Sputnik: Nicola Sturgeon has signalled she is unlikely to be able to make a decision on an independence referendum this autumn because of the uncertainties and confusion around Brexit. How significant is this?
James: I think the significance of this depends on how you interpret it. There are a lot of people in the anti-independence media who think that the idea of an independence referendum anytime soon, is completely ridiculous, assume that Nicola Sturgeon shares their view and imagines that she is trying to find a way out of her own mess and kick it into the long grass. She was resetting her plans for the referendum because she wanted to demonstrate to people she was pressing genuinely for Britain staying in the single market and finding that solution before she went for ahead for referendum. I think most people would interpret what is happening as a sign that she is still doing that but as there seems to be no clarity on the final Brexit deal will be and there won’t be until October, she can’t go ahead with a referendum because she hasn't actually got to the point that she wants to get to, which was the clarity on what Brexit will actually look like.
James: Referendums are very unpredictable, there tends to be more electoral volatility. You can get much bigger swings of opinion over very short periods of time. Even if it had been the case that there was a massive ‘Yes’ lead in the opinion polls, I don’t think anyone would know for sure at the moment if that would translate into a ‘Yes’ victory. It would only be once the campaign was underway that people’s mind would focus and then you would really see what people want. I don’t think people really know which way it would go, but what we do know is that support for independence hasn’t fallen back, which I think a lot of people on the unionist side had expected that after 2014 they would have accepted the outcome and it would have gradually slipped back. There is certainly a decent platform to build on and there would be on reasonable chance of success, but nobody can know what would happen in advance.
James: I think what we’re looking for is a sign that a second referendum is actually going to take place, I think that’s the first hurdle to get over because it’s clear the UK government actually has no intention for a referendum to take place, so I think we need to see some determination of solutions to get over that hurdle which might mean for example going ahead with legislation even the if the UK government refuses to issue a section 30 which would unambiguously give the Scottish government the power to do that. We would be looking for a sign that we might go ahead with a consultative referendum even without Westminster even if that means ending up in the supreme court and I think that would be a good outcome because either the supreme court would uphold the referendum which would make it very difficult for unionist parties to boycott it or they would strike it down in which case it would be clear that one had denied Scotland’s right to self-determination. After that, we could move forwards in an election to seek and outright mandate for independence in a Holyrood election, which actually might be a better way to go about it, but I think that would be a win-win situation.
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