These are febrile times, and with so much uncertainty, predictions are a fool’s errand. However, at the risk of being foolish, Scottish Politics Review has been mulling over some scenarios.
We have been trying to work out exactly what game the FM is playing. She did rush to put the ‘I’ word straight onto the agenda following the referendum. Yet seems to be furiously backtracking now.
Of course this could be tactical, and it could be that she doesn’t want to appear to be too opportune or craven. After all, to win an independence referendum, she has to convince around 400,000 ‘No’ voters to change their minds, and SNP triumphalism would of course not be the way to do that.
So perhaps she just wants public opinion to come towards her, driven by external events; and maybe it will.
But it struck us that there could be some other considerations at play, especially considering the tactical and strategic nous so often displayed by the SNP team.
The SNP ascendancy could be very much at risk if – for whatever reason – independence was removed from the agenda. A second referendum defeat would surely do that, and would likely lead to the SNP diminishing (at least relatively).
There are many reasons to think that independence might become more attractive as Brexit looms, but there are also many reasons to think that it will not.
It struck us here at Scottish Politics Review that the reason the FM is now trying to shift the focus away from independence and towards the maintenance of Scotland’s status as an EU member could be revealing as to their thinking.
If an independent Scotland were judged to have left the EU, she would have to apply as a normal new member. This would involve an accession process (which are often long and drawn out although maybe would not be in Scotland’s case) and in all probability being encouraged into the Eurozone. A lot of this nascent independent state’s economic power would have to be given away almost as quickly as it had come back.
Only this time, it would go not to London, where 300 years of political and cultural ties, not to mention around 10% of the legislature, means that Scotland had a sizeable voice. No, it would go to Frankfurt and the European Central Bank.
In this scenario, Scots would have to vote on independence with the prospect of hard borders with England and Northern Ireland, replacing the pound with the Euro and being economically steered by the ECB. In which, Scotland would be one small voice out of twenty-plus nations with the hulking spectre of Germany looming, bending European economic policy to its will.
Is this really what all those newly converted SNP members are fighting for? This would be especially difficult for the legion of lefties that have discovered their inner-nationalist – handing the newly won economic power over to a committed neo-liberal organisation that is far less accountable, democratic and far more remote to Scotland? I mean does this look like a monument to left-wing politics and ideals to you?
Could the SNP really convince Scots to vote for that?
When looked at from this perspective, the FM’s pro-active position is actually quite defensive. She’s trying to avoid an independence referendum on unfavourable terms. To be ultra-cynical, the FM’s championing of the Scottish democratic will is as much about internal SNP party management and preservation as the EU referendum was to the Tories.