Interviewed by journalist Graham Spiers, Sturgeon spoke at length about the two main topics of the day; Brexit and Scottish Independence. Since the majority of the audience seemed like-minded in their political stance and enthusiastic supporters of Scottish independence already, the atmosphere felt warm, open and encouraging of Sturgeon to elaborate on any coming plans for a move toward a second independence referendum. On this, Sturgeon insisted that if Scotland should vote to become an independent country, it should be an independence internationally recognised, with no qualms about its legitimacy. This, Sturgeon emphasised, could only be achieved by going through the process of getting a section 30 order granted by the Westminster government so that the appropriate powers could be transferred to Holyrood, thereby allowing the Scottish government to hold the referendum. As many of us already know, however, a Tory government giving the go ahead for SNP to call another independence referendum is a difficulty unto itself. Tory PM after Tory PM have shown not so much reluctance as outright refusal to grant Scotland a vote for which it has proven it has a democratic mandate to hold.
Although she sympathised with Yes voters who may look for a loophole or shortcut to push through an independence referendum quicker, the First Minister maintained throughout the interview and the Q&A with the audience that took place afterwards that parliamentary procedure and democratic process should be present and respected at all times. So why, Sturgeon wondered aloud, is the question never put to Johnson and his Tory government as to why they are consistently unwilling to grant the section 30 order? Since by doing so, they are actively ignoring and rejecting the democratic will of the Scottish people? The exchange highlighted the way in which SNP demonstrate a measured and considered approach to such crucial issues such as independence and Brexit despite the soundbite politics of recent times. Indeed, Sturgeon showed a real desire to restore voters with clarity and detail, something she insinuated has been lost in the come-what-may, do-or-die politics of late.
On the matter of detail, when asked by Spiers why public feeling toward independence always wavered, with polls showing support for Yes either dipping or increasing but never remaining in the overwhelming majority, Sturgeon attributed it to her belief that the Scottish people always want to know why (or ‘how?!’). She refuted the suggestion from Spiers that we are simply ‘feart’ and instead praised the Scottish people in our desire to get to the bottom of things; to educate ourselves on matters, to truly understand things, to scrutinise and, crucially, to recognise the weight and consequences such a life-changing vote would have on our future and the future of generations to come. Sturgeon cited economic upheaval and Brexit turmoil as the reason why it is unsurprising that the Yes vote has struggled to find a continuum among Scots over the years, and underlined the importance of nuance when a question is put to the nation regarding its future. Say what you like about the independence referendum, Sturgeon remarked, but the white paper put forth by the Scottish government in 2014 contained a hefty amount of information about what an independent Scotland would look like. Could the same be said for Brexit?
On the subject of Westminster parties banding together to prevent a no-deal Brexit and to come together against Boris Johnson’s plans, or perhaps lack thereof, to crash out of the EU by the end of October, Sturgeon ended the talk on a hopeful note. The First Minister condemned the tribalism of modern politics and expressed the need for political parties to operate less out of party interest and more out of a common interest to see the country out of the political chaos from which it has been submerged for three years. In finding a kernel of common ground, Sturgeon indicated that in this agonising interim between Brexit Britain and a potential independent Scotland, positive change can emerge for parties and voters across the political spectrum.
Throughout the talk, Sturgeon did not shy away from any questions nor any insinuations from Spiers designed to undermine the urgency for another independence referendum as he asked, ‘so it wasn’t really a once in a lifetime referendum back in 2014, then, was it?’ Although Spiers seemed more on the wind up in his quip quoting Sturgeon’s predecessor Alex Salmond, Sturgeon’s response was one which echoed the words of political activist, Thomas Paine, when he said, “as we are not to live forever ourselves, and other generations are to follow us, we have neither the power nor the right to govern them, or to say how they shall govern themselves.” In other words, no one generation should determine the political destiny of the next generation to come. And although independence is what Sturgeon has fought for her entire political life thus far, she rejected the idea that independence would be a self-indulgent quest for the SNP, but rather the next step in protecting Scottish interests and responding to public mood as the tide seems to turn in favour of a Yes vote. After all, becoming an independent country is not a radical notion, she reminded the audience, nor a whimsical or romantic fantasy driven by illusions of Braveheart-style grandeur. It is natural for a country to want to lead itself, to vote on its own affairs and to navigate its own future. Sturgeon joked that the SNP wanted independence yesterday, but she made it clear that simply getting an independence referendum was not the summit of her ambitions. This time, Sturgeon wants to go all the way; to get a legitimate, credible and overwhelming win. This time, Sturgeon wants Scotland to say Yes.