For months, Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to provide more information on another independence referendum, as soon as the timing and form of Brexit becomes clear. With little forthcoming on the Brexit front, Sturgeon faced pressure within her own party and more broadly to set out a way forward. In a statement at Holyrood just a few days before the SNP gathered in Edinburgh for its Spring conference, she did so.
Although there are apparent similarities between the Scottish and Catalan independence movements, the differences, argues Dr Daniel Cetrà, are profound.
It is tempting to think of Catalonia and Scotland as being in similar position.
Both have pro-independence governments, which enjoy parliamentary majorities owing to the support of smaller secessionist parties.
At one time, Scottish politics, like those elsewhere in Great Britain, divided rather clearly on the left-right axis, with elections disputed between Labour and the Conservatives. In the mid-twentieth century, they divided the vote fairly evenly between them. Since the 1970s, another axis has become significant, the unionist-nationalist divide. Now there is an additional one, on Europe, between Remain and Leave supporters. The old party system has broken down, creating instability and marked shifts in support from one election to the next.
Nicola Sturgeon’s letter of 31 March 2017 to Theresa May stated that ‘the Scottish Parliament has now determined by a clear majority that there should be an independence referendum’. That would now be the common assumption. But in fact the motion does not mention independence, let alone specify whether what is envisaged is independence within the European Union.
In the event of another independence campaign, says Ailsa Henderson, both sides will need to find some answers.
The First Minister’s announcement that the SNP government intends to seek a section 30 order to hold a second independence referendum contained within it a few hints about the key messages of a future Yes campaign.
In 2014 they had one key weakness – arguments about risk – and one key strength – arguments about a better society. The speech shows an effort to neutralise the weakness and play up the strength.