The long road to Indyref2
Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, says she wants a second referendum on Scottish independence by the end of 2023. The move has put Scotland on a collision course with Westminster as the battle for Indyred2 begins in earnest.
How did we get here? The SNP has made no secret of its desire to hold another referendum, but its strong set of Scottish election results in May has renewed its determination to press ahead with Indyref2. The SNP’s spokesperson on constitutional affairs, Tommy Sheppard MP, says people “have voted to have the choice and we will make sure that they get it.”
Yet there are three key hurdles on the road to Indyref2. First, why should there be a new referendum? A lot has changed since 2014. Brexit, the pandemic and three general elections later, the UK is no longer the island it once was when Scotland initially said no to going it alone. The SNP will have to make a new case for why Scotland is better off out of the UK than in.
Second, the difficult task of securing a referendum. In short, Nicola Sturgeon needs the UK government to grant Scotland a new referendum. The noises coming out of Westminster would suggest that such a request is unlikely to be granted. However, the issue isn’t going to just go away.
Polling expert Sir John Curtice suggests that Scotland may be able to hold a referendum if the question was changed, but the first minister’s best bet will be to build up a consensus for Indyref2.
The fact that the question of independence currently divides the population and politicians, bring us to our third roadblock: timing. The polls are neck and neck, and the consensus in Scotland appears to be that the public wants to wait a few years before being asked about independence again.
Professor Nicola McEwan told Politics.co.uk: “The stakes this time are much higher for both sides.” Ultimately, pursuing a referendum too early, whilst the margin is small between both sides, is the wrong strategic move for both unionists and independence supporters.
The road to Indyref2 is a long one. Independence supporters will need to bide their time and play the long game. Nonetheless, the SNP will feel that May’s election results, coupled with their power-sharing agreement with the Greens, has given them the mandate they need to hold Indyref2.
In their eyes, Scotland voted for a second referendum on Scottish independence, and that’s what they are hellbent on delivering.