I spent a great deal of yesterday suggesting to independence supporters that they lower their expectations. The Scottish First Minister does not yet have a free hand to call and then win a referendum on Scottish Independence. Nicola Sturgeon and her government are between a rock and a hard place and there is a lot of political manoeuvring still to be done before she will be able to make the announcement that committed independence supporters really want.
If you listened to me, you will have been pleasantly surprised. However, if you listened to a lot of experienced and highly committed campaigners on Facebook you might be a little disappointed.
The FM is looking to make Boris Johnson say NO to a referendum on Brexit day. She was very deliberately making Brexit day about independence and raining on his parade big style. To those that thought she should have responded the day after they said No to the referendum, then today and tomorrow’s media would be all about Union Jacks, and independence would be an afterthought. Her message of hope of a different and better future for Scotland will contrast starkly with the feelings of disappointment felt by the Scottish people at being forced out of the EU against its will.
I did not expect the FM to make Johnson say NO to a specific date but rather predicted an ultimatum to agree to a referendum with a later date of Autumn 2020. This means that she can have another bite of the cherry later on in the year, by demanding a specific date when polls show support for independence rising following the break down of the trade deal negotiations with the EU. The SNP clearly feels that winning the battle on a democratic choice of holding a referendum is the battle they want to fight for now. As she pointed out “If they had any confidence in the argument for the Westminster union, they would have no problem with the people of Scotland having the right to choose”. She is right but if independence support was already at 60% she would have named a date.
She also announced preparations to make a new political and economic case, as expected. She announced the “New Scotland” series of papers” She was always going to have do this anyway, but make no mistake, Business for Scotland’s new book, Scotland the Brief (see link below), will force the SNP away from the most conservative bits of the Sustainable Growth Commission. The SNP won’t want anyone outside of the party making the running on a far-more positive economic case.
Today was about ramping up the pressure, getting Westminster to say NO, then calling on the movement to start campaigning now and start to get support up to a clearly winning position. The FM will not call a referendum until it has already been won and 51% in yesterday’s YouGov poll isn’t evidence of that. Yes, I know that the polls won’t move seismically until people have to focus on the issues in a referendum. However, there is a way to move support to 55% by the end of 2020, and that is the grassroots focused campaign which has already been launched and has had a very strong first week – it’s called Believe in Scotland. If you do nothing else today, go like this Facebook page and share our Scotland’s wealth video, which has had 19,000 views in two days on our Facebook page alone.
Anything more from the FM today would have surprised me. Westminster will say No, and a more radical stance or even a referendum in 2020 could only happen if there is an early breakdown in the trade talks and a hardest of hard no-trade deal Brexit at the end of the 2020 transition period.
There is a reason Believe in Scotland launched a new independence campaign last week and why 65 local Yes Groups are already campaigning with our materials. We need to get to 55% to keep the pressure on the SNP, to push forward with independence, not just Westminster. If the polls don’t move, the SNP will continue to soft shoe shuffle and play the odds. Let’s give them some poll numbers to bet on.