We at Scottish Politics Review try to be balanced in our approach, and treat all political parties with the scepticism we feel that they deserve. They are afterall, all playing the same game, albeit with different approaches.
The spin being furiously applied by the FM in the wake of her pronouncement that Scotland will have another referendum (which of course, is not in her gift to grant) has aimed for the moral high ground of politics, which is always dangerous territory.
The SNP’s argument goes that the result in the independence referendum of 2014 is effectively void, as a result of the referendum of 2016 on leaving the EU. As a result, there is now some moral, democratic imperative that Scotland should have another vote on independence, within five years of the last, because we are beign taken out of Europe ‘against our will’.
There is a logic to this argument, but it is flimsy.
For one, the UK voted to leave the EU, and Scotland took part in that vote as a constituent part of the UK. There is, nor has there ever been, any convention for smaller constituencies to retrospectively opt-out of national results they participated in because the result did not go your way. It simply does not work like that.
It has no more basis in democracy or ethics than Edinburgh City Council opting out of Scotland because their constituents did not vote for the winning party at a Holyrood election. Scots are not stupid, and we entered the UK referendum on Europe knowing the terms beforehand. We have not been tricked, nobody has been stiffed or cheated.
The FM may use the language of moral indignation, but the reality is that this is political opportunism of the most pure kind. She is trying to capitalise on the moment of greatest weakness of her opponent, to get maximum gain for her party. It really is that simple.
The PM’s rejection of the FM’s pronouncement, despite protestations from the SNP, does come across as reasonable. She is not saying, ‘no we will decide’. She is not saying ‘no, never’. She simply said, in fairly measured tones, that it is not a reasonable time to hold a referendum when everyone is focused on clearing up the mess from the last referendum.
She is implying that while it is Scotland’s moral right to choose to have a referendum, it also has to be at a time that is fair to everyone, including the rest of the UK and including those in Scotland, probably the majority, who don’t want another referendum. For most Scots, who are not rabid SNP supporters and don’t want independence at any cost, that is a sensible and reasonable position to take.
There is also some political mischief going on from the PM’s side. Pushing a second referendum back until the early 2020s means that it will run into significant scheduling problems, with Westminster elections in 2020 and Holyrood elections in 2021, thus placing another two resource sapping electoral hurdles for the SNP to overcome beforehand, either of which could trip them up.
The PM may have just pulled-off the trick of dressing-up her political calculation in a sensible and reasonable proposition. It looks like the FM dousing her own political calculation in rancour, grievance and dubious sophistry has served only to make it all the more obvious.
Like we said, they are all playing the same game; some will just play it better than others.