The morning after the UK’s referendum on Europe, Nicola Sturgeon thought about holding a snap referendum on the Scottish independence. She didn’t – presumably because she wouldn’t have won it, and because even if she had won it, it would have had no legal status. But not calling one then doesn’t mean she isn’t going to keep grandstanding about having one some other time – and hence keeping all of Scotland in a mild state of anxiety for as long as her party are in power. It is very trying.
More trying, however, at the moment is her grandstanding about the EU referendum itself. Yesterday she held an event designed, her party said, to reassure EU nationals living in Scotland that she is doing everything she can to make sure they don’t have to leave post-Brexit (something the UK’s prime minister has already said she is committed to confirming anyway). “I believe,’ she told them, that “you have the right to certainty”. Interesting.
Why I wonder, if EU nationals living in Scotland have the right to certainty about their status, do the British living in Scotland not have the same right? This was a point neatly made by one attendee at the event. Patrick Harkness noted that he isn’t getting much in the way of certainty out of living in Scotland at all (he is from Northern Ireland). Instead, the SNP’s relentless focus on independence constantly threatens his status as a citizen of the country in which he lives.
The UK government could, says Sturgeon, “at the stroke of a pen” end the worries of Scotland’s Europeans. But the Scottish government could make life easier for an awful lot more people: at the stroke of a pen Nicola Sturgeon could confirm for the 55% of Scotland’s population who voted to stay in the UK in the last referendum that they will stay in the UK. She could do that either by setting a date for another referendum (which she will almost definitely lose) or by just promising not to have one.