Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) and head of the Autonomous Government of Edinburgh, opened the congress of his political formation yesterday with a brief message full of hope and optimism. “Independence is clearly in sight,” he cried out to the delegates of a traditional appointment that this year has been organized electronically due to the coronavirus. “I have never been so sure that we will make it.”
Sturgeon called for “unity of purpose, humility and hard work” on the way to a second sovereign referendum. “We have an independent future ahead of us. Let’s take advantage of it, ”he encouraged. The voting intention polls point to a majority of the SNP in the regional elections, which are to be held next May. The absolute victory of the sovereign program would redouble the pressure on the head of the central government, the conservative Boris Johnson, who refuses to facilitate the convocation of the so-called Indyref2.
“The people of Scotland have the right to choose their future,” challenged Sturgeon. The nationalist leader asked the militancy to prepare for the next stage in the separatist march, without losing the “focus on fighting and winning Covid-19.” “Let us show, with a clear mind and patient persuasion, that Scotland is ready to take our place in the global family of independent nations,” he claimed.
The chief minister alluded in passing to the upward curve that the independence movement has undertaken since January 2020, as suggested by almost all surveys from different agencies and institutes. “Support has grown and this year has become the majority and constant position of public opinion,” he said. The level of support for the split from the rest of the UK now averages over 55% of the votes that gave the unionist side victory in 2014.
The reappearance of independence coincided with the formal withdrawal of the European Union at the beginning of the year. Johnson’s determination to conclude the Brexit transition period with the chimes of December 31, whether or not there is an agreement, may contribute to the SNP attracting voters who voted in favor of permanence in the 2016 referendum.
Appreciated and competent
Sturgeon maintains strong popularity and status as a competent politician in opinion polls. He gained adherents with his handling of the pandemic in Scotland, while the competence and ability of the Conservative Prime Minister to deal with the health crisis is questioned. In its six years at the helm from Edinburgh, the SNP fell back in the 2017 regional elections -governing with the support of the Green Party, which shares the independence ideal- and stood out in the generals last December, recovering 48 of the 59 Scottish seats in Westminster.
But there are internal divergences on the strategy for the referendum and impatience in a sector of the militancy. The deputy Joanna Cherry proposes a legislative route to try to solve the veto of the central Executive to the referendum or, at least, challenge it in the Courts questioning if the Parliament of Holyrood has the power to summon it. Sturgeon has blocked this plan for now.
More dangerous is the deep fissure opened in the SNP by the management of Sturgeon and officials of his Government of the allegations of sexual abuse that brought the former chief minister, Alex Salmond, to justice. The former nationalist leader, who was a mentor and right-hand man to his successor, was cleared of all charges in the Scottish courts. A commission of the Holyrood Parliament is now investigating the scandal that may cost the party the majority in the next regional elections.