More than a few people will doubtless be disappointed that Nicola Sturgeon isn’t taking a harder line of a second independence referendum. But this is a delicate and complex situation with many interests involved. The First Minister is quite right to avoid linking the matter of Scotland’s independence too closely to the issue of our relationship with the EU. Playing down expectations regarding any special arrangement for Scotland as part of the UK is also very sensible. While there is considerable sympathy in Europe for Scotland’s predicament and some willingness to engage with the Scottish Government to explore options, we can be certain that European governments would very quickly back off if there was the possibility of being seen to be interfering in the internal affairs of the UK.
Contrast Sturgeon’s low-key approach with the brash, presumptuous rhetoric of British politicians who, almost from the moment the referendum result was known, have been talking as if they were in a position to demand a cushy deal for the UK as it quits the EU. Which approach do you suppose will be viewed most favourable by EU leaders?
There is no doubt whatever that we are heading for #indyref2. But, in order to keep open as many options as possible, the First Minister must avoid any sense that she is using the Brexit situation to engineer another independence vote. To keep the EU on board, she must demonstrate that she is willing to explore every avenue.
Most importantly of all, Sturgeon has to emphasise the fact that Scotland has a distinctive position. Without explicitly saying so, she must make EU leaders aware that the UK’s negotiators do not necessarily speak for Scotland. When the moment comes to declare another referendum it must be because the UK Government has created the circumstances which make it unavoidable.
This is a diplomatic dance. Every step and gesture is filled with meaning and fraught with the potential for treading on sensitive toes. Much as we might wish that Nicola Sturgeon would pick up the pace, she has to mindful of the other dancers.