16 Mar 2017

Indyref2: match postponed?

Ruth Davidson and David Mundell spelled out what Theresa May stated a little more opaquely: no referendum this side of Brexit. Forget it.

At their Edinburgh press conference, the two Scottish Tories were asked if they were trying to goad the SNP, to work up the party faithful into a lather of fury as they convene tomorrow in Aberdeen for their conference.

Whether it was the intention or not, the activists will be fired up alright.

Are the leadership truly so crestfallen? Their spokespeople talk of “righteous indignation” but before the 2018/19┬áreferendum demand was made her allies spoke of how demanding an early referendum would be a “win win.” Either you get the vote and outclass the opponents, the argument ran, or you don’t and it feeds resentment against London gagging a test of democratic will.

I asked Ruth Davidson if the Tories hadn’t wandered into Nicola Sturgeon’s trap – were they not afraid that they might’ve done exactly what she wanted them to do, stirring grievance as they over-rule the will of Scotland’s parliament? Ruth Davidson said she thought Nicola Sturgeon had created a trap for herself.

In London, government sources are saying the PM chose today to speak in hope that the SNP and their allies the Greens would call off their Holyrood vote demanding a referendum. That idea was greeted with mocking laughter from the SNP.

The SNP seems already to have shifted its focus to nailing down a commitment from Westminster that there can be a referendum before the end of the current Holyrood parliamentary term in 2021.

They are already talking of decades of Tory government in Westminster stretching out as far as the eye can see. They believe the 2020 UK General Election will likely confirm that. The 2021 Holyrood Elections could see the SNP lose the SNP + Green majority for independence. There could be a sweet point between those moments for a second referendum.

It would help if the Brexit deal is as bad as Ruth Davidson said it would be when she campaigned against Brexit in the EU referendum. It would help if The EU had a few more elections like yesterday’s one in the Netherlands and not too many populist surges.

Did we learn much this week about what a second referendum would look like?

One old veteran of the 2014 No campaign said he was shocked how under-prepared his side now looked 3 years on. He said it was “beginning to look like Estonia 1996 all over again. We’re not even turning up for the match.”

That’s a reference to the football match in Tallinn which Estonia boycotted because they didn’t appreciate Scotland bringing forward the timing (Scotland wasn’t impressed by the quality of floodlighting for a night time match).

You can see the footage here. Only one team turned up for the contest.

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