The justification for calling a second referendum has been largely based on the SNP’s manifesto commitment in 2016 which stated
“We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people – or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”
It’s obvious to the most casual observer that the first condition has not yet been met. Sure, there are positive signs in polling that opinion is moving our way but we are a considerable distance from clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people. We need solid electoral evidence as well as opinion polling, coupled with a change in the political debate as we had before 1997 that devolution had become “the accepted will of the Scottish People”. That is not yet present.
One of the reasons why we’ve not yet seen significant movement either way, is that the outcome of Brexit is still as clear as a muddy puddle! The prophets of doom have not seen their dire forecasts come to pass and nor have the wildest claims of the benefits materialised. We are still waiting on the promised £350,000,000 per week for the NHS to materialise. We will have to wait and see what the outcomes of the negotiations actually produce before the scales move. Brexit simply has not yet happened.
True, we have seen a considerable and sustained fall in the value of Sterling and consequent price increases. True that a number of businesses in the financial sector have announced that they are opening offices in Dublin, Frankfurt etc. However, the wholesale collapse has not occurred. This is most certainly not to say that it will not occur once the terms are known.
Where there has been some possibly significant movement is in the attitude to the idea of a second referendum once the terms are known.
On one hand people need to see the “real deal” before they can come to a balanced decision on what it means for themselves and for the country. The prolonged debate which has been developing since June 2016 (and more rapidly since the tories threw away their majority) has begun to remind people just what the EU means to them. In many ways it mirrors the debate we had in Scotland prior to 2014. It took a long time for people to get past the gut reaction stage and then begin to examine the facts for themselves.
Many of us will recall that although the referendum was inevitable from 2011 it was only in early 2014 that the numbers started to move. This highlights just how much of a numpty David Cameron was when allowing such a short time for the Euro ref. The lessons from their own Project Fear should have demonstrated that people needed time to come to terms with the scares and then use their own common sense to examine them, discard them and move on.
Now that the emotional spasm has passed and we are starting to see real businesses talk about the difficulties they face in getting seasonal workers to pick the crops or develop long term planning for investments or even keeping the Health Service running as people see the first impacts as workers find the UK a less attractive place in which to work and live and the fall in Sterling means they have less to send back home.
All the work on preparing the ground for indyref2 has been based on Scotland being dragged out of the EU against it’s will. But, and it’s a big but, what if the mood changes enough to force Corbyn’s Labour Party into deciding on a coherent position (I know Labour and coherent in one sentence but stay with me). Into a commitment to a second referendum? What if that second referendum is then forced from Westminster? And what if the people change their minds and vote to stay in?
The risk is that having based the case for indyref2 on being dragged out against our will, if a second EU referendum results in a remain vote then our case is seriously weakened.
The English Council elections in May could well be the crucial factor. If the Tories sustain severe losses the backbenches will become even revolting!
If May were to fall, the Tory Party might well implode completely and that in turn could trigger another General Election whose outcome would be highly questionable in terms of moving Scotland forward.