Nicola Sturgeon’s pathetic neverendum
The SNP’s campaign for independence is a cynical charade.
So the Scottish government has announced plans for a second independence referendum, which it knows full well won’t happen.
This is something first minister Nicola Sturgeon and her SNP cronies seem to have been doing on a near-enough biannual basis since the British electorate voted to leave the EU in 2016. So, in 2017, riding a wave of Remainer resentment, Sturgeon announced plans for a so-called IndyRef2 to be held in 2018. When that inevitably didn’t happen, she demanded an IndyRef2 for 2020 – which, again, didn’t happen. Now she has announced that IndyRef2 will take place on 19 October 2023.
Or not, as the case will undoubtedly be. Under the conditions of the Scotland Act, which provides the constitutional underpinning of the Scottish parliament, the question of the Union is a matter only the Westminster parliament can rule on. So, if Westminster says no to IndyRef2 in October next year – which it doubtless will do – there is not much the Scottish government can do about it.
Yes, Sturgeon has asked the Supreme Court to rule whether it is in the Scottish government’s powers to hold a referendum, especially if it is merely ‘consultative’ rather than ‘executive’. But the court will almost inevitably rule that Westminster ultimately has authority over Holyrood, which will put an end to that. And so we’re back to where we were.
Sturgeon and the SNP know this. They know that the referendum they have hyped and press-released to death will not happen. They know that all the timetabling, the quasi manifestos and press conferences, are part of a near absurdist exercise in futility. Hence, Sturgeon has already said – or rather admitted – that should the 2023 IndyRef2 not happen, she will treat the next General Election as a de facto referendum on independence instead. Which is how the SNP treats every election anyway.
What’s more, the SNP is perfectly happy with continually calling for referendums that never come to pass. Because this is the dirty secret behind the party’s posturing over IndyRef2 – it really is not that into it.
In the main, this is because there’s a strong likelihood that the SNP would lose a referendum on independence in the near future. Much of the polling carried out over the past year suggests as much. Ahead of the 2021 Scottish election, only 19 per cent of voters put independence in their top three issues, with the economy, employment and healthcare featuring far more prominently – issues the wretched SNP government is performing badly on.
Since 2021, the majority of polls have put the pro-independence vote on about 45 per cent, which is exactly what it was back in 2014, in the first independence referendum. Indeed, a YouGov poll earlier this month put support for remaining in the Union at 55 per cent, with only 44 per cent supporting independence.
Put simply, the mandate for independence is not there. And, despite their bluster to the contrary, Sturgeon and the SNP know this, which is why they are terrified of an actual ballot in the near future. If they did manage to get their ostensible wish of a referendum, and lost, that would deprive the SNP of its whole raison d’être. And what then for all those on the SNP’s gravy train?
But this isn’t the only reason Sturgeon and pals are perfectly happy for the second referendum not to happen. It is also because the threat of a referendum is, in a sense, more politically useful to the SNP than an actual referendum. The threat gives the SNP leverage over Westminster. It means it can try to pressure central government, which really and openly doesn’t want a referendum, into concessions. And, above all, the threat of a referendum allows the SNP to continue to pose as the anti-Westminister, anti-establishment and anti-English party, which has long been the SNP’s shtick-in-trade.
Scottish voters deserve better than this charade. The SNP’s neverendum campaign may suit its own narrow party-political objectives, but it is not doing British political life any favours.
Tim Black is a spiked columnist.
Picture by: Getty.