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SNP moves to back People’s Vote

by Kirsty Hughes | 07.10.2018

Kirsty Hughes is Director of the Scottish Centre on European Relations.

In the last week, Nicola Sturgeon has rapidly shifted the Scottish National Party’s position towards a stronger, clearer backing of a People’s Vote. She told the BBC’s Andrew Marr programme this Sunday, as the SNP’s annual conference began in Glasgow: “We would not stand in the way of a second referendum, a so-called people’s vote. SNP MPs would undoubtedly vote for that proposition.”

She then added the SNP’s rider to that support: “We would of course want to talk to people about how we ensure that Scotland does not end up in the same position all over again, where we voted to remain in the EU but find ourselves facing exit completely against our will.”

Despite this rider, it’s the first time Scotland’s first minister has said that SNP MPs would definitely vote for a People’s Vote. Earlier this year, Sturgeon emphasised “not blocking” such a vote, which left open the question of whether SNP MPs might still abstain – which would cause any vote to fail if the numbers in the Commons were tight.

Last Tuesday, speaking in Edinburgh, Sturgeon labelled a People’s Vote “quite attractive”. By last Thursday, at First Minister’s Questions at Holyrood, when pushed by Scottish Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie, she insisted: “On the issue of the people’s vote, I have made it clear… that the Scottish National Party is not going to stand in the way of that, so perhaps Willie Rennie should learn to start taking ‘yes’ for an answer.”

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Sturgeon has also said that SNP MPs would not vote for a “blind” or bad Brexit deal, so unless Theresa May brought home a deal whereby the UK stayed in the EU’s single market and customs union, their 35 MPs would vote down a deal. This is a welcome shift and an oasis of clarity compared to Labour’s fudged position.

SNP members and voters are also clearly supportive of this policy shift, as two recent YouGov polls show. SNP voters now back “remain” at 82% (excluding “don’t knows”) and 79% support another EU vote. In this weekend’s survey of SNP members, 93% support “remain” and 89% support a new public vote. Labour, Lib Dem and Green party voters are also strongly in favour of another vote. Surprisingly, though, Brexit will not be discussed on the floor of the SNP conference this week, unless a topical (i.e. last minute) motion surfaces, though there are fringe meetings aplenty on the topic

And a note of caution should be struck. Nicola Sturgeon was careful how she put her rider about holding another independence vote in the face of a second “leave” vote. But other SNP politicians have been more trenchant. In the Sunday National, this week, Brexit cabinet secretary, Michael Russell, argued Scottish voters should have a “guarantee” of another independence vote. Quite who is meant to provide this guarantee is unclear: Lib Dems or Labour will not do that and anyway aren’t in power.

But SNP policy is notoriously top-down, so Sturgeon’s commitment to SNP MPs “undoubtedly” voting for another public vote still looks like the breakthrough from the Scottish government that has been needed.

Edited by Luke Lythgoe

5 Responses to “SNP moves to back People’s Vote”

  • I am one of those that are starting to support the idea of Scottish independence. Perhaps England, Wales & Northern Ireland could be given a vote as to whether we would like to eject Scotland from the UK?
    Frankly I am sick and tired of the Scottish grievance party shamelessly using brexit to try to gain independence. An independence they would then immediately try to sell back to the EU – Perverse!
    They moan on and on about a cliff edge brexit. How about a cliff edge departure from the union?????

  • Seems to me the quite clear Scottish referendum vote was for remain, so you feel justified to rant about the SNP being ‘shameless’? Wales is going the same way too, have you not noticed? I thought you brexitards called yourself democrats?

  • Brexitards – that’s a new one! remainers are so superior.

    ok a few lessons on democracy:

    Firstly the EU referendum was a UK vote which Scotland is a part of – leave won.
    Secondly the Scottish independence referendum was a Scotland only vote – independence lost.
    Remainers love to cast themselves as the true democrats but keep arguing that one of the biggest mandates ever given by the British people should be ignored and the whole thing run again!
    Certainly once we have left the EU then Scotland (and even Wales) are perfectly entitled to have another independence referendum (due to the constitutional changes) and if they decided to leave the union then that would be fine by me.
    Actually I have heard a lot of the more rational SNP supporters saying exactly this.
    At the end of the day regardless of how you dress it up, a second referendum is being shrilly demanded by those who don’t accept the democratic decision.

  • This is a significant move by Nicola Sturgeon and is a very un-nationalist thing to do.

    There was an enormous overlap between the sort of promises made by the SNP in the 2014 referendum and the Brexiteers in 2016. Essentially they promised that all the benefits of cooperation with other countries could be achieved without the irksome need to make the commitment of giving up some legal independence. This promise was always unlikely to be true.

    It can only be fulfilled with the cooperation of the other country or countries. That is why a second referendum is justified – to see if nationalist promises have been kept after negotiation. Nationalist leaders do not like their freedom to fantasise and lie being curtailed in this way

    Nicola has always claimed that she is an internationalist rather than a nationalist. Perhaps she is beginning to prove that and if she is she will have done something of great benefit to the people of Scotland.

  • If you recall Peter it was a close vote which could have gone either way. Tossing the country in the air like a coin to see if you “win” or not is not a good model for democracy. If it was a win at all, it was a win for corruption and deception, invalid by any measure and leavers should not object to it being re-examined if they genuinely care about their country.