Almost one year on from the referendum and talk of a second referendum persists. But the SNP should keep silent. For now.
Speaking to Andrew Marr in an interview on Sunday, Alex Salmond said that a second referendum on Scottish independence is 'inevitable'. He then outlined three potential situations which could allow it to occur. This even resulted ‘indyref2’ to trend on Twitter in the Edinburgh area. The party should know that saying things like another referendum being inevitable is going to result in headlines, as well as much criticism from those in opposition to their stance.
But whilst the SNP have surged - with the fact they won almost every Scottish seat in Westminster’s elections illustrating this best - independence has not grown in support. A few polls have been conducted since the referendum on the issue. Yes, a couple have put the ‘yes’ side ahead, but in such cases it has only been by a couple of points, something that falls within the margin of error.
The SNP have managed to convert many of those who voted ‘yes’ in the referendum into SNP voters (or Scottish Greens as the case may be for many others who voted ‘yes’), but almost one year on and the case for independence - in terms of popular support has not grown.
I guess the point being made here is that - for now - the SNP should keep quiet about independence. Alex Salmond’s comments have only annoyed those on the side who voted ‘no’. And yes, whilst such comments will make new SNP members feel good, as they joined on the back of losing the referendum, such comments are not useful for the electorate as a whole.
If the SNP wish to win a second referendum, continuing to ‘bang on about it’ will do them little good. Sturgeon knew this very well by framing the election in May as one about the ‘Westminster elite’ and the continuation of austerity versus an anti-austerity stance from the SNP. And with that she reiterated that the referendum was not about independence, something which worked extremely well for the party.
To win this ‘inevitable’ referendum, the SNP will need to reach out to voters who voted ‘no’ last time. Such voters will be unlikely to switch if the SNP keep talking about independence. Especially if the next referendum is held after the 2016 general election. Furthermore, opinions are more likely to change over time. For the 2016 elections, it would be smart for the SNP not to promise a referendum and wait until the public opinion shows consistent support in the polls.
This is important because: if they lose a second referendum the party could lose support and lose out politically, as was the case in Quebec, when separatists lost two referendums. The last of which was held twenty years ago.
If the SNP want to win this 'inevitable' referendum, they should keep quiet about independence for now and wait for the perfect time.