it was during the last referendum, and Scotland and its people would be substantially poorer than they are even now. Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas (unless they are SNP turkeys!).
Ms Sturgeon is an intelligent and experienced politician, and I believe that she knows all of this. Thus she is being disingenuous in trying to talk up a new referendum. It won’t happen, and the inevitable group of cybernats who will react to this piece need to wake up and smell the coffee.
At the same time the May Government is perpetrating a similar democratic misadventure by pushing on with cutting of the membership of the House of Commons by 50, while the House of Lords is at an unprecedented size. This means that the elected House is being cut back while the unelected House is being expanded and inevitably will make scrutiny of the policies and behaviour of the Government much more difficult. It will also, of course, result in a compulsory reselection process for all parties as MPs fight for the much reconfigured seats. If anything is designed to cause splits within parties it will be this process.
I will finish with a quote of the week. In his sketch on the Phillip Green debate on removing his knighthood, John Crace, the Guardian’s parliamentary sketch writer said:
“the award for cheek went to Michelle Thomson, who resigned the SNP whip after being accused of building her buy-to-let property portfolio by buying homes from indebted families at below-market prices using a solicitor who was later struck off for professional misconduct”