Nicola Sturgeon announced a draft bill for a second Referendum on Scottish Independence at the SNP Conference in Glasgow. But if Sturgeon wants to carry this plan out, it needs to be carried out properly.
There is no doubt that the Scottish National Party has always been in favour of Scottish Independence, and there has been a feeling in Scotland that a second independence referendum was coming, we just didn’t know when. Nicola Sturgeon faces numerous problems, if she wants to have a second referendum, and achieve Scottish Independence, then she cannot afford to make too many mistakes, she needs to be careful and plan out her process well.
One of the first obstacles that Sturgeon will face is the political system in Scotland. When the draft bill was announced, opposition parties such as The Scottish Conservative and Unionist Party and The Scottish Labour Party were quick to criticise the First Minister, claiming that she and her government are neglecting the basic needs of the Scottish people on issues such as Education, Health and Housing, and relentlessly pursuing independence for Scotland. This course of action will open up the SNP’S performance in Government to extreme scrutiny from the Opposition, the media and the public. Another factor is that Holyrood is made up of large parties, with the SNP in Government, Conservatives in main opposition, and Labour, Greens and Liberal Democrats making up the rest of the seats. Most of these parties are unionist and oppose a second referendum. There are no small parties such as the Scottish Socialist Party, Solidarity and RISE that would boost support for an independence referendum. Sturgeon will have to show that the Scottish People back her, and that a second referendum is indeed wanted, otherwise her plan won’t lift off the ground. This will be difficult, as IndyRef2 is a common but divided issue in Scotland, many think that it will happen, some people agree, some people don’t, but the main question that will threaten Sturgeon’s plan. When should we have a second indepenence referendum?
Whether you support or oppose IndyRef2, even supporters of a second referendum have doubts about the timing, some may feel that 2 or 3 years after the first on is too soon. The whole country is in turmoil after Brexit, and another referendum on a second issue might not be welcome at this time, some may feel that Sturgeon and the SNP are being hasty, which would lower the chances of a second independence referendum, if this one fails, then if the right time comes for a second referendum, then the credibility of the SNP on this issue will be low. If this attempt fails then they could see a decrease in their credibility and popularity as a political party.
Although Sturgeon’s stance on the European Debate has left her vulnerable to one particular group of people. Scottish Brexiters.
If you listened to almost any Scottish Politician during the referendum then it is likely that they were asking you to vote remain. After the result of the referendum, with all of Scotland’s local authorities voting remain, this led Sturgeon into a false sense of security. She went on about how Scotland was yet again betrayed by the rest of the country, but in some of these local authorities, the gap between remain and leave was quite small.
In Moray, the leave vote was 49.9% and Remain was 50.1%. Local authorities like this pose a threat to the SNP’s plans, as Sturgeon is very Pro-EU, and that is also the party’s stance, what happens when she says that Scotland is going back into the European Union, it is likely that these voters will not support Sturgeon as they wanted out, if she loses this support and the support of leave voters in other constituencies, then her chances of achieving independence go down.
Since the Brexit vote, Sturgeon and the SNP have carried the message that the results show, that Scotland is in favour of staying in the EU. If the government bases independence on membership of the European Union, then those in Scotland who voted leave may abandon support for Sturgeon. However, this vote could be split, those who voted leave may support a Yes vote if the case was put forward that Scotland could have a more progressive and positive role in the European Union, with involvement in decisions and treated with respect. Sturgeon would need the support of European Countries and their diplomats. Which is uncertain as after the Brexit vote, with numerous EU diplomats opposing Scotland in the EU after Brexit. But if this can be done, then Leave voters supporting Independence is a possibility, and it could help Sturgeon’s cause.
The finance argument has always been an issue, she will come up against the banks and possibly lose voters who are concerned about a financial security.
Another obstacle facing Sturgeon is the UK Government. The power to call a referendum lies with Westminster, and in Theresa May’s speech when she was sworn in emphasised on the Conservatives being a unionist party. It is unlikely for Theresa May, in the midst of Brexit negotiations to give in and allow a second independence referendum for Scotland. Only if there is immense pressure from the Scottish people will May allow a referendum, but IndyRef2 may have to wait till after Brexit. Brexit is another obstacle to IndyRef2, with the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, nobody knows what the UK’s exit from the EU will look like, and what will happen to the UK after we leave the European Union. This could deter people from supporting independence as Brexit may open up opportunities to Britain (and therefore Scotland) that could work to our advantage. So many might just wait and see. However it has been made public that FM Sturgeon has been in conflict with the Prime Minister over Brexit negotiations. She emerged from 10 Downing Street and said,
“We discussed the UK’s negotiating position in general, but it is safe to say we got no more information or detail on that than we had before we went into the meeting, and I got the strong sense the UK government itself doesn’t know what it is trying to achieve.”
“That is why many parts of the meeting were deeply frustrating, because we felt as if we weren’t getting any greater insight into the thinking of the UK government.”
Quote from Nicola Sturgeon
Source: BBC News
But it’s not all doom and gloom for the First Minister, since the referendum in 2014 there have been numerous changes and developments that could work to the advantage of the Scottish National Party and their battle for independence.
The Scottish Political System is not completely opposed to the SNP, the Scottish Green Party Have support for Scottish Independence and have praised the draft bill. It seems like political allies in the parliament and the public will help Sturgeon and the SNP achieve their goal.
Although it may seem like a major obstacle, Brexit can be used to help the independence cause. If a second referendum is postponed by Brexit, then Scotland can look at Brexit and base some line of argument off of what definite impact that the deal will have on Scotland. This will benefit the Pro-Independence side as there is a feeling that those who are negotiating the Brexit deal may not secure the best deal for Britain in terms of Brexit. This means that more support for Scottish Independence may rise as Brexit is not an attractive solution for Scotland, and it looks as of we are better off inside the European Union. Although some local authorities are an exception, most of Scotland did vote remain. 62% of Scotland voted to Remain in the European Union so if Sturgeon and the SNP can persuade some Leave voters to back an independence campaign, then she could push above the 62% and secure enough support to achieve the referendum.
Sturgeon can easily overcome the UK Government by arguing that the Prime Minister has no mandate as she was not elected, whereas she was given a minority government in the 2016 Devolved Elections. This may not give the FM any more power but it does give her a much better look, as a legitimate democratically elected leader with a mandate.
But Nicola Sturgeon has one thing that she can use to help her, the previous Referendum. Sturgeon can use incidents like Cameron’s English Votes for English Laws speech on the 19th September 2014, and the Conservatives economic agenda which is crippling public services. The previous referendum can be brought up to show how things really turned out. But if she takes this course of action then she leaves herself open to criticism about oil revenues.
The point is, if Sturgeon and the SNP want to go ahead with this, it won’t be easy. Their plan of a second referendum and Scotland becoming an independent country is achievable. This is going to be a long process, and none of us know how this is going to turn out, but if they want to succeed then she will have to overcome these obstacles. If this plan is going to succeed, they have no room for mistakes, they have to get it right. Otherwise it will damage their plan on the political, media, and public eye. Every slip up will have a consequence, and it will harm the First Minister’s chance of achieving a second referendum, and independence for Scotland.