SNP leader says she will only press for an #IndyRef2, if the UK leaves the Single Market…

The biggest problem in tracking the progress of Brexit (and corollaries) is the fact we know so little about its shape, size and weight. Nicola Sturgeon has just announced her condition for seeking to trigger a second referendum is an exit from the single market.

So, it should be noted, the SNP leader is not going to have her party die in a ditch for membership of the EU alone.

The single market is a good retrenchment, not simply because it aligns nicely with UKLabour (or what’s left of it in Scotland), but because it would align nicely with the question.

Whilst a harsh Brexit would destabilise both the Euro and Sterling currency zones, it could also act as a passive permission to move into the EZ and away from Sterling, a choice that was deliberately blurred last time out by the Yes campaign itself.

Now, it’s not clear that the Mrs May would acceed to the First Minister’s request. It’s in the gift of the UK PM to grant or deny a second indyref so quickly after the first one.

But the strong ‘respect my mandate’ line from London Eurosceptics could easily be turned on them when the evidence is that Scottish voters never wanted to leave in the first place, a refusal might be harder than it might seem at first glance.

Unionist friends on the Brexit side of the EURef seemed convinced that Scottish voters would not choose economic turmoil over the stability of the Sterling Zone. But in making the Single Market the deal breaker, Sturgeon has subtly shifted the goalposts.

Besides, voting for Brexit on largely ideological grounds, kinda puts voting for iScotland on similar in play in ways it simply wasn’t in 2014. Not least because nationalism is now a mainstream concern for the UK.

That’s not to say it’s going to be a done deal. Referendum fatigue could pull out some odd reactions in the Scottish electorate. And as Professor James Mitchell notes, a resurgent Scottish Tory party could be more formidable than the fragmented UNionists last time.

In 2014, supporters of independence were doubly blessed by an impressive Yes campaign and a divided and relatively hapless, if better resourced, opposition. Next time it may be very different. Supporters of independence may struggle to repeat the levels of public engagement and high turnout achieved two years ago.

Their opponents may have learned lessons (though pro-EU campaigners appeared to have adopted many of the same crass Project Fear tactics adopted by Better Together despite evidence that support for the Union won despite these tactics).

While some commentators view the prospect of Ruth Davidson leading the campaign for the union as a gift for the SNP, it would be wrong to underestimate her campaigning abilities. If it was battle for the office of First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon would likely win easily but a referendum is different.

Ruth Davidson is weak when having to defend a position and would seek to avoid having to defend the union. Her strength lies in being on the offensive and she would have most of the Scottish media giving her uncritical support. Governing requires subtlety and nuance but campaigning is best done by crude, relentless focus.

Of course, this is all another reason for the UK government to pay a giant bung to keep access open and avoid the mess of another Scottish poll.

Mick is founding editor of Slugger. He has written papers on the impacts of the Internet on politics and the wider media and is a regular guest and speaking events across Ireland, the UK and Europe. Twitter: @MickFealty

  • Kevin Breslin

    With respect, your portrayal of British sentiment rather misunderstands how pro-Union people in NI, Scotland and Wales – majorities in all – feel about the country and think of themselves. Yes we resent little Englanders; but we also find England does not speak with one voice and is not one unit. British people all over the UK come together around shared political values, whether on the left or the right or the middle, or as Remainers or Brexiters.

    Look, I’m not one for taking polls at face value, nor one for thinking referendums will be won on having one. This was not an anti-English or anti-Unionist rant, I would seriously question if English unionists in particular have grasped what they are dealing with here.

    I don’t have a horse in the race here, as far as I’m concerned “hashtag indyref2” winning will have next to to impact on Northern Ireland remaining in the United Kingdom.

    I’m simply playing devil’s advocate here.

    My maths works out that 35% translates to 42% of those who were decisive enough to make a statement would want a referendum in the here and the now. An 8% swing from people either desperate for independence or desperate to make the SNP shut up about independence is all it takes. It does give the SNP a foundation to build upon.

    It’s clear that for nearly a year this issue has been on Sturgeon’s mind…

    It’s very clear that the referendum threat is designed to keep Scotland connected to the single market. Now the UK could call the bluff, and hope referendum fatigue will keep the union together but the fact is the UK government risks civilians rallying around Sturgeon if they are ignored in this way, unless she chickens out entirely.

    Just like Irish nationalism gave Ulster Unionists home rule, it may be that Scottish nationalism gives Scottish Unionists better Single Market Access than would’ve been made by Conservative machinations alone.

    People did rule out Brexit vote going Leave way and it would be foolish to believe that Scotland will simply go the Union’s way on a referendum on the idea of the preservation of the status quo, when it is clear that the status quo is already changing.

    A year for a new referendum doesn’t seem like much to me.

    “What persuasion are the Unionist side offering to stay in?” is a very rational question a Unionist should be asking.

    For the current state of stability?

    It doesn’t feel like there is any stability … it took very little instability for British people to give up on their membership of the European Union.

    Saying there would be even more instability if the Scots leave could just as easily fall on deaf ears like when Remain supporters in politics said the same thing. Some would argue that it’s patronizing to Scots that they can’t make their own decisions and live with the consequences. Making the mistake of going after the politicians on opposing side rather than winning the populous over to their side.

    I don’t say this as an Irish nationalist but as a European Union unionist I’m skeptical of this approach. Remain failed with it, and Better Together were lucky that it didn’t fail with it.

    British people all over the UK come together around shared political values, whether on the left or the right or the middle, or as Remainers or Brexiters. We don’t tend to see it as “England” versus the rest. You forget, that is a separatist nationalist skeptic’s take on the UK – fine for them, but not actually how pro-Union people think and feel. Our experience and understanding of life as UK citizens, as the country we belong to, is much more nuanced and webbed with inter-connections. “England says this” is so simplistic as to be quite meaningless.

    Scottish nationalism didn’t fall from the sky, neither did English nationalism … and why can’t unionists who see these both “divisive nationalists” as the same take some responsibility for the drift between them? Unionism has failed, but as yet not critically.

    Too many assumptions, Too much hegemony, Too much centralization of power in London, in England, … Absolutely no partnership, no civic democratic input, no common purpose … I would even question no real shared political values that distinctly holds them together, that they cannot simply have as separate states as the UK and ROI have.

    I get that England out of all the nations has by far the most people annoyed by this Brexit vote, and they are offering their own version of resistance to this decision. But the question is not whether these Scottish people identify with this part of England, or a version of Britain

    The question is whether they can trust Scotland to be capable of ruling itself, and that has little to do with identity in my opinion. Heck judging by the Brexit vote, it may have little to do with the Realpolitik or the Experts either.

    The pro Scottish independence side may feel that Westminster rather than England confines that voice to permanent opposition however and Scotland to simply be an observer state with it.

  • grumpy oul man

    could we have a source for all these “facts” please!

  • hgreen

    No I’m pretty sure Donald Tusk didn’t have a vote on June 23rd.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I gave a link to the source data

  • grumpy oul man

    its just that it would seem to contradict the actual voting patterns in Stormount and local government elections.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    People vote for lots of reasons. Catholics it seems vote for nationalist parties sometimes because they represent Catholics. Not necessarily because they want a united Ireland any time soon. Poll after poll has found the same thing.

  • John Collins

    Well you know MU that if the EU allow GB an easy ride on departure, however desirable that route may be, then other net contributors are in serious danger of also bolting through the exit door.

  • grumpy oul man

    But poll after poll is proved wrong by the ballot box.
    Of course the secterian behaviour of unionists both historic and present would stop any catholic from voting for them but it is not unreasonable to assume that that they would not vote for SF if they didnt support a UI.
    It is interesting that you choose to believe a poll and not actual election results.
    There is of course alliance which being middle of the road and would be attractive to the unicorns that seem to think are out there.

  • John Collins

    The figures of 1918 are like those of 2006, taken in a bubble. WW1 and a number of factors apertaining to it are not taken into account in that 1918 assessment. Prior to 1914 and the start of the war, large amounts of agricultural produce was being imported to GB from the US and Canada. Improvements in farming methods, improved refrigeration methods, faster shipping and canning of food had all helped American exporters and had contributed to huge problems for Irish Agriculture and was the reason why the Land league was started as far back as 1879.
    For a more accurate view of the Irish economy under GB do read Robert Ambrose’s ‘Plea for the Industrial Regeneration of Ireland’ (1909) and you will get a clearer view of the state of the Irish economy under GB Rule. The people had their chance in 1918 and those in what the Republic said ‘slan abaile’ to the British and not without good reason
    You also forget that unemployment was very low in 1918 with so many men away fighting in the war.
    As regards the non payment of the Land Annuties the GB and ROI Goverments reached an agreement to their mutual benefit on that matter.
    Finally ever since the Famine when The Times joyously thundered ‘ the sight of an Irishman in Ireland will be as rare as that of a Red Indian in Manhattan’ the demise of the Irish has been prophesiased, seemingly with great hope in some quarters. Dont worry we are still here as an independent state, we have taken responsibilit,y for and are paying back our debts and we have not gone away you know

  • John Collins

    ‘Defaulting on the land bonds in the thirties.’ False. Inthe final agreement Dev paid over £40 million in a once off payment. He did point out however that in the last forty years GB was here it overtaxed Ireland by ten times that amount, a fact borne when you read Ambrose’s work.
    So in short we owe GB SFA, only all they robbed from us.
    You might also consider that during the duration of what would be laughingly referred to as the Act of Union, the population of mainland GB increased by about 170% and the population of what is now the ROI dropped by about 30%. It was time to go and very few indeed down here would ever want the Brits back

  • MainlandUlsterman

    Yup, agree with that

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I think these terms are unionist and nationalist are something besides just literal descriptions of allegiance, they are markers of ethnicity. People may well regard themselves as nationalist because they are from a certain ethnic block, and may vote for a nationalist party, but be in reality pro-Union on the constitutional question.

  • Roger

    We have to disagree. A unionist is a pro UK union person. A nationalist is a pro Irish union person. That people can have all sorts of perceptions about themselves and, indeed, be dishonest with themselves is not relevant in my view. To treat the terms in question as concerning anything other than the above-mentioned is a distortion of the terms themselves. It’s a sort of dishonesty in itself. I don’t think many nationalists or unionists would support the notion that being pro-union of one kind or the other is linked to ethnicity either.

  • Declan Doyle

    They made their choice under a gaurantee that their best chance of remaining part of the EU was in a United Kingdom. However that promise is now broken and after exit that UK will ‘cease to exist’. An existential change which gives the Scots the right to choose in considerably changed circumstances. Denying that right exists is obnoxious and obtuse.

  • Declan Doyle

    Dont underestimate independence commitment in Scotland. Something that can be seen and touched; rather than rely on your intangible supposition.
    Scottish Independence is as we speak in ‘no mans land’. Nobody really knows what Brexit actually means and what those consequences might be. Eventually one side will make a charge and all indicators point to Scottish Independence.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    “Intangible supposition” – but I cited the poll evidence! Where’s yours?

  • Peter Doran

    so you don’t think it would be logical or desirable for NI to insist that we stay in the Single Market if Scotland succeeded in achieving such an arrangement. An arrangement that Mundell did not rule out today. Surely even the DUP would not object to this.

  • mickfealty

    I think it highly unlikely any of us will get a derogation of such scale. More likely May will spend most of the cash saved from leaving to retain access to the SM for the whole UK.

    In which case leaving will be a gross cost rather than a saving. But the devolved areas should benefit by staying within the SM.

    Scotland has had all it’s getting from London for the near future…

  • Croiteir

    Nicola has few cards to play if you look at it logically.
    There is a very limited scope for her. If she wants to go down the independence path she has until March 2019 to achieve it. The reasoning in my mind is this, at the minute Scotland is a part of the rUK. That union is part of the European Union. The EU may well accept, depending on the legal status of an independent Scotland vis a vis the EU pre Brexit, that Scotland is still a member, certainly Scotland at that stage would still be compliant with the rules for EU membership. So there would be a better chance for the success of the independence vote if it is ran on the basis that Scotland is voting to stay in the bigger union with more opportunities and trading potential than staying in the smaller one. That narrative is a positive one and would be easier sold.
    If they wait, or if England forces them to wait until after Brexit, then it gets harder. The narrative then is we are leaving the rUK union to allow us to negotiate joining the large EU but it might take 10 years of even more uncertainty than the disarray we have with the union with the rrUK.
    What Nicola should now be doing is to build up expectations in Scotland about what Westminster should be doing for Scotland, build the narrative that the English will not fulfil. Then let the outworking of the grievances generated do the work.

  • Skibo

    Oh…Um… this is truly embarrassing
    I take it you were not aware of this!

  • MainlandUlsterman

    No I was. Did you actually read the article?! It ain’t happening. And even if it did it’s talking about returning to the pre-99 situation i.e. the one when the GFA was signed, when we were signatories still to the ECHR, you just had to go to Strasbourg for it rather than domestic courts.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    In effect, that has been the case for as long as I can remember, and I can remember the Suez crisis. How can 50-odd Scottish MP’s ever get their way against the wishes of 300-odd English ones?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Interesting post – maybe you should take it to heart yourself, given your propensity to ‘blame’ the Nationalists almost exclusively for NI violence.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Scotland will only take a fair share of the debt if it also gets a fair share of the assets of the Union, including the Armed Forces, Bank of England, administrative services such as Inland Revenue, etc.

    But last time Westminster seemed to have no intention of giving those.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    “The UK financially supports Scotland” Read this:

    And as this is from the BBC, which is fundamentally a Unionist mouthpiece, what do you think the figures would be like if they were from an Independence-supporting source, which would take an even more positive view?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    If Scotland left the UK before the UK left the EU, Scotland would still be inside the EU as the remaining part of a member state. There is no mechanism for ejecting EU citizens – only for allowing them to leave if they desire. There is no such desire in Scotland.

    There was no problem in East Germany joining after reunification, so why would Scotland, already in the EU, have difficulty?

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    The EU has not made ‘already clear” anything, (except that the ‘four freedoms’ are inextricably linked).

    As soon as Article 50 is triggered – no-one goes anywhere. The process of de-linking starts then and what is left of the UK will ‘go’ after a two year negotiation period.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Nonsense. See above.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Glad to know it’s fine by you, but your likes are completely irrelevant to the process.

  • Roger

    EU citizenship is not an independent citizenship. It is a contingent one. Contingent on the individual concerned being a citizen of an EU member state.

    The moment Scotland secedes from the UK (while UK still in EU):
    (1) Scotland is no longer in EU. It would not be inside EU.

    (2) To the extent individuals in Scotland are not citizens of another EU member state, they cease to be EU citizens.

    The EU treaties do not govern the acquisition or loss of territory. Germany gained territory in 1990. It didn’t become a new state. East Germany didn’t join EU. East Germany’s territory simply became part of an EU member state, Germany.

    Northern Irelanders have an attractive option that Scots (realistically) don’t have. Through Ireland (read Germany) Northern Ireland (read East Gremany) could if so minded become EU territory again. But they are loyal subjects in the main and have no appetite to do so.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Not so. If there is a will within the EU to maintain Scotland as an EU state, then a means will be found to do that. The SNP Government are pursuing this line already. These overtures have not been rejected.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Re Scottish finances – the SNP are legally obliged to balance the books in Scotland. Any posited deficit is a share of the UK deficit. If Scotland is denied a share of UK assets on leaving the UK, any such deficit will also be left.

    PS I see you have stolen my pseudonym.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    A lot of ‘trade’ to England is goods bound for overseas which are routed through English ports. One of the first things an independent Scotland would have to do is re-establish it’s own port and export facilities.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    “Referendum fatigue” is that some kind of new, faddish psychobabble illness. No-one gets ‘fatigued’ by going down to a polling station, even if they went every year. “Referendum fatigue” is an invention of those who want less referenda. Or perhaps less of one particular one.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    And you believe every piece of “poll evidence” you’ve ever come across? Take a look at the accuracy of many recent polls. For example, many polls showed the Brexiteers as losers.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    National debt will only be divided up if assets too are divided up. Cameron and Osborne were not willing to do the second, so the first. too was/is not applicable.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Actually you did make it up.
    a) These ‘democratic wishes’ refer to two distinct occasions
    b) Sturgeon did not say “once in a lifetime vote”
    c) Scotland would have a greater say in the EU than it does at present in Westminster.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    No splitting of assets – no splitting of deficit.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Not boring to those of us who want an independent Scotland. You probably don’t.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    I work in the research industry so I come across poll evidence quite a lot and have sat through many long meetings with genuine experts discussing them. So I have some experience in judging the value of survey evidence, though it’s not my specific field.

    What I would say is, if a lot of polls are finding the same thing, it’s usually not a million miles away from the truth. Polls are never 100 per cent accurate, it’s not an exact science, but evidence you combine with other evidence to build a picture of what’s going on. But consistent trends in polls are taken seriously by politicians for good reason, they are usually not far off.

    The lack of desire for a referendum in Scotland may change but it is a fact of life Nicola Sturgeon is being careful not to write off just now.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    We’ll see about that.

  • Roger

    Scotland isn’t an EU state. UK is. Scottish devolved administration must know that much.

    Beyond that, sure. Anything is possible in different scenarios. There was no EU in 1945 and its now members were coming out of a war.

    I’m just dealing with current reality under the EU treaties. Any amendments to those would require an IGC and ratification by 27 or 28 member states. There are several candidates queuing patiently to join. Realistically, the EU isn’t going to kick off a humongous special process for Scotland. If it goes indo, it can apply for membership like Montenegro et al.

    The rest is delusional / just playing politics and ignoring reality.

    If Scotland want to be a sovereign EU state, they can achieve it. But you can’t make an omelette without breaking some eggs.

    To Scots: Suck it up if you want it enough. No VIP pass available.

  • MainlandUlsterman

    It just refers to people finding all the hyped up politics and noise in the months leading up to referenda not something they want every year. They’re not sick of voting as such, they are sick of the campaigning and the whole thing taking over news, media and conversation for months on end. Don’t underestimate boredom with politics.

  • Angry Mob

    a) Exactly, but yet she is only willing to respect the outcome that she favours.
    b) Not those exact words but the sentiment is exactly the same:
    c) It would have a greater say in the UK outside the EU.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    OK – you admit defeat on a and b.

    As for c) – in the EU Scotland would be one of 27-odd nations with a say in proportion to their national clout – Scotland would be the 12th largest economy in the EU. Scotland would be able to ally with other to have even more say.

    In westminster 50-odd Scottish MP’s are inevitably and always outvoted on any issue where they disagree with the remainder of the house. There is no substantial or reliable support from any other party. In any case where the good of Scotland goes against this majority, the good of Scotland will be disregarded. There are many examples of this, but take Trident as the most recent and most glaring.

    You produce no evidence for your contention at c).

  • Angry Mob

    Did you even read what I wrote in reference to A & B.

    C) in the UK Scotland is one of four nations with a say in proportion to their national clout – Scotland is the 2nd largest economy in the UK.

    In Brussels/Strasbourg 6 Scottish MEP’s are inevitably and always outvoted on any issue where they disagree with the remainder of the parliament. In any case where the good of Scotland goes against this majority, the good of Scotland will be disregarded. There are many examples of this…

    You produce no evidence that this is not the case.

  • Jams O’Donnell

    And don’t underestimate the determination of Scotland to be free of the albatross of the union. The last referendum in Scotland unleashed an unprecedented degree of political commitment for “Yes” here, and it hasn’t died down.

    (PS Just in case there is any suspicion of double dealing on my part, I freely admit that “Jams O’Donnell” and “Bonaparte O’Coonessa” are the same person, depending on how I log in. This was inadvertent as I did not realise that the two systems I’m signed up with can both be used to log-in here. They are of course, also the same person in fiction.)