Another week where you can be forgiven it, but the Scottish Nationalists have just published their new economic case for independence.
That the Scottish Government has been without one since the 2014 referendum, which Alex Salmond contested on a fantasy programme, has obviously not stopped them from campaigning for separation. And after the Brexit referendum, some may think that they have less to fear from an economic onslaught from pro-UK campaigners than they previously thought.
Nonetheless, given the years they’ve had to prepare it and the resources at their disposal, it must be troubling the more thoughtful Nationalists that the results are so lacklustre.
As ever, Kevin Hague of These Islands has a good rundown. The new paper ducks a big chunk of Scotland’s deficit and has no proper plan for how Sterlingisation – the SNP’s preferred currency option – would be made to work. That, in turn, means an independent Scotland wouldn’t be close to qualifying for EU membership.
However, due to the notional commitment to joining the EU, the Nationalists do have to commit to a future trade arrangement which would mean a hard border between Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom.
This is a big admission, and one can sort-of see why they made it. Better to get it out now than let unionists hit them with the question over and over again in a future referendum.
But it’s still a gamble: new polling suggests that the threat of border checks is one issue that pushes voters to switch from Yes to No on independence. It also gives pro-UK campaigners the chance to press the SNP instead on the details of how much damage such a border would do to the Scottish economy, and thus how much more important to it is trade with the rest of the UK than trade with the EU.
Given the weakness of the evidence, the question arises again: why now? In theory, the Scottish Government is committed to a referendum in 2023. But few people think it will get one, nor do the polls show public opinion being behind independence, which Sturgeon previously maintained would be a requirement before another vote.
Perhaps there’s a little despair in the gambit. Her Majesty’s Government has not covered itself in glory this past year. Yet despite Boris Johnson, despite Partygate, despite the mini-Budget, the SNP can’t get the people behind the idea of breaking up the UK. And now, sooner rather than later, there will be a Labour government in London which will be much harder for the putatively social-democratic Nationalists to whip up resentment against.
DUP stand firm on election threat
Chris Heaton-Harris, the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland, is standing behind his pledge to call a Stormont election if the devolved Executive cannot reform, the News Letter reports.
In a visit to the Province, he insisted that one would be triggered at one minute past midnight on October 28 if the devolved institutions are not up and running by then.
Under Ulster’s devolution arrangements, power-sharing is mandatory and either Sinn Fein or the DUP can collapse Stormont by walking away. The republicans have previously done so over welfare reforms and in the wake of the Cash for Ash scandal; the unionists have done so over the trade barrier created by the Protocol.
But the Democratic Unionists look set to call his bluff. Sir Jeffrey Donaldson took a delegation to Downing Street to reiterate to Liz Truss that his party could only return to power-sharing once the Government had secured the changes unionists want to the sea border.
Whilst an election might be worrying to individual MLAs who might lose their seats, it wouldn’t necessarily do anything to break the DUP’s ability to shutter Stormont unless they were somehow overtaken as the largest Unionist party. As yet, that seems unlikely.