Posted on March 14th, 2017
by Rab Bruce’s Spider
I must admit I didn’t think Nicola Sturgeon would call for IndyRef2 before Article 50 was officially triggered. As usual, though, she has shown not only that she’s a lot smarter than me, but also that she’s a lot smarter than Theresa May. She’s caught the PM flat-footed and it is perhaps no coincidence that the official notification of leaving the EU has been postponed from its expected date of today. Sturgeon’s pre-emptive move has left Downing Street in a real bind as they try to figure out their options.
When the UK does begin its Brexit negotiations, the people at the other side of the table will know that the UK has potentially lost some of its main bargaining chips. Nigel Farage has claimed that the UK’s fishing waters were top of the list to be sacrificed but that’s now rather a hollow threat since most of the fishing waters could potentially move outwith London’s control.
Is there anything May can do to bring Nicola Sturgeon back onside? It seems unlikely. May’s Little Britain view of life won’t permit her to include Scotland in negotiations or to pay any attention to the compromises offered by the Scottish Government. The hardline Tories won’t countenance bowing to pressure from Scotland, so the only threat May now has is that she can refuse to allow IndyRef2, or can control the timing of when it is held. This would be a dangerous tactic since it strikes at the very heart of the whole constitutional issue. Why should one country in a Treaty of Union need to ask permission from the other to hold a democratic referendum? Whatever May decides to do, it seems certain Nicola Sturgeon will have anticipated her reaction and will be prepared with a response of her own.
The other thing Nicola Sturgeon did yesterday was display how a leader should operate. Instead of standing in front of an admiring audience at her Party conference, she instead held a briefing with an almost unanimously hostile Press and spelled out her reasoning before taking a series of questions. Compare and contrast that style with Theresa May who merely insisted that “Brexit means Brexit" and that it would be “Red, White and Blue", with very little challenge from the media. Indeed, when challenged, May tends to avoid answering difficult questions, while Sturgeon takes them in her stride. By adopting this approach, she also cleverly avoided linking IndyRef2 specifically with the SNP. If she had announced it at the Party conference, she might have left other Pro-Indie groups, particularly the Greens, feeling excluded. Instead, she made the announcement as Scotland’s First Minister, thus demonstrating that she is by far the most capable politician in the UK.
Not that her approach prevented the media immediately going into full blown pro-Union mode by promoting anti-Indy spin and telling downright lies. We’ve had Sky News telling us we are too wee and too poor, and that the FM was forced into making this announcement by Alex Salmond; we’ve had Channel 4 regurgitating the Spanish veto myth, and we’ve had BBC journalists deliberately misrepresenting what the FM said. On top of this, most of the political programmes on TV seem unable to grasp that the split in opinion is around 50/50, and persist in putting up one pro-Indy speaker with at least two and usually three Unionist speakers.
Some have queried whether the media can sustain this level of propaganda for up to two years. Unfortunately, the answer is Yes. They know that the majority of the over-60s are against Indy, and that these are the same people who still trust the BBC and the newspapers because they don’t have access to other sources of information. This is also the generation which is most likely to vote, so anyone who believes a pro-Indy majority in the upcoming referendum is guaranteed, needs to re-think. There is a lot of work to do to convince the older generation in particular. Fortunately, Nicola Sturgeon has played a blinder so far. She’s offered compromise after compromise, has stood her ground, given fair warning, and stuck to her promise. Let’s hope she continues to steer this course over the next couple of years.
The other big help for the Yes movement is that Theresa May seems to be working hard to ensure we win this time. For all her attempts to reincarnate herself as Thatcher 2.0, she seems to be out of her depth as Prime Minister. And when you consider that her main lieutenants in the upcoming debates are Ruth Davidson, Kezia Dugdale, Willie Rennie and David Mundell, she must know she’s got a big problem. She’ll be relying on the BBC to promote the Union and to denigrate the Yes movement at every opportunity. Let’s not give them that chance. Robust debate is fine, but we all need to make sure we don’t insult or abuse anyone.
Here we go!