Nicola Sturgeon has a plan about how to achieve another independence referendum, even if there won’t be a pledge for one in the SNP’s next manifesto. On the Today programme, Sturgeon pointed the finger at the Tories in Westminster — the bogeymen she believes will help the nationalists make the case for independence:
‘I think we do what we have done over a period of years: we continue to make the argument for the economic and social and political case for Scotland to be independent country and I believe very strongly the onus is on those who support independence to do that. I also though happen to think that there will be things our opponents do over the next few years – chiefly the Tories in government — that will also drive support for independence.’
Sturgeon cited the upcoming EU referendum as a flashpoint that will make another referendum a reality. In the theoretical situation where the UK overall votes for a Brexit but Scotland votes to stay in, Sturgeon said this would definitely lead to another referendum:
‘I think in those circumstances, the demand for a second independence referendum would probably be unstoppable.’
As Adam Tomkins explains in this week’s Spectator cover feature, the SNP’s record in government over the past eight years is questionable at best. The lack of scrutiny over their work in Holyrood, fuzzed by the independence question, has ensured the nationalists haven’t been effectively held to account. When asked about her party's record on health and education spending, Sturgeon argued that spending per head of population is higher in Scotland than in England. Given that SNP's continuous cries against austerity, could she see the party raising income tax when the powers are devolved in 2017?
‘We’ll take decisions on tax when we’re deciding our budget of the year as all responsible go governments budgets do…I’m not going to rule out or rule in that at the moment.’
Although a recent poll suggested that 52 per cent of Scots would back tax rises to support public services, just 30 per cent supported a rise for benefits. By devolving this power, the Tories are trying to force the SNP's hand and prove they are not up to the job of being in government. For now, Sturgeon is sidestepping this trap and not revealing any details. But this strategy can't last forever.