Since March of this year, Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of the SNP has been leading calls for a second independence referendum, either to be held in mid or late 2018, or the beginning of 2019. This would coincide with the conclusion of Brexit talks, and has been seen by many as Sturgeon’s attempt to bring her agenda to the forefront of political discussion and to ensure her mandate is used to full effect. However, in the SNP manifesto, launched in Perth, Scotland today, it appears that Sturgeon and the SNP are now softening their stance, a little.
The manifesto states: “At the end of the Brexit process, when the final terms of the deal are known, it is right that Scotland should have a choice about our future.” With such phrasing, it is implied that a referendum would likely only be held in late 2019, after talks over Brexit are believed to have finished, or if one were to follow Theresa May’s thinking, several years after this date.
Following her previous adherence to a referendum being held during Brexit talks, this change in opinion has led many to wondering what exactly has brought the change on. Some, are beginning to think the change in stance must have something to do with the declining support for the SNP. Recent polling figures have put support for the SNP at 41%, down from 55% in April, 2015. Support for independence currently stands below 45%, a further indication that perhaps independence is not at the forefront of many Scottish voters’ minds, and therefore, the SNP has had to change pace to stay relevant.
Consequently, during the launch of the SNP manifesto, Nicola Sturgeon stressed repeatedly that the SNP were the only party who could seriously stand up to the Tories, on welfare and NHS funding cuts. Sturgeon also said that the SNP would support a 50p top rate tax, but only if it were applied across the whole of the UK, they would also support protection of the triple lock on pensions.
However, though Sturgeon shifted focus to other issues during the manifesto launch, she concluded proceedings by stating that the elections to Holyrood last year had given the SNP a clear mandate to call for and hold a second independence referendum. Evidently, though the focus is elsewhere, independence is still a clear talking point, and will remain so for the SNP and for Scotland.