Ruth Wishart is certainly not alone in castigating Kenny MacAskill for casting doubt on Nicola Sturgeon’s “stated timetable for a second independence referendum”. And MacAskill’s critics may have a fair point about the appropriateness of his statements now that he is an MP. But Ms Wishart is typical of those critics in that she is so busy explaining why he shouldn’t have said what he said that she clean forgot to address what he said. While the question of whether MacAskill had a right to say what he did may be interesting, the question of whether what he said was right must surely be at least as important.
For a start, what about this “stated timetable” that Kenny MacAskill has supposedly cast himself in the role of heretic by contradicting? Can anybody print off a copy for me? It seems to be one of those things whose existence is entirely dependent on being referred to with a certain frequency and degree of confidence. The term ‘timetable’ is a nice solid word which conjures an image of something concrete. A timetable is one of those things you had at school which set out very precisely where you had to be at specified times for specific purposes. It’s what tells you when the next bus or train will arrive. It is a source of detailed information about the scheduling of events.
Perhaps it has eluded me, but I have seen nothing relating to #indyref2 which qualifies as a timetable. In fact, the hashtag is pretty much as concrete as it gets. Whatever Kenny MacAskill may have called into question it is not a timetable for a new referendum in 2020. Can anybody even point to a categorical, unqualified, unequivocal promise of a new referendum this year? I certainly get the impression that the First Minister’s language on the matter has been, shall we say, carefully measured. There’s a lot of deniability in there.
Nicola Sturgeon has said she would like there to be a referendum in 2020. Kenny MacAskill has said she’s unlikely to get her wish. Maybe he shouldn’t have said it out loud, given that she’s his boss. But that has no bearing on whether the doubts he expresses are justified. That is quite a separate matter. And it is a matter his critics seem curiously reluctant to address.
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