Constitutionally and legally, there’s no real difference whether SNP wins an outright majority or Holyrood gets a pro-independence majority (i.e. and SNP minority propped up by Greens). It’s still up to the UK government.But a majority still matters. As James Mitchell, an Edinburgh University professor of public policy, told me, it’s all about pressure.
An SNP minority propped up by other pro-indy parties (as it has been for five years) simply puts less pressure on a UK prime minister who wants to say no. Boris Johnson could simply say nothing’s changed.An SNP majority doesn’t deliver a referendum, but it strengthens Nicola Sturgeon’s hand immeasurably. It piles pressure on the PM. There would be a clear change in Scotland that he would find it harder to ignore, domestically and internationally.
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If he says no, what next?
The legal precedent is for the UK to sanction an independence referendum via a Section 30 Order. This could be challenged in the court, but there’s no guarantee it changes anything. It could end up cementing the UK’s authority on the issue.There could be a ‘consultative referendum’ held without permission. But this is problematic if unionists could boycott it and render it, well, not fully consultative.Actually having a proper, legally binding referendum is currently risky for both Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon.
The polls are so close. Neither leader is in any rush so this is a collision that’s likely coming but it suits them both to wait a while.