Alex Massie Alex Massie

Nicola Sturgeon’s ‘two referendums’ ploy is nonsense

Nicola Sturgeon has not hitherto often been considered a humorist but she is busy revealing a new side to her character in this general election. This is pleasing for many reasons but not least because this election already needs some levity. 

Consider the article written by – or, rather, for – Sturgeon and published at the weekend in the pro-independence rag The National.

In it, the first minister does her best to extricate herself from a predicament entirely of her own making. The SNP, you see, are running an election campaign predicated on the suggestion there should be two new referendums next year. Not only should there be another Brexit referendum – the terms and conditions of which are still to be decided – but there must also be a second referendum on Scottish independence. 

Indyref2 is justified because Brexit has changed everything. It is just the kind of “material change in circumstance”, as the SNP’s manifesto for the 2016 Holyrood elections put it, that merits revisiting and reconsidering the national question. This, it requires saying, is a perfectly respectable position even if its counter, that a once in a generation referendum really must be that regardless of subsequent events or changes in circumstance, is also both plausible and respectable. But, as you will gather, it all hinges on Brexit. 

So the sequencing of the SNP’s Two Referendum demands matters. And here logic is not on the nationalists’ side. It is inconceivable that even if Jeremy Corbyn made it into Downing Street while depending on SNP support that Labour could agree to organising Indyref2 before it tackled Brexit2. So Brexit must come first. 

It must also do so because time and time again Nicola Sturgeon has cautioned her own supporters to remember this is a time for patience, not recklessness.

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