I must admit I was a bit sceptical before Nicola Sturgeon’s most recent announcement whether she’d say anything concrete.
And to be honest, there are so many caveats in it that it’s not clear it changes much. There’ll be a referendum before 2021 if the UK has left the EU – but presumably not if Brexit has been cancelled or delayed further, or if the deal gets signed and the country enters transition. It’s also not clear what exactly she’ll do if Westminster refuses to play ball when she asks them to approvement the referendum (as I’m sure they will). That doesn’t mean she hasn’t got a plan, of course, but the rest of us are none the wiser.
So I have to agree with other commentators that it was probably the smallest possible step she could take while keeping the Yes movement on board, but at least she took it.
Also, she’s put the SNP on a campaign footing. I’ve been girning for years that she was watching the polls but not doing anything to make them move, so I’m absolutely delighted with that bit. It also makes it much harder to march the troops down the hill again – gauging from social media reactions, I’m not sure many of them really noticed the caveats, and I doubt they won’t be very happy if she stops the campaign again later.
So all in all, it was a welcome step, albeit a small one. Hopefully the campaign that is starting now will shift public opinion in Scotland and create a demand for a new referendum that the Unionist parties will find it hard to resist.