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Scottish nationalists will now use a simple slogan: ‘Take back control’

13 March 2017

1:33 PM

13 March 2017

1:33 PM


Fraser Nelson is joined by Alex Massie and James Forsyth to discuss IndyRef2:


You were warned, you know. You were told this would happen. And you voted for Brexit anyway. Because you privileged leaving the European Union over not giving the Scottish government an excuse to put the future integrity of the United Kingdom back at the heart of our politics. And then you did it anyway.

That was your right. Of course it was. But you were told what would happen next and, lo, it has. So do not feign surprise today. Choices have consequences and some of them were not hard to foresee.

This morning, Nicola Sturgeon made the biggest gamble of her political life. Brexit, she confirmed, has changed everything. Before the EU referendum she had accepted there could be no grounds for a second referendum unless or until such time as there was evidence a significant number of Scots had changed their minds and were now prepared to back independence. Those rules, those calculations, ceased to apply on 23 June last year. Brexit created an opportunity. Now she intends to take it, buoyed by the most recent polling which put support for independence on 50 percent.

Here we go again, then. Technically, Theresa May can say No. She can, if she chooses, tell the Scots that, actually, you cannot have your referendum. It is hard to see how that line can be held, however, given the precedent set in 2014 and the evident change in circumstances after Brexit.

The best she can do – as suggested here just a couple of weeks ago – is insist that there be no fresh plebiscite until after the Brexit negotiations have been completed. Only then will Scotland be in a position to make a truly informed choice about its future. That means a referendum, yes, but not one at a time of the Scottish government’s choosing. At the earliest, it means a referendum in the autumn of 2019.

Plenty of people who should know better will now suggest Sturgeon has blundered today. The economic case for independence, they will say, has never been weaker; the complications of EU-membership after independence never more obvious. And what, by jove, of the relationship between Edinburgh and London after independence?

All strong arguments of weighty concern. There will be many other imponderables too. But if politics is, at least in part, a matter of story-telling then one side has an obvious advantage. The SNP, it is clear, will fight this referendum – if there is, as seems probable, a referendum – on a simple, three word, platform: TAKE BACK CONTROL. Of course, such a simplistic slogan could never win, could it?


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