The Scottish independence stand-off
Mure Dickie finds SNP faithful confident that they can overcome UK government opposition to a second independence referendum for Scotland.
Produced and filmed by Petros Gioumpasis.
If, on Wednesday, next week--
The Scottish National Party's spring conference capped a week of drama in which First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called for a second independence referendum to be held by spring 2019. Just three days later, UK Prime Minister Theresa May rejected that demand, making clear she would not approve an independence vote until much later, if at all.
--to make sure that we get the right deal.
The constitutional faceoff has energised members of the Scottish National Party. After bitter defeat in the independence referendum of 2014, many of them now believe they have their best ever chance to win majority support for leaving the UK.
In her conference speech, Ms. Sturgeon took a tough line, promising party faithful that there would be another vote on leaving the UK on her timetable.
After the terms of Brexit are clear, but while there is still an opportunity to change course, the people of Scotland will have a choice. There will be an independence referendum.
Ms. Sturgeon did not explain how she would prevail, but many in her party believe public opinion in Scotland will give Mrs. May no choice but to back down.
I don't think it's likely that that actually can be blocked, because I think, politically, Theresa May will know that the Tories aren't particularly welcome or popular in Scotland. And to turn around and give a blanket no, it won't be happening, will only increase the mood for independence.
The Scottish government is keen for a second referendum to follow the precedent set in 2014, with terms agreed by London and Edinburgh. But if Mrs. May refuses, some SNP members say Ms. Sturgeon should consider an unauthorised or advisory referendum, a tactic used by Catalan separatists in Spain.
Nicola Sturgeon hasn't told us what she's planning to do. But in my opinion, she has to carry out an advisory referendum or another action like that, because she can't be seen to just ignore the will of the people.
Analyst David Torrance says that approach has major downsides.
I think it's very risky. And my sense is, the SNP leadership is very keen to have a legal referendum-- or more accurately, a legitimate referendum. The trouble with going down the Catalan route of an informal advisory ballot and all the rest of it, it would lack international legitimacy-- very important to the SNP. And you also risk a boycott. Sections of the electorate might not turn out, and therefore, the whole thing is rendered rather pointless.
The SMP has other problems. Whilst it has made Brexit the trigger for another referendum, many party supporters actually voted to leave the EU.
I voted to leave, basically because I don't think that the EU is a particularly democratic organisation. And it's very far removed from a country like Scotland, because our needs and our aspirations are very different from, say, Germany or central Europe, and I don't think they take that into account enough. So I did vote to leave. So with me, I think there's two battles. There's a battle to get independence for Scotland, and there is a battle to keep the Scotland out of the EU.
So Ms. Sturgeon is shifting her focus away from EU membership to wider questions of Scotland's ability to decide its own future and the kind of country it wants to be. In her speech, she contrasted what she called an open and welcoming Scotland with a right-wing Brexit Britain.
We will become a magnet for talent and investment from all across the UK. So let me issue this open invitation today-- Scotland doesn't fill up.
If you are as appalled as we at the path this Westminster government is taking, come and join us.
Ms. Sturgeon says she's still willing to negotiate with Mrs. May, but such rhetoric shows how far apart the two leaders are.
For now, the political stage seems set for an extended standoff, with the constitutional question dominating Scottish politics, complicating Britain's Brexit process, and keeping in doubt the future of the United Kingdom itself. Mure Dickie, Financial Times, Aberdeen.