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…