Realists in Scotland now know that the road to Independence is a long one…

Interesting take from The Economist on where last week’s Supreme Court judgement leaves Nichola Sturgeon and the SNP, who have vowed to turn the next election into a referendum on independence…

Trying to turn an election into a referendum looks like a gambit to hold together a nationalist movement that has been pushing Ms Sturgeon to deliver results and is running out of patience: one more election, one last heave. This is a high-risk strategy. Scotland’s other parties are free to ignore Ms Sturgeon and say that the election is really about the economy, health care or the upkeep of the pavements.

The SNP has failed to stir more than half of Scots to support independence and only 39% of Scots think a general election could serve as a proxy referendum, according to Ipsos, a pollster. Ms Sturgeon’s denunciations of Britain’s democratic deficit will fire up her base. But they will probably do little to widen support for independence among undecided Scots who are wary of its costs.

And the sceptics aren’t all from the Remain UK side of the constitutional proposition, long time Indy activist Robin McAlpine argues:

“…like it or not the reckoning is here for all of us. Because she is asking us to place our trust in her one more time. She tells us that she is going to ‘turn the General Election into a de facto referendum’. Should we follow her one more time? Should we hide our doubts behind saltires and forced grins one more time?

I urge you to recognise that would be a mistake. I encourage you to be aware that this too is a delaying move not a strategy. We already know they haven’t worked out what a ‘de facto referendum’ is (they’re having a conference to decide) and that is an unmistakeable sign that this isn’t clear, thought-through strategy.

In reality they’re making this up as they go along and crossing their fingers that it doesn’t turn out to be mad. It is much, much harder to turn an election into a single-issue ‘plebiscite’ than you might think. Can we overcome a franchise which cuts out a lot of our most supportive demographic groups? Can we shift polls more in a six-week campaign than we have in ten years?”

If Robin is right (and there are signs other parties are lining up with their own attack lines on the SNP’s patchy government record) then maybe this is some kind of tactical dance playing out towards the end of Ms Sturgeon’s term as leader of the SNP?

The Economist again:

…regardless of what the court ruled, the nationalist movement is more dependent on the British government than it likes to admit. “Any viable path to independence depends on co-operation between the Scottish and ukgovernments at every stage,” remarked Anthony Salamone, a Scottish political analyst, in a recent lecture.

Treaties would need to be written; assets and debts divided; border posts built; nuclear submarines moved. It would be a titanic joint endeavour, in which the British government would hold many of the cards. Getting a referendum has become a distant prospect, and it is just the start.

Much of this reality, as I argued last week, applies also to Northern Ireland. It’s an uncomfortable spot to find yourself in for political parties who govern always with one eye on the exit route, when widening support is the key imperative in both places.

A second Scottish referendum is now a distant prospect as a border poll has always been.  It’s a long slow road to either to bring enough of the sceptics on board to make it a genuinely popular choice of the broad swathe of people.

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