Cue a whole lot of mock-outrage. How dare the Scottish Nationalists propose, again, that Scotland leave the UK? It’s not like the hint’s in the name or anything.
Nevertheless, there is more than a little whiff of political opportunism in Nicola Sturgeon’s announcement of a timeline for Indyref 2, the least sought-after Scottish sequel since Trainspotting 2.
Barely two years ago she and Alex Salmond earnestly assured everyone that Indyref 1 was a once in a generation, nay once in a lifetime opportunity.
But now, more in sorrow than in anger, Sturgeon says she’s been forced to have another go because Number 10 is not listening to her over Brexit.
This, of course, is spin.
“She made me do it” has never been a sound excuse, on the playground or in politics.
There is no logic to the argument that Scotland must leave the UK before the UK leaves the EU. They could just as easily do it after. More easily, perhaps.
If Scotland could join the EU as an independent state in 2019, there’s no reason it couldn’t do it in 2020, or 2030, or never. If they can’t strike some hybrid deal to stay in the common market this year, there’s always next.
Yes, Scotland was one of the fiercest ‘Remain’ strongholds in the British Isles during the Brexit referendum. But the word ‘mandate’ is one of the most abused in the political vocabulary, and not even Sturgeon tried to pretend last year’s Brexit vote patterns gave her a mandate for Indyref 2.
The Scots have been burned once. Indyref 1 stirred up a lot of anger. There was some appalling bullying on social media. It divided families, towns and cities. And the result was fairly convincing. They may not want to go there again, just yet.
On the other hand, it’s hard to argue that the Scots shouldn’t be given a say if they want one.
Brexiteers, long-standing or recently converted, have been banging on for a year now about how wonderful and democratic a referendum is, and how the will of the people must be respected.
For them to turn around and deny the Scots a referendum, either through a refusal by Number Ten to even consider the option, or through a hostile vote in Westminster, would be a bold work of hypocrisy by direct democracy’s most fervent self-proclaimed fans.
Scotland voted to stay in a pre-Brexit UK, but post-Brexit UK will be a very, very different place, politically and economically. Indeed, one of the big issues in the 2014 referendum was whether Scotland would be part of the EU if it left the UK. Researchers were worried they’d lose their EU grants. Businesses fretted about years of economic uncertainty.
A big chunk of voters chose the UK because it represented the status quo – but it turned out this wasn’t an option. They may justifiably feel betrayed.
If Theresa May, or the Westminster parliament deny the will of the Scottish Parliament and refuse to allow a referendum, they’d stoke a fire of political and social unrest. Half of Scotland, roughly, is pro-independence, and they’re not likely to take “no, so shut up” as an option.
So there may well be an Indyref 2.
Would it succeed? It’s such an interesting question.
The case for independence has lost none of its major flaws. There’s even less oil under the North Sea than there was two years ago. Scotland leans, if anything, more heavily on subsidy from the south than before.
The argument that Scotland could join the EU with minimum fuss and maximum speed is made up of more parts wishful thinking than political, or legal evidence.
Europe is barely holding together at the moment. The east is pushing away from the west, the south from the north, and bits of the middle from each other.
The EU might not want Scotland: a case study in how nationalists get rewarded (the counter-argument, of course, is that Europe would dearly love a demonstration that nationalism and European federalism aren’t mutually incompatible).
Still Sturgeon has ammunition. There is a perception, not too far from the truth, that the political class currently in the ascendant in Westminster and Downing Street couldn’t actually give a toss about Scotland, because with Labour about as electable as the Monster Raving Loonies they don’t need to worry about anything north of York to stay in power for a generation.
The country’s social services are screaming with need but the Whitehall mantra is “crisis, cash, repeat” against a rising theme of austerity economics.
The gang of SNP MPs in Westminster are a rowdy, entertaining breath of fresh air, but their impact on the nation’s policies has so far been nil. Without the threat of an Indyref, Scotland has very little clout in London.
If Scottish voters are presented with a stark choice between Brussels and Westminster, they may well decide the Eurocrats are a much more congenial choice, a more benign overlord. Nicer. More socialist.
Sturgeon isn’t stupid. She knows all this.
There’s a theory that this is all a bluff. That she knows Indyref 2 will fail, but its very existence gives her a lever to jump on to win a better Brexit deal for Scotland.
But this is the stuff of conspiracy theories. There’s a simpler explanation.
She’s the leader of the Scottish National Party.
As long as the SNP rule in Scotland, and as long as the polls tell them they have a decent chance, they’ll keep trying for independence.
The hint’s in the name.