James Forsyth

How Theresa May can avoid IndyRef2

How Theresa May can avoid IndyRef2
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Fraser Nelson is joined by Alex Massie and James Forsyth to discuss IndyRef2:

Nicola Sturgeon has thrown down the gauntlet to Theresa May with her speech today. When the Scottish parliament backs a second independence referendum, as it will in the next few weeks, the UK government will have to decide how to respond. After all, there can be no referendum without Westminster’s consent.

A Madrid-style outright refusal to allow a referendum is unlikely. But the real fight will be over the timing.

Sturgeon says she wants a referendum in either Autumn 2018 or Spring 2019. But the UK government has privately made clear that any referendum would have to come after Brexit, so Scots would know what the UK’s relationship with the EU was when they voted. This would also mean that Scotland would be outside the EU when the referendum is held, putting the onus on the Nats to explain how—and what aspects of the EU--Scotland would rejoin and at what cost.

But in recent weeks, Downing Street has been contemplating other conditions. One would be that the SNP would have to be able to give voters clarity on what relationship with the EU an independent Scotland could have. That would delay things past March 2019.

More controversially, Number 10 is also leaning towards saying that the pro-independence side would have to go and get a mandate for another independence referendum in the 2021 Holyrood elections. This would mean that the SNP would have to win a majority, or given the Greens support for independence—very close to one, after 14 years in power to hold a referendum.

In these circumstances, it is far from certain that a second independence referendum would take place. This would be by far the safest outcome for the Union.