Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, is not stupid, and there are signs in her annual party conference this week that she realises she pushed things too hard. Instead of clamouring for a second Scottish independence referendum, she has now switched to calling for a second Brexit referendum first. Nationalism within a wider nation, such as Scotland’s or Catalonia’s, does well when it expresses revolt, but hits a ceiling when it tries to take full independence. The classic example is Quebec, which has flirted with independence for nearly half a century. Now, as Ms Sturgeon will be uneasily aware, Quebec has become bored with its nationalists. The Parti Québécois won only 17 per cent of the vote in last week’s province-wide elections. The Coalition Avenir Québec (CAQ), which is anti-immigration, anti-high taxes, anti-Justin Trudeau’s goody-goody Liberals and anti-separatist, topped the poll with 37.5 per cent. Nationalism eventually becomes, as they say in Quebec, vieux jeu.
This is an extract from Charles Moore’s Spectator Notes, which appears in this week’s magazine, out tomorrow.