Sputnik discussed the prospects for Scotland's independence with Sir John Curtice, professor of politics at Strathclyde University.
Sputnik: Speaking ahead of the conference, Ms. Sturgeon said that Scotland's independence is inevitable and that the case for it is now more compelling than ever due to Brexit. Is it really so? What's your take on this?
Sir John Curtice: The truth is that the opinion polls have not shifted in one direction or another, as compared with the outcome of the independence referendum in September 2014. We've actually had three new opinion polls up, one put support for independence at 44%, another at 46%, and the third at 47%. In other words, all very close, still, to the 45% result that we had four years ago.
There is no doubt that what Nicola Sturgeon is now looking for is whether or not these poll numbers might shift in the event that the UK does indeed leave the European Union, perhaps, particularly if the UK were to leave the European Union without there being any deal with the EU, an outcome that Nicola Sturgeon, at least, thinks will be particularly disastrous for Scotland.
We've had a number of polls now that suggest that maybe around a 3% or 4% swing in favor of independence should the UK leave the European Union, and certainly if it should leave without there being a deal. Now that's not a very large swing, but given that the starting point, as already said, is pretty close to 50/50, such a swing might mean that there is a small majority in favor.
So the debate is very lively, and there's some evidence that maybe some people in Scotland might change their views if Brexit goes pear-shaped, but certainly not the position being sufficiently clear that anybody's putting too many bets that eventually Nicola Sturgeon will say that she wants to hold a referendum, at least in the immediate future.
Sputnik: Yet Nicola Sturgeon has said that the MPs from the Scottish National Party would definitely vote for another independence referendum if it were put to them at Westminster.
Now at the moment, neither Theresa May nor Jeremy Corbyn are committed to that idea, but the Labour Party at its conference a couple of weeks ago did leave open a possibility that it might come around in favor of a second EU referendum, so we now know if Labour were to change its mind it would have the SNP with it and that, therefore, given that the UK Conservative government doesn't have a majority inside the House of Commons, any vote on such a proposal, if it does indeed reach the House of Commons, could be a quite close one.
Sputnik: So you're saying that if Labour changes its mind, what might be a factor that might sway their position?
Sir John Curtice: There are many possibilities. I think the truth is the chances of Labour changing its mind might increase should the UK government fail to win the so-called meaningful vote. So let's assume that Theresa May does get a deal and the mood music that's coming out of Brussels is somewhat upbeat at the moment, but we know that there are plenty of Conservative MPs that are unhappy about what they think they're going to be invited to vote for, and as a result there is at least a risk that the UK government will lose when it brings the deal to the House of Commons in a meaningful vote to which it's committed, which will have to happen in about two or three weeks after the Brexit deal is concluded.
Sputnik: I wanted to ask you, those involved with the wider independence movement have been reporting, let's say, a growing frustration among grassroots activists. Apparently, they say that they perceive this lack of leadership from the SNP and the way Nicola Sturgeon really ties it all in with the fate of the next referendum with Brexit, what's your take on this?
Sir John Curtice: I think there is no doubt that there is frustration among a section of the nationalist movement who would like an independence referendum to happen sooner rather than later, not least, because they're aware that one condition that absolutely has to be in place if this referendum is ever going to take place is that there's a majority in favor of such a referendum in the Scottish Parliament.
Now the Scottish problem will have another set of elections in 2021 and there is at least some risk according to opinion polls that there would not necessarily be a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament after 2021, so therefore the risk with delaying is that actually there isn't a majority in Edinburgh in favor there for the SNP and it cannot pursue the project.
That said, however, it's still pretty clear, yes, there are many 'yes' supporters who would like a second early independence referendum and there are also plenty who would not and at the moment at least there isn't clearly a growing swell amongst 'yes' voters in general in favor of an early independence referendum as opposed to a frustration amongst those who are most committed to the cause.
The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.