Kenny MacAskill: It’s not if, but when indyref2 will be called

Theresa Mays government alliance with Arlene Foster and the DUP has already angered many  (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
Theresa Mays government alliance with Arlene Foster and the DUP has already angered many (Photo by Carl Court/Getty Images)
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Unless discontent with the union is addressed a second independence referendum will be inevitable in this Disunited Kingdom, writes Kenny MacAskill.

Much Ado About Nothing is a Shakespeare play. However, the title seemed to be borrowed by the First Minister for her statement on Indyref2.

The audience was left underwhelmed when she took the stage at Holyrood.

It neither moved things on nor abandoned the strategy, simply leaving matters hanging. Much ado about nothing indeed!

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However, what she did do was steal the spotlight from Theresa May who was struggling before her own audience, in both Westminster and the wider country.

The significant bit part the Prime Minister has given to the DUP in her show has angered many. The Tories in Scotland were being exposed as cheering wildly for a charade that was harmful to the country, denying it badly needed revenue and threatening the very union they claim to support.

May’s backroom deal to give the DUP a starring role was an opportunity for the SNP to expose the Scottish Tories.

Not just their lack of influence but their willingness to soak up any and everything done by their London colleagues, no matter how unpalatable.

From steadfastly arguing against Brexit, Ruth Davidson moved to parroting Brexit means Brexit. Now, following May’s bloody nose from Corbyn, it’s a softer Brexit now being advocated.

Moreover, the Prime Minister’s need to obtain support from a Province she previously disdained has not only shown her Scottish MPs to be supine but undermines the very union she claims to believe in.

Ill feeling and anger has been generated not just in Scotland, but in Wales and the English regions.

Moreover, despite the substantial funds that will flow into Northern Ireland its effect on the Good Friday agreement could be disastrous. Far from preserving the union she’s creating a Disunited Kingdom.

There isn’t going to be an early Indyref2 barring some catastrophic Brexit deal that propels both Scotland and the UK towards the abyss.

That scenario changes everything but equally remains unlikely. Moreover, were it to arise then the First Minister would have both the mandate and the legitimacy to seek one.

Beyond that scenario there’s neither the mood in the land for a second referendum, nor the current basis to win it.

Other than dedicated activists, most people are tired of elections and referenda. They want a rest from politics.

Moreover, a referendum is the strategy by which independence can be achieved.

It isn’t the sole basis for the SNP. Its aims are independence for Scotland and the furtherance of all Scottish interests.

At the moment, critical factors that cost victory in the last referendum have still not yet been answered, such as pensions and currency.

Moreover, they have been compounded by further uncertainty over future trade and borders with the rest of UK, as well as the relationship with the EU.

Until those questions are answered or the abyss beckons there’s little likelihood of a referendum, let alone victory in it.

Before they can go again the SNP must earn the trust of the people, as they did before 2014 and have credible answers for those questions. So, it’s much ado about nothing.

The irony though is that the union has never been more destabilised.

That hasn’t been caused in the main by the SNP or Nicola Sturgeon but primarily by actions from UK Prime Ministers who claim to hold it dear to their heart.

The outcome of the last independence referendum most certainly was a shock to David Cameron and his unionist confidantes who had anticipated not just an easy win, but relished the chance to crush the SNP.

As it was the outcome was significantly closer than they had anticipated and indeed they wobbled at the end.

Calling in favours from President Obama and having the UK political party leaders make the so-called Vow. There was to be federalism or as near as could be.

In their victory, it was a time for magnanimity and an opportunity to address the desires that many Scots had for more powers, even if they weren’t persuaded of the merits of Independence.

Instead David Cameron brought in English Votes for English Laws (EVEL). Far from showing respect as pledged, it bordered on the insulting.

Moreover, rather than considering a federal system he established the Smith Commission. Relatively minor powers and begrudgingly given.

No wonder that not only the Yes minority but many others united in the general election in 2015, to show their contempt.

Cameron’s ineptitude in that referendum, was followed by his foolhardiness in the Brexit one. That saw Scotland vote significantly differently to the rest of the UK and further undermine the argument for the union. It also cost him his premiership but his successor has continued digging the hole that he began. The deal with the DUP breaches the Barnett formula, if not in the letter of it most certainly in sprit.

That undermined the considerable Scottish Tory contingent just elected, before they’ve even settled in. Their craven defence of it does them no favours and doesn’t augur well for their defending Scottish interests.

It’s not just in Scotland but across the UK that the reverberations are being felt. The First Minister of Wales expressed outrage and anger exists in many English regions.

The cohesion of the union is being threatened.

The security aspect is also endangered. As again the spirit, if not the letter of the Good Friday Agreement is breached.

Theresa May’s dalliance with the DUP jeopardises not just the restoration of the Northern Ireland Assembly but potentially heralds a return to violence.

It’ll be a hollow victory if the bounty secured, comes at the price of the gun re-appearing.

The First Minister has taken the spotlight off the difficulties faced by those supporting the union. However, the issues haven’t gone away.

The desire for independence remains with many and discontent with the union exists among even more. Unless they’re addressed then the union will remain unstable. Without further moves it will be when, not if another referendum comes in this Disunited Kingdom.