Nicola Sturgeon is in a bit of a fix. After saying that the Scottish independence referendum was a once-in-a-generation event she is calling for a second one just two years after the first. But polls show Scots have no appetite for this vote. Unlike the SNP activist base, which is itching for another fight – and there have even been signs of a Momentum-style infiltration of the SNP, raising the prospect of a split in a party whose strength has (hitherto) been in its discipline. So what’s the First Minister to do?
Her answer, in the SNP conference, is to assuage the activists and publish a new referendum bill. Her peg is the Brexit vote, and her shtick is simple. She airbrushes out the two-in-five Scots who voted for Brexit, and pretends that the whole of Scotland is appalled by what’s happening. Like a Catholic seeking an ‘annulment’ of a marriage, she’s saying the 2014 referendum result has been voided because it was based on a false premise. That ‘the UK we voted to stay a part of in 2014 is not the UK we now face the prospect of’.
As ever with the SNP, the game is to set a test that the UK Government will fail. In her case, it’s the fantasy that Brexit will mean that Britain stays within the EU customs block. As she put it:-
‘I want Scotland to stay in the single market, I want Scotland to stay in the European Union. but what is absolutely vital for our economy is that we’re not taken out of the single market. the impact of that on jobs, trade, investment would be severe and i don’t want to see Scotland’s economy suffer in that way.’
If she thinks leaving the EU would make Scotland’s economy suffer, what’s her analysis of the impact of leaving the union of the UK? She didn’t say today, but she didn’t have to.