Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

Campbell Gunn: There will be no IndyRef2 before 2024

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon.
Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon.

I’ve stated previously in these columns that I didn’t believe a second Scottish independence referendum would be held in 2023.

Since then, Cabinet Secretary Angus Robertson revealed that the SNP Government’s plan was for the vote to be held in October next year.

And last week, at Holyrood, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out not only her road map to the referendum, but the exact date – October 19.

So have I changed my mind on the likelihood of Indyref2 happening next year? No.

Is an IndyRef2 vote possible by 2023?

My reasoning is simply to go through the first minister’s proposed steps one by one.

First, there’s the application to Westminster for a Section 30 Order to the allow the power to hold such a vote to be transferred to the Scottish Parliament. Currently, that power is reserved under the Scotland Act to Westminster.

It was only under the Edinburgh Agreement, signed by David Cameron and Alex Salmond, that the previous vote in 2014 was allowed. Prime Minister Boris Johnson has already told us what his response will be to another such request: he will refuse it.

Then there’s the referral to the UK Supreme Court of the matter of whether the Scottish Parliament has the competence to pass an independence bill and hold a consultative referendum without the say-so of Westminster.

This decision by Nicola Sturgeon was simply short-circuiting a process which was inevitably going to happen in any case, either by the Westminster Government or individual opponents of a vote.

I’m no lawyer, but legal opinion appears united in the view that the Supreme Court will rule that the Scottish Parliament has no competence in this matter.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaking at a press conference at Bute House in Edinburgh at the launch of new paper on Scottish independence. Photo: Russell Cheyne/PA Wire

Scotland has not seen absolute majority of votes since 1955

Finally, there’s the threat of using the next general election due in two years’ time as a de facto referendum on Scottish independence, with the SNP and other independence-supporting parties campaigning on that single issue.

This resulted in some confusion as to whether a majority of seats for the SNP would be sufficient, or whether it would require a majority of the votes. That has now been clarified to the number of votes.

At this point it is worth remembering that no party has won an absolute majority of votes in Scotland since 1955, when the Conservatives did so.

At the last General Election, in 2019, the SNP won 45 per cent of the popular vote and the Greens won just one per cent, leaving the two independence supporting parties well short of a majority.

However, even using the next general election as a referendum on independence takes us beyond 2023, so my prediction of no vote next year would be unchanged.

Will Boris Johnson continue as Prime Minister?

There is though, one political move which could alter that, nothing to do with Section 30, the Supreme Court, or indeed Indyref2, but everything to do with Boris Johnson’s own position as Prime Minister.

Problems are piling up for the PM. He’s already survived one confidence vote from his own MPs, where a majority of his own backbenchers actually voted against his continued leadership. He’s been found guilty of breaking the law. He’s lost two by-elections. Allegations of sleaze in his party mount almost daily.

There are rumblings of discontent within Number Ten itself.

And we still have the prospect of the Westminster Privileges Committee investigation into whether the Prime Minister “misled Parliament” – in other words, lied – over the lockdown-breaching parties in Downing Street.

How would Boris Johnson react if it appeared that his own party might finally be about to ditch him? His one strength, and the reason the Conservatives gave him the job in the first place, was that they believed he was an election winner.

IndyRef won’t happen before 2024

What better way to demonstrate to his party that this is still the case, and at the same time save his own skin, than to prove it by calling a snap General Election? There are already rumours swirling in political circles that this may indeed be his final throw of the dice, with an October vote being touted as a real possibility.

Were that to happen, the SNP and the entire Scottish independence movement would find themselves in an awkward position. There’s little chance that the Supreme Court would have ruled by then.

A decision would have to be made on whether to stick with the declared plan and use the snap election as a referendum. Would the Scottish Government take that risk in a short, perhaps just six-week campaign?

The possibility of just such a scenario, though still unlikely, is real. Hopefully, senior people in the SNP will have already considered it and a game plan of some kind will be in place.

But with the caveat of the Prime Minister calling that snap election, my prediction of no Indyref2 before 2024 at the earliest still stands.


Campbell Gunn is a retired political editor who served as special adviser to two first ministers of Scotland, and a Munro compleatist

Already a subscriber? Sign in

[[title]]

[[text]]

Conversation

[[title_reg]]

Please enter the name you would like to appear on your comments. (It doesn’t have to be your real name - but nothing rude please, we are a polite bunch!) Use a combination of eight or more characters that includes an upper and lower case character, and a number.

By registering with [[site_name]] you agree to our Terms and Conditions and our Privacy Policy

Or sign up with

Facebook Google

[[content_reg_complete]]

[[title_login]]

Or login with

Forgotten your password? Reset it

[[title]]