The First Minister’s spokesperson is right about one thing – the election campaign must be totally focused on independence with the clearest and most concise message possible. He is also correct in his implied preference for submitting the Section 30 ‘demand’ prior to parliament being dissolved.
Ideally, the SNP would have their campaign message ready so as it could be part of the public announcement of the ‘demand’ being submitted. But there is good reason to doubt that this would happen. Nicola Sturgeon seems reluctant to let go of the obsession with Brexit. And the party remains susceptible to the lure of a straightforward British-style partisan campaign. Getting the SNP to focus on the constitutional issue will not be easy.
Of course, those of us who’ve thought it through would prefer to avoid the Section 30 trap altogether. But, as the First Minister has inexplicably ruled out all other options, we just have to deal with the situation as we find it.
I suspect the FM’s spokesman may be wrong, however, about a returned Boris Johnson rejecting the ‘demand’ for a Section 30 order outright. If he did that, then Nicola Sturgeon would have to respond, and the only possible response would be to resort to the courts – again.
Boris Johnson could avoid this simply by ignoring the ‘demand’. It worked for Theresa May back in March 2017 when the First Minister’s ‘request’ was dismissed with a contemptuous “Now is not the time!”, but never given a formal response. Absent that official response, the matter would be pending, and it seems unlikely that the courts would get involved.
British Labour is intimating precisely this course of inaction with their characteristically vague and ambiguous talk ‘not allowing’ a new independence referendum for some undefined period which they are calling the “formative years” of a British Labour government. A government which, we may note in passing, would no more be the choice of the people of Scotland than the Tories.
British Labour cannot be trusted any more than the Tories. We have to bear in mind at all times just how much of an imperative it is for the British establishment that the Union be preserved. We must proceed on the assumption that any British government will do everything in its power to prevent a new referendum ever happening.
Unfortunately, the First Minister is proceeding on the markedly different assumption that she can rely on the goodwill, good grace and good faith of the British political elite. I am told she knows what she is doing.
When I say any British government must be expected to act to block a new independence referendum – and/or ensure it cannot produce a result they don’t want – that includes a minority British Labour government dependent on the votes of 50+ SNP MPs. The idea that the SNP group at Westminster will have irresistible leverage in this situation fails to take due account of the imperative to preserve the Union which is common to all the British parties.
It is more than merely probable that the British parties will collude to make sure the SNP can’t use its voting power to extort a Section 30 order from Jeremy Corbyn.
As I have said before, the Section 30 process can only lead to a new referendum if the British political elite allow it. There being no realistic possibility that they will allow it purposefully, we are left relying on them screwing up in some way.
It’s a strategy of sorts, I suppose.
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