by Jim Sillars
Unionists can rejoice. If they lose the next independence referendum, they can quote the Nicola Sturgeon doctrine on Brexit: if you don’t like the first result – vote again and get a chance to reverse the decision. Never has such a foolish leadership decision been so easily and recklessly accepted by the SNP membership. Never has the pass been so cheaply sold.
I cannot be the only one in the Yes movement who sees great danger in Nicola Sturgeon’s unilateral declaration on Brexit 2. How can one person create a dangerous precedent jeopardising the efforts of thousands and the votes of millions? If this position is not repudiated, when the people of Scotland are asked next time to vote on independence they will not know if the answer they give will be definitive or open to sabotage by the losers.
When we win a yes vote, using Nicola Sturgeon’s words as precedent, Unionist losers will be able to deny the result is definitive, assert that the people were lied to, claim some didn’t understand what was involved, claim others were bigots, suggest the vote was only one of principle, raise legal actions, foment disagreement and finally claim that only when the details of a settlement are known can a definitive second vote take place. Her words are a millstone around the neck of the Independence movement.
Nicola denies she has set a precedent by falsely claiming that the 2014 White Paper was so full of definitive “detail” that there could’ve been no legitimate call for a second referendum if Yes had won. Likewise, the “detail” in the next White Paper, will close the door to a second referendum. It won’t.
The Sturgeon Rose-tinted view of the 2014 White Paper as a crystal-clear blueprint was not the reality. It was spectacularly wrong on currency I described it at the time as “Nonsense on stilts”. It was wrong on continued seamless EU membership, could not set out the level of debt we’d inherit post-Independence or our trading relations with our biggest market, England (all required negotiations and a final deal) not to mention its false assumptions on the price of oil.
A second White Paper for a second independence referendum, will be no clearer on the final deal than the first one was, because clarity is the product of negotiation. The complexity of disentangling a more than 300 years economic and political union cannot be easily summarised or accurately predicted.
The question posed in 2014 was ‘Should Scotland be an independent country?’ That is the principle people voted on. Those of us who took part in that campaign knew that a final deal, the details of which were not, and could not, be in the White Paper would only come after negotiations. This is exactly the position the UK finds itself in now with the EU.
The 2016 Government pamphlet sent to every household for the EU referendum read: “it’s up to you to decide if the UK remains in the European Union (EU).” That word decide, which is definitive, was repeated several times; there was no ambiguity about its meaning “This is your decision. The Government will implement what you decide” we were told. So, why Nicola, should Brexit 1 be subject to Brexit 2, while Indyref 2 will not require Indyref 3?
The promise, rooted in the foundation of democracy, of accepting the right of the people to decide in a definitive vote is what Nicola Sturgeon’s new position scorns and sets aside. She will not be able to complain if Unionists in future, follow in her undemocratic footsteps.