Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist
The BBC spin on Nicola Sturgeon’s speech was that actually it was a move further back from Indyref2. It can be interpreted that way. In effect she was saying that leaving the EU is perhaps not a “material change” triggering Indyref2, only hard Brexit would be a “material change”. On this reading, as given by Brian Taylor of the BBC, the publishing of a draft Indyref bill is simply a sop to placate the SNP troops in the hall.
But I am satisfied that Nicola has in fact deliberately set conditions for Scotland to remain in the Union which she knows Theresa May will under no circumstances meet. Barring continued full access for Scotland to the single market, which simply cannot happen if England leaves it, then she insists that not only must the powers held by Brussels come to Scotland (eg fisheries) but that Scotland must control its own immigration policy and run its own foreign relations.
Now nobody is more fervent than me in wanting to get on with Independence and an early second referendum. But I am very happy with the criteria which Nicola has set out, which Theresa May is bound to attempt to sweep right over on the current wave of xenophobic jingoism prevailing in England. Not only will Sturgeon’s conditions not be met, it will be made very plain very quickly that they are not going to be met.
I think like all decent people, Nicola Sturgeon was quite genuinely appalled by celebration of open racism at the Tory party conference – her passage on this was very strong and very good. That has spurred her to abandon some of her usual caution and not really leave herself an out. We are going to see a second Independence referendum before the next Scottish parliamentary elections, and I am extremely happy about it.