For some, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon still feels like a breath of fresh air, yet as she approaches her second anniversary in office, her apparently radical language harking for a second Scottish independence referendum is not matched by her increasingly cautious approach. Fresh from winning the Scottish Parliament elections – albeit with a reduced mandate – June’s Brexit decision sprung Sturgeon to life, sparking the prospect of a new Scottish independence vote.
But did she ever really mean it?
The poll bounce the independence movement in Scotland expected from a Brexit vote has yet to spring anywhere. A recent poll showed the figures supporting an independent Scotland virtually unchanged from the September 2014 referendum of 55-45 against. To top it off, only 37% of Scots want a re-run of the independence vote ahead of Brexit.
A more cautious politician than her predecessor, Alex Salmond, Sturgeon has used clever language, which so far has kept the firebrand of Scottish nationalists on board, whilst leaving herself enough room to escape from the noose of a second independence referendum – one she is unlikely to win. No matter how much she appears to want a second referendum, her cautious language clearly downplays this prospect. She rails about Scotland being ripped out of the single market – not the EU.This slight of language will help her fight against Westminster Conservatives, and buoy up her own supporters, who are champing at the bit to fight another referendum.
With the appointment of her own Brexit minister, Sturgeon is pragmatically fighting to get the best possible access to EU single market goodies, including University research funding, and even acknowledging she is hoping for a “soft Brexit”.
This week Sturgeon launched a consultation on a draft independence referendum bill. The long grass is clearly where that bill is destined for. Just as Brexit will prove a hard task for Theresa May to keep her party in one piece, the SNP too, will be a difficult balance for the First Minister to maintain.
There won’t be a second Scottish independence referendum any time soon, and Sturgeon will soon have to tell her party that hard truth and listen to the howls of disappointment.