I doubt very much whether there are any senior ‘Scottish’ Tories who “now back indyref2”. It may well be that there are many senior ‘Sottish’ Tories who believe it necessary to rethink the arid and blatantly anti-democratic denial of Scotland’s right of self-determination which characterised Ruth Davidson’s reign as Queen of the BritNats. Which was, in fact, the sole characteristic of that undistinguished reign.
It would be surprising if anyone of normal intelligence wasn’t prompted to reconsider a one-line manifesto which, having hoovered up the votes of all Scotland’s most hard-line British Nationalists, had nowhere else to go. A party whose appeal is to the extreme must be limited by the appeal of that extreme. Its potential support hits a sharp cut-off point where that extreme comes up against the mass of moderate opinion. In electoral terms that cut-off point seems to be within a point or two of 20%. It is all but inevitable that some in the upper echelons of the ‘Scottish’ Tories must have recognised this. Even if Jackson Carlaw lacks the intellectual acuity and political nous to do so.
But advocating for a new independence referendum? I don’t think so. Preserving the Union is as much, perhaps more, of an imperative for British Tories as it is for the other British parties. None of the British parties will ever facilitate or tolerate any process which places the Union in jeopardy. The Union must be preserved at any cost to Scotland and its people. Unlike when David Cameron agreed to the 2014 referendum, a vote now would all but certainly favour the restoration of Scotland’s independence. So there is no way any senior ‘Scottish’ Tory is going to “back indyref2”. Unless they can be assured that the Yes campaign might be thwarted.
There is a strong possibility that those senior ‘Scottish’ Tories, along with other British Nationalists, have identified Nicola Sturgeon’s commitment to the Section 30 process as a weakness that they can exploit.
Andy Mciver is correct when he says that the SNP administration’s supposed policy problems aren’t sufficient to significantly weaken the party, far less have any knock-on effect on support for independence – which all but the most blinkered British Nationalists realise is a separate thing. But a referendum held under the constraints of the Section 30 process can quite readily be manipulated to greatly disadvantage the Yes side. After all, the whole purpose of Section 30 is to serve as a choke-chain on the Scottish Parliament. Given that the Scottish Parliament is crucial to any process which might lead to independence, the British political elite retains ultimate control so long as the Section 30 process is being adhered to.
The ‘Scottish’ Tories are unlikely to come out in favour of a new independence referendum. They cannot afford to lose the British Nationalist vote. But they may seek to broaden their electoral appeal by softening the rhetoric and being less openly anti-democratic. Carlaw will go wherever the political wind blows him. If it is decided that the party should go into the 2021 Holyrood elections portraying itself as grudgingly prepared to accept a new referendum on certain conditions, Carlaw will read whatever script is handed to him. The worst that might happen is that their vote would hold. Which is probably the best that they might realistically hope for.
Should this less strenuous opposition to a new referendum become apparent it may be seen as cause for cautious celebration in some quarters. It will certainly be hailed by the British media as making the ‘Scottish’ Tories more electable and Jackson Carlaw a credible contender for the office of First Minister. It may even be welcomed by the less thoughtful parts of the Yes movement. Which would be a serious error.
We must all be mindful of the fact that anything British Nationalists are prepared to countenance must, by definition, be contrary to the aims of the independence movement and against Scotland’s interests. Any referendum that British Nationalists find acceptable must be powerfully suspect from a Scottish perspective.
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