The Great Indyref2 Conundrum


As confusing a time as it may be for Scottish Independence supporters, it’s even more confusing for the British Nationalists who make up their opposite number. The meme right now is that even with the prospect of the UK leaving the European Union, the people of Scotland don’t want to “compound” that by breaking up the UK – even if leaving the UK means preventing Scotland’s separation from the EU, which the people of Scotland voted against in the first place.

Right now, the British Nationalist parties are adamant that the SNP (for as ever, there is never the acknowledgement that the independence movement reaches beyond one political party) just put aside all this silly constitutional nonsense and “stick to the day job” – after all, even unnamed “senior SNP figures” don’t want Indyref2 just yet:

SNP insiders urge Nicola Sturgeon to put brakes on second independence referendum

NICOLA Sturgeon is being urged by senior SNP figures to wait until after the 2020 General Election and another expected Conservative victory before calling a second independence referendum.

Influential party insiders are cautioning their leader against a rush to the polls again as an opinion snapshot suggested the highest number of respondents, 46 per cent, said there should not be another referendum in the next few years. It found 33 per cent who want one by 2019.

– “Senior SNP Figures,” 19th September 2016

And former SNP advisers:

Indyref2 is years away. Nicola’s too smart to rush it.

In the febrile hours after the EU referendum vote, she famously said under questioning that she thought another referendum on independence was “highly likely”. I suspect she now regrets those words, as they have created a rod for her own back and a stick for her opponents to beat her with.

The unexpected Brexit result has placed her between the hammer and the anvil. If she delays or kicks the idea of another independence vote into the long grass, she will risk alienating the party, and most particularly the 100,000 or so who have joined since 2014. Independence is the SNP’s whole reason for existence; rejecting any opportunity to seize it would be a risky and precarious move for her.

So, though, is the alternative of seizing the moment and calling a referendum. With the polls apparently not having shifted much since the first indyref, this would be an even more risky win-or-die strategy. Score a victory, and she will become a politician of truly global stature, writing herself forever into Scottish history. Lose again, and she will be gone by the next morning, her political career a shredded carcass for the vultures to feed on.

Nicola Sturgeon is not a gambler. The serious, scholarly 21-year-old I met all that time ago has grown in political skill, respect and stature. But she is still a cautious, quiet thinker who relies on instinct and common sense rather than on impetuous bravery.

Andrew Collier, 23rd August 2016

Perplexingly, these conveniently unnamed & unverifiable “senior SNP figures” (and Andrew Collier) appear to be in tune with none other than the leader of Better Together:

Darling: ‘No indyref2 any time soon’

Nicola Sturgeon will not call another independence referendum any time soon because she fears defeat, the man who led the pro-UK campaign ahead of the last vote has predicted.

Alistair Darling said Ms Sturgeon had to regularly “throw red meat” to her supporters by hinting at a second vote.

But he said she “knows she will be finished” if she loses again.

Alistair Darling, 19th September 2016

And one of the chief architects of the Other Party’s downfall:

Scotland won’t get its second independence referendum – that suits Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP just fine

How’s that second Scottish independence referendum looking?

Not all that good, actually.

John McTernan, 6th May 2016

So, according to – apparently – everyone, if there’s a second Independence Referendum soon, and it’s a No vote, then that really will end it for a generation. It will “finish” Nicola Sturgeon; it will devastate the SNP; it will set the cause back years, if not decades.

And yet


In just about every poll, including the official results of the Independence Referendum itself, every age group up to 55 voted Yes – but the over 55s, and in particular over-65s, were so profoundly pro-UK that it overturned the entire vote. In the most recent polls, that gap has fissured into an almighty abyss:

yougov-20-25th-july-2016(YouGov 20th-25th July 2016)

yougov-29-31-august-2016(YouGov 29th-31st August 2016)

tns-13th-september(TNS 13th September 2016)

survation-16th-september-2016(Survation 16th September 2016)

ipsosmori-september-2016(Ipsos-Mori September 2016)

A not dissimilar phenomenon was seen in the European Union Referendum a few months ago:


How long can this situation last? 2012 to 2014 alone saw support for independence rise from 30% to 45% in official polls: several post-referendum polls have even shown majorities for independence. Is it truly reasonable to conclude we have reached “peak independence support” when it is only the 55+ generation which has such strong support for the UK? With the best will in the world, most of the 55+ generation won’t be here in a generation’s time. Are we supposed to believe that people’s entire constitutional mindset switches from Scotland to Britain as soon as they reach 55? By that logic, we’d all still be voting Whigs & Tories.

Or is it more likely that this particular generation represents “peak UK” – the last stand of what used to be called Scottish Unionism? Could it be that once this generation is gone, then independence could become not just the majority opinion, but the mainstream opinion? That being the case, it seems clear from Mr Darling’s statements that he believes a swift second referendum could return a second No, and delay independence for much longer – Ms Sturgeon being one last scalp for the UK before Scotland is gone.

So, a quick second referendum, within the next 5 years, seems to be the only way the Scottish Independence Movement could possibly lose – this, according to both No campaigners and more than a few prominent Yes campaigners. Yet astoundingly, the people who you would think would want to stop independence altogether are not only not pushing for the one thing that could save the UK for the short-term future, but actively petitioning against it.

Mundell urges Sturgeon to take indyref2 ‘off the table’

SCOTTISH Secretary David Mundell yesterday insisted Westminster is “doing its part” for Scotland as he challenged Nicola Sturgeon to take indyref2 off the table for the economy’s sake.

… “We are doing our part to improve the infrastructure here in Scotland. We are doing our part to ensure we get the best possible deal for Scotland and the UK in EU negotiations.

“Now Nicola Sturgeon could do her part for the Scottish economy by taking the issue of a second independence referendum off the table.”

11th August 2016

Kezia Dugdale warns Labour MSPs not to back indyref 2 after deputy Alex Rowley goes off-message

KEZIA Dugdale yesterday ordered her MSPs to vote against any attempt to hold a second independence referendum.
The Scottish Labour leader laid down the law after being undermined by her Holyrood deputy Alex Rowley and UK leadership contender Owen Smith.

Dugdale said the September 2014 referendum is “definitive”.

1st September 2016

Ruth Davidson launches petition against a second independence referendum

The Scottish Conservatives have launched a new petition against a second independence referendum.

In an email to supporters, party leader Ruth Davidson urged them to sign their names and force the SNP to “listen”.

The petition- at – follows Nicola Sturgeon’s latest independence push.

2nd September 2016


Please give me a moment to rub my temples…

So. The demographics suggest that the strongest majority support for the UK will cease to be part of the electorate within the next few decades. Time is, thus, almost certainly not on the UK’s side. The only thing which could delay independence further is to hold a second Independence Referendum soon, frustrating the SNP and likely dooming the current First Minister’s career – as if that’s her priority over, you know, independence for our country.

Yet instead of doing that – the one situation where they might possibly win a second referendum – they’re seeking to delay or outright prevent Indyref2 altogether. In other words, given the choice of possibly losing Indyref2 soon, or almost certainly losing Indyref2 in a generation’s time, they choose the latter. Why? Why, in the name of all that is logical, are British Nationalists not demanding Indyref2 now, to definitively “settle the matter for a generation,” to prove that Scotland is British even after everything that’s happened?

A quick indyref2 & subsequent No vote is their sole opportunity to extend the lifespan of their dying UK, yet they are adamantly opposed to it – because even after all the “softly softly catchee monkey” from the likes of Robin McAlpine, they don’t even want to risk a referendum with a starting base of 45-55 – which, given the direction of travel, is their last, best shot. At the same time, there are many good reasons for independence supporters to advocate indyref2 sooner rather than later: waiting overlong with the prospect of leaving the EU and what it might mean for Scotland’s democracy has its own problems.

This is where we are now, folks. That the UK parties refuse to press for an early indyref2 – indeed, are actively trying to delay it – means only one of two things. Either they think delaying indyref2 will somehow result in saving the UK, completely at odds with the demographics & direction of travel; or they think delaying indyref2 will just delay independence, which they fear is inevitable. If it’s the first, then they’re stupid; if it’s the second, then they’re vindictive poor losers.

As of this post, the UK political establishment & media are still resolutely against independence – so to me, the fact that the UK parties & media are so eager to discourage any talk of indyref2 even when it’s apparently in their best interests is cause for much skepticism. But then, this is nothing new. Wendy Alexander’s “bring it on” was an anomaly soon quashed by her UK commander. As far as the UK is concerned, there is no “best time” for indyref2 – there never will be. Whenever indyref2 happens, it really will be the UK’s last chance.

8 thoughts on “The Great Indyref2 Conundrum

  1. Bugger (the Panda) says:

    It is a false flag operation. We go out with UK and then it becomes a 28 member yes to get back in with new conditions etc. We vote to leave before Brexit takes place (Art 50 + 2 years) and we get to stay in, on a qualified voting majority. Maybe a transitional holding position. allowing us to transit out of UK

  2. Bean an Tighe says:

    The 18-24 age group is also a concern, with only 48% support for Yes in 2014 in stark contrast to the figures for the age groups on either side. I’ve often wondered what the reasons for that were. Students? Young EU workers scared by being told that a yes win would see Scotland expelled from the EU?

  3. BigAL says:

    Ruth’s petition has compounded the unions predicament as only supporters of Britsh Nationalism, from wherever on the planet, will sign up to it. SNP’s survey on the other hand allows all views to be expressed – a nuanced referendum in reality. The Scottish government will be able to point to it as an indicator of current support, by not taking part unionists will untimely loose there precious union. As far as Indyref2, I’m not convinced the FM needs to hold a second referendum, Westminster will need to make an offer to Scotland and what the offer ( devo max?) is will define the route we go down.

  4. Macart says:

    RE; The generation gap

    A mixture of ingrained (if misplaced) loyalty and fear of change. A hard nut to crack in the older generation and for the life of me I have no idea how the SG can get around that one.

    The only thing I can think of is simple understanding. Be a friend, a sympathetic ear and a shoulder to lean on all at the same time. Inspire confidence and take the time to address these folks issues on a personal level. They’ve taken decades to form certain habits, rely on certain sources for their information and world view.

    The BT strategy of targeting the pensioner in indyref 1, pouring Gordzilla and considerable resources into this demographic paid dividends for them. They went after our parents and grandparents in the most shameful manner imagineable. If they are told to fear, then they will fear etc. Confrontation WILL be counterproductive. What they did with intimidation, fear and a naked appeal to a UK mindset that never truly existed, we must do in a future indyref with a polar opposite message I reckon.

    Those who were made to fear, need to know that they have a younger generation who are more than willing to back them up on every level in our society. We need to give our older generation their place, that shoulder and assure them that they still have a significant part to play in shaping an independent Scotland.

    • alharron says:

      I perceive several factors in the generation gap, and I think it’s exactly that. It isn’t about age, it’s about the political and social climate into which the over-55 generation were born and raised. Listening & understanding is definitely important.

  5. Robert Harrison says:

    I’m confused here as indy 64+ generation majority no in indy1 no vote wins eu refurendum same generation majority leave yet remain won by 62 % the only logical answer to this is indy1 was rigged

  6. John Reid says:

    My ‘fear’ is that the SNP/Green majority disappears at the next Holyrood election and the opportunity to call a indyref2 has gone. If PM May calls an early election this situation may happen sooner. We independence supporters must have the confidence in our argument to go for an early referendum

  7. […] September – The Great Indyref2 Conundrum. The British Parties seem to be demanding the SNP “get on with it” and announce […]

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