It is apt that The Sunday National should use an old photo of Nicola Sturgeon to illustrate its round-up of reaction to her latest announcement on #indyref2. Not quite as old as it looks here, of course. It only seems like we’ve been hearing the same thing for half a century or more. The image is, in fact, from The National’s rally in George Square, Glasgow – which was actually only ten months ago.
The image is doubly appropriate because, as noted by the spokesperson for at least one of the organisations selected to offer an opinion on the latest announcement, it is almost word for word what was said by Nicola Sturgeon at the rally staged as a response to folk pointing out that she never attended any of the Yes marches and rallies organised by All Under One Banner. Many other respondents also remarked that we’ve heard it all before. Repeatedly!
Nicola Sturgeon herself has a piece in today’s Sunday National. Like every other commentator in Scotland – and many furth of our borders – I spent a chunk of my morning poring over her text looking for any clues to her thinking on the constitutional issue. Looking in the hope of finding some evidence that her thinking had been updated since she first started making vague promises about a new referendum back in the 1960s, Or was it only six years ago? I didn’t find any.
Most of Nicola Sturgeon’s column is a rehash of material that seems almost as venerable as the referendum promises. Brexit blah blah blah! Evil Tories blah blah blah! Brexit blah blah blah! Ignored blah blah blah! Brexit blah blah blah! Power grab blah blah blah! Opinion polls blah blah blah! It’s strange, is it not, that even knowing that this was written by Nicola Sturgeon the voice I heard in my head as I read it was Ian Blackford’s. I know too that this stuff is supposed to make me angry at the Tory regime in London. Increasingly, however, all it does is remind me how little our own Government did to prevent any of this. I don’t need threadbare rhetoric from SNP politicians to rouse me to anger at the British political elite. I have anger enough for the British state and some to spare for those SNP politicians who have proved so ineffectual in defending Scotland from all the things they now present as reasons we should support them.
Two things are notably missing from Nicola Sturgeon’s column. There is, as we have come to expect, a serious lack of detail. We are told (again!) that there will be a draft Bill published at some unspecified time prior to next year’s Scottish Parliament elections. We are told it will set out “the proposed terms of an independence referendum, including the question”. And that’s it! We are given no word about what those terms might be or what question will be proposed. Although it is troubling that Nicola Sturgeon is still talking about the question being tested by the British Electoral Commission.
There being so little hard information, we look for clues in what is said. And in what is left unsaid. Mention of involving the British Electoral Commission hints at there having been no real change in the First Minister’s thinking on the constitutional issue. Likewise the boilerplate about the Tories’ ‘just say no’ strategy being untenable. Although there is something about the phrasing here that strikes me as different. It’s hard to put a finger on. Perhaps I’m clutching at imagined straws. But there seems just a trace of an attitude that is if not more assertive, then maybe less supine than has been usual. Something about this closing section of Nicola Sturgeon’s article gives me the sense that she is looking to open up options on her approach to the constitutional issue.
Which brings us to something that is extremely noteworthy on account of its absence. There is no specific mention of or unambiguous reference to the Section 30 process.
This may be of no significance whatever. It is entirely possible that Nicola Sturgeon was simply looking for new ways to express her old thinking on how Scotland’s cause might be taken forward. But it may also be that awareness of the growing frustration in the Yes camp with the lack of progress towards and preparation for a new referendum. It may be that she is laying the groundwork for a change of strategy. Or it may be that I am just so anxious about Scotland’s predicament that I’ve started seeing cause for hope where none exists?
Is Nicola Sturgeon getting ready to abandon her commitment to the Section 30 process? I suppose only time will tell. But how much of that do we have?