Last week, I wrote about how Nicola Sturgeon has ended up trapped between her activists and a disobliging electorate on the question of independence.
She needs to maintain the illusion that the next big push is just around the corner to keep her increasingly restive troops in line and avoid the political conversation moving on to her government’s woeful record.
One big question was what the First Minister planned to do in the event that Westminster stuck to its guns and refused to authorise a legal vote.
This week, Alistair Jack confirmed this week that this is how the Government is going to play it when he insisted that the Scottish National Party have “no mandate” for another referendum and that public appetite for a vote is “relatively low”.
According to the Daily Mail, the word is that Sturgeon may thus try to conduct a ‘consultative’ referendum. The argument would be that because this would not have any binding effect, it could be conducted under the authority of the Scottish Parliament.
But there are several problems with this. For starters, it may still be open to legal challenge, and pro-UK donors have already indicated their preparedness to fund a challenge in the Scottish courts.
Then there’s the more obvious question of participation. There is no reason for unionists to take part in an unofficial poll run on a franchise and question entirely set by the SNP, nor perhaps for unionist-run councils to cooperate in conducting it. The whole thing would be legally and internationally meaningless.
And then you get to the final question, the one the whole exercise is supposed to postpone: what then? What does the SNP do when it holds its unofficial referendum and Westminster, rightly, refuses to budge?
If you’re Sturgeon, perhaps that’s the point you step aside, with a parting salvo at the perfidy of the British State. But it isn’t obvious the broader separatist movement would emerge in better shape than it went in. Its hard core would be angrier, and swing voters more alienated.
All of which is to say: hold the line, Jack!
Parliament honours fallen Unionist on the centenary of his assassination
Yesterday marked 100 years since Sir Henry Wilson, the Unionist MP for North Down and a former Chief of the Imperial General Staff, was gunned down outside his London home by two IRA gunmen.
I was very proud to join the Speaker, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Ian Paisley Jr, and other parliamentarians and guests for the unveiling of a shield honouring his memory in the House of Commons, which I have been campaigning for.
These shields are the standard tribute to Members of Parliament slain in post since the start of the First World War. Until yesterday, the most recent was for Jo Cox; the next will commemorate Sir David Amess.
As I noted a couple of years ago, four memorialise men who were murdered by the IRA or the INLA during their decades-long campaign of terror: Airey Neave, Robert Bradford, and Ian Gow were directly assassinated, whilst Sir Anthony Berry was killed by the Brighton Bomb.