by Colin Campbell
AFTER taking some time off on Sunday to announce on TV that she plans to hold an illegal referendum on independence, let’s hope Nicola Sturgeon regains her sense of priority and gets back to the day job.
That is, the day job of saving lives.
At any other time Sturgeon’s illegal indyref2 declaration would have consumed public attention.
But right now everyone outside the hardest of hardcore nationalists is much more concerned with the virus and the vaccine.
Infections are breaking records nearly every day and the vaccine rollout in Scotland appears to be lagging behind what is being achieved in England. And yesterday Sturgeon left herself wide open to accusations that her focus on independence is distracting her from efforts to save lives.
She said in a BBC TV interview that if independence supporting parties won a majority in the Scottish Parliamentary elections in May she would hold indyref2 with or without Westminster permission. Legislation would be passed at Holyrood.
But as issues relating to the constitution are, like defence, reserved to Westminster any referendum on independence requires Westminster approval and unless that is forthcoming it would be illegal.
Local authorities like Highland Council could refuse to have any part in it.
And no great reams of analysis are required to assess how the majority of Scots who reject independence and want to remain in the UK would react.
They would boycott it en masse.
The result would be 100 per cent in support of independence in a poll in which only independence supporters took part. And then what?
Westminster would ignore the result, non-voters would ignore the result and it would have no domestic or international legitimacy.
Sturgeon and co and independence supporters might declare Scotland was independent but in a hostile and bewildering atmosphere it’s very difficult to imagine there would be celebratory parties in Inverness High Street, Princess Street or George Square.
If it ever does happen, that however is for the future.
A more immediate problem for Nicola Sturgeon is the timing of her announcement, at the height of the worst health crisis in 100 years. That timing could not have been more ill judged.
Up to now Sturgeon has been perceived to have had a “good virus”, based largely on her composed appearance and presentations, rather than on the death toll in Scotland and the mistakes she has made.
When she let the mask slip yesterday as her independence obsession come to the fore again, many may now view her in a different light.
Her performance will have done nothing to boost support for the SNP in the May elections, that is, if they even take place.
She looked haggard and strained yesterday, more so than ever before. Under virus pressure, probing questions about lying over the Salmond affair which could in itself lead to her forced resignation, and under constant pressure from independence zealots to deliver indyref2, she may be near breaking point.
Her senseless actions yesterday in igniting another row over independence at the height of the pandemic crisis was the clearest signal yet that a beleaguered Nicola Sturgeon, to coin an old but appropriate phrase, is at the end of her tether.