Boris says no to another referendum, so is that it?

Boris says no to another referendum, so is that it? Well, that may suit some and even the First Minister seems phlegmatic about it, saying she has time on her side. But for many independence cannot wait, and with the hardship being inflicted and the economy being wrecked, it’s neither an option nor sustainable for many. So, it’s no wonder many in the independence movement are looking at other democratic ways of delivering change.

In any event circumstances are making a second referendum less and less likely. Not only did the First Minister cede a veto to Boris Johnson with her requirement for Westminster consent but she even conceded the timing, by saying not until coronavirus recovery.

No amount of posturing by the Scottish Government or bellicosity by SNP representatives can hide that there’s just been no preparation made for a second plebiscite. Organisation, strategy and funding have all been left by the wayside. The now almost annual statements by senior party leaders of another one coming later this year, definitely next year or whenever, have as much authenticity as saying there’s a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Faux outrage over the Supreme Court can’t hide that fact that they’ve conceded the Westminster veto. To be fair it’s always been there but to explicitly cede it was inept and to continue to pursue it as a strategy when it’s doomed’ s an abrogation of leadership. Bluster can’t change what they already knew. If it’s a reserved competency they need Westminster consent.

Recent remarks by the SNP President about the striking down of recent Scottish Parliament legislation were fatuous. The signing off of a Bill by the Presiding Officer simply says that its within scope at the stage when it’s lodged. Not that it will be if amended, as it was, or even that it won’t be liable to challenge in the courts. Similarly, Lord Advocates, as with any legal advisor, can declare a case to be stateable but that’s a far cry from them viewing it as winnable.

There’s precedent. Legislation on Minimum Unit Pricing was always within scope but arguable. It was clear at the outset that it was going to be challenged all the way through legal process. Neither the PO sign off, nor Lord Advocates advice could absolve that.

However, they were always confident of the legal position and were justified by the outcome. In the most recent instance though almost every legal voice thought differently. It was a political move to be seen to be doing something, when you weren’t doing much at all.

But it’s reaffirmed that Westminster calls the shots and no Scottish Parliament Bill will achieve a second referendum without their approval. A consultative one was possible but disdained by the Scottish Government and now with a unionist boycott, it’s doomed.

Nicola Sturgeon mightn’t have a Plan B but others do. The referendum road may be run, but independence’s still going, albeit down new routes. There are other ways.


Kenny MacAskill

ALBA Depute Leader


First published in the Scotsman (21/10/21)

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