“Look, this Carthage obsession of yours. For Jupiter’s sake, let it go, man!”

With the Scottish First Minister, the SNP’s Nicola Sturgeon, backing down, for now, from her previous strident position on indyref2 the BBC’s Scotland editor, Brian Taylor, detects the “scunner factor” at work.

Voters in Scotland have thrilled to seven electoral tests in three years.

They are already anxious over the uncertainty attendant upon Brexit. Are they ready for yet more eager talk from the SNP and the Scottish Government about the prospect of indyref2?

Nicola Sturgeon has concluded that they are not. So she has “reset” her thinking on the subject and has postponed immediate preparations for such a plebiscite.

Instead, she intends to focus upon securing the best possible deal from Brexit for Scotland. She believes, further, that such a mission is made more feasible by a UK Government weakened by the absence of a single party majority.

So what has changed, in practice, as opposed to rhetorically?

  • Firstly, Ms Sturgeon will not proceed now with legislation at Holyrood to prepare for a prospective referendum. The Bill will lie dormant. Not abandoned, but resting.
  • Secondly, that means there is now no urgency about her demand for Westminster to transfer the necessary power to hold such a referendum, under Section 30 of the Scotland Act.

Not, you understand, that the UK Government and the Conservative Party regarded the demand as urgent in the first place. The Scottish Secretary David Mundell has said not now, almost certainly not within the lifetime of the present Holyrood Parliament.

The Guardian editorial view is that “Sturgeon has faced reality”, and speculates further

Yet the mood has not just hardened against independence. It has also, to a degree, turned against the SNP and Ms Sturgeon. The message from the doorstep and ballot boxes in the local and general elections is that many voters are fed up. They want the Holyrood government to focus on the day job, delivering on issues like health, schools and infrastructure, and spending less time trying to provoke a second referendum. It looks as if Ms Sturgeon has listened. If she is to lead her party to a fourth term in government in 2021 she must buckle down and deliver.

Behind all this lurks the larger historical issue of whether the challenge to the union may now have peaked. It is clearly premature to be certain. Nor should one ever underestimate the capacity of Anglo-dominated Conservative governments in London to provoke – as David Cameron did after the first referendum in 2014. But the pro-independence tide that made so much political running in Scotland between 2011 and 2015 may have reached its limits. If that is so, today may have marked not just a recognition of reality but a watershed.

[At least the SNP are facing reality! – Ed]  For now…

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  • 1729torus

    People concentrate too much on “shock” events like border polls or independence referenda, and neglect the cumulative effect of many small steps. At most, these plebiscites are essentially an opportunity to rally existing sentiment and promote secessionist ideas.

    The next British-Irish Council summit will likely prove to be more interesting in the next few weeks, depending on how much Wales and Scotland use it to insert themselves into the Brexit negotiations. If May fails to attend this one, it will be taken as a signal that she simply doesn’t care by Dublin, Cardiff, and Edinburgh.

    Another item to watch is whether Ruth Davidson formally or informally secedes from the Conservative Party.

  • mickfealty

    Do you think that last is likely?

  • runnymede

    It’s one to add to the ever-growing nationalist wish list…

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Brian Taylor is well known as being a) no fan of the SNP, and b) a dyed-in-the-wool BBC Unionist, so his stance on this news is not likely to be a fair and balanced one. For a more realistic assessment, see:


  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    Her reputation in Scotland is fading fast – compared with Arlene, she has not brought any bacon home, nor is likely to.

  • mickfealty

    I’m sure her name is mud in nationalist circles, her progress has exceeded all intelligent expectations. Her key appeal is cross UK
    power in Westminster, which I expect will be enhanced after Brexit when subsidiary is ditched.

  • 1729torus

    I’m only saying it’s an item to watch, not that it will necessarily happen. It gives an idea of how severe the geographical faultlines in the UK are as of now.

    Ruth’s going to come under pressure if the DUP are getting bacon by playing hard to get whilst the Scottish Tories get taken for granted. There are rumours she was considering splitting as it was.

    If it’s handled well, it’s no big deal. It might even foreshadow a CDU/CSU dynamic between the SNP and Labour if the unionist cause does exceptionally well.

  • Barneyt

    Scottish tories as a separate entity might best stave off independence. She may regard her southern faction as a liability on many counts and compromised with their current bedfellows. Im sure it’s been more than considered

  • Barneyt

    Most would bite Nicolas hand off if they were offered her mandate albeit reduced. Her previous uber success was at the hands of others. Perhaps the Tory gains now solely represent the pro union opinion? That accounts for 11 losses I believe. Others are voting on social issues and Jc struck a late cord. Too early to fully read into a rejection of an independent Scotland. I do agree it will come around once more. I’d say the only thing that would impede a successful vote is the current uk uncertainty and too many eggs in the basket factor. With a majorly voting for an Independence Party it’s arrogant to ask them to ignore their ambition which clearly many share.

  • BonaparteOCoonassa

    She can slope off to England any time she likes. She won’t be missed.

    How do you think she’ll get on with Arlene then?

  • Mike the First

    A majority did not for an independence party.

  • Mike the First

    Not by you, but somehow I don’t think you speak for all Scottish people.

    She seems popular enough among some – especially given the decades-long unpopularity of the Conservative brand.

  • Jock Coalman

    The previous GE, the high tide mark for SNP support was bought fire sale cheap, 33% of the electorate…The ballot having been by and large abandoned by labour and tory voters…

    The SNPs plan to rule over us all was merely for Nikki to Bobble her Heid and shout “Referendom”….”Referendom”….”Referendom”….every five minutes thus keeping those gullible 33% happy and her position assured…Why bother actually running a country.

    The worst thing that could happen for the SNP would be to actually have indy ref 2, then, we the silent 67% majority would come out…AGAIN and shoot down that canard.

    It is not that Scotland would not be a great independant wee country, we would be but then that is not what was on offer and it is never a good a idea to tie a currency to the deep fried mars bar.

  • Jock Coalman
  • mickfealty

    Fine. Arlene’s an Anglican and has none of the ecclesiastical incumberences of Presbyterian and Free Presbyterian colleagues. And they both veteran unionist activists, so they’ll have a lot of shared experiences to share from the front line.

    No one in mainstream UK politics takes more cultural and corporate interest in Scotland than the DUP does (and that acute awareness is why they choose not to talk about it in public very much).