Letter from Edinburgh - Friday 17th March 2017

I got the best email ever this week. It was entitled “MSP View on an Important Issue.”

As I read that I envisaged a demand for the Scott take on Nicola Sturgeon’s headlong rush into another referendum just two years after saying it was a “once in a lifetime” event. Which side, I deliberated, would this request come from? 

It started: “As Scots we are living in a time where our country is divided on many issues along political lines”. And then came the punchline: “I would be very grateful if you could take a minute out of your day to answer the following questions for me. 1. Do you like Beyonce? 2. If yea what If your favourite Beyonce song? 3. If no, why not?”

We will all need a healthy dose of humour to get through the next few years. A number of Facebook friends observed online last night that they were planning to close down their pages until the referendum was over. The notion that 2014 was a lovely outpouring of democracy is a little wide of the mark. The online rubbish that people on both sides were subjected to did nothing to encourage open debate.

So can we hope for something better this time round? I am not so sure. This really is it for Nicola Sturgeon. If she loses, she resigns. If her movement loses, that is it for the SNP.

So given those two certainties they will throw the kitchen sink at this. Everything else will be secondary to independence. The SNP’s future and Sturgeon’s career now depends on winning a second referendum.

That is why she is so determined to set the date, who can vote and no doubt the question too. It is extraordinary to expect people to vote on Scotland’s future before they know the final decision over the UK leaving the EU. One follows the other.

As anyone who follows the EU and its tortuous negotiations knows, nothing is agreed until everything is agreed. So no voter will know that the exit terms are for the UK until the last minute. If there is to be a Scottish referendum and Green votes will make it happen, the timing must be after Brexit.

People deserve clarity. It is no longer clear whether the SNP want full membership of the EU for an independent Scotland. Alex Salmond toured the TV studios this week talking about EEA status. That is Norway. It means we would have all the EU regulations imposed upon us but have no say. The worst of all words.

If the SNP’s position is full membership of the EU, and that is what I expect, then that means the Common Fisheries Policy and the Common Agricultural Policy remain.

So when all the leaflets start arriving and social media is awash with outpourings, people should apply all their critical facilities to what each side is saying. What I dread is the worst of both – out of the EU and out of the UK.

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