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If May offers a deal, what then for indyref2?

Terry smiling headIt took it’s time, but eventually the independence stagecoach rolled back into town with the First Minister whipping the horses into one last gallop and Alex Salmond bringing up the rear, rifle ready to take pot-shots at anyone who dared oppose its re-entry to the political arena.

All they have to do now is convince the naysayers to jump aboard. That’s where it gets a little tricky. The majority still do not fancy the ride.

So, if the guns do start firing to signal a resumption of hostilities, what should we expect from the Yes campaign next time round?

For a start, it will want to convince us that the stagecoach is not led by a one-trick pony: a flag-waving, pressure group with a flawed economic agenda built on ever-flowing oil revenue.

A more grounded approach was evident in Ms Sturgeon’s speech on Monday at Bute House. She knew the world was watching, and so it was carefully choreographed to present her not simply as the leader of a north British party, but as a head of state in waiting.

If 13 March signalled the start of the indyref2 campaign, then she has set a tone that she hopes her supporters will follow.

Next time there will be a more considered economic policy, already being prepared by Andrew Wilson’s Growth Commission, and a new presentation of the case for separation. Expect a little less sentimental chest-beating and a greater injection of academia, mixed with some hard truths.

Understatement will be a better bet than overstatement. Far better for the Yes campaign to underplay its targets and expectations than build, as it so fatefully did last time, on unrealistic forecasts.

The campaign should dispense with Scotland the Brave and all that Braveheart stuff. Instead it should focus on how Scotland could prosper as an independent nation, just as a company might set out its plans to build market share.

A little more dignity and humility would be a welcome change to the trench warfare that goes on daily in the Scottish parliament.

The pro-indy campaign will need to admit to the problems an independent Scotland might face. It should take a leaf out of the entrepreneur’s handbook, believing in the product (Scotland) but acknowledging it doesn’t know all the answers.

Would it work? And should it work?

Last time round I argued there was a case for unleashing Scotland’s creativity and letting it just get on with it. Like any excitable new business leader, it would face challenges and obstacles, and its success or failure would depend on how it managed those challenges.

Ultimately, it seemed ridiculous to think that Scottish innovation and will to win against the odds could not triumph over adversity.

Nicola Sturgeon Bute House 13 March
Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House

Yet there remain many questions over the validity of splitting up the UK, and the sheer point of it all. Why break up a successful marriage (and it is largely a success, with the odd row thrown in)? From a business point of view, why create barriers to trade where there currently are none? Fundamentally, is the link with Westminster so broken that it cannot be repaired?

Nicola Sturgeon is clearly a determined lady, but to what extent is her latest pronouncement more a case of posturing over Europe rather than pushing for the single cause of independence?

After all, she said she was “not turning my back” on the PM’s talks. Theresa May is digging in her famous kitten heels, but she could call the First Minister’s bluff and make Ms Sturgeon an offer she couldn’t refuse. If Scotland was to be offered an acceptable compromise deal, what then for the second independence referendum? That would blow the indy campaign apart and leave Ms Sturgeon to explain to her supporters why the dream is over for another term.

If, on the other hand, Downing Street chooses to keep the door shut, then a second poll will be inevitable and already questions are being asked about who might lead a new No campaign. Who will defend the union? With Labour all over the place on constitutional policy it would struggle to put up anyone who the public would believe in. Will Boris be despatched north to take on the Nats?

Someone has to mount a renewed case for the union, but the worry is that senior politicians in London wearied by the Brexit negotiations will regard a battle over Scotland’s future as a campaign too many.

Ms Sturgeon insisted in her Bute House address that there was no time to waste and that Scotland had to be prepared. In other words, she was marshalling her troops on the hilltop ready for the charge.

She is already playing with the statistics to make her case. Few seem to have noticed how she has translated the 62% of Scots who voted to remain in Europe as somehow equating to a call for independence.

Those 62% also included many Tory and Labour supporters, and others who are opposed to independence. They were voting to remain in Europe, not expressing their desire to quit the UK.

The First Minister has so far got away with conflating the arguments over Europe and independence and suggesting that Scotland will somehow fall over without the Brussels crutch.

Of course, constantly quoting 62% makes the case for independence sound more convincing than having to admit that less than half the population actually wants it.




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