Scottish independence: Sturgeon is trapped in a constitutional stalemate

Nicola Sturgeon delivering speech on Brexit day Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon made a speech marking Brexit day in Edinburgh

Independence is now Scotland's only route back into the EU, Nicola Sturgeon has told supporters. But at the same time she warned them that it may not happen as soon as they would like.

Patience as well as passion will be required, she said, telling Yes supporters that their task is to persuade a majority of people to support an independent Scotland - and to stop obsessing about how or when another referendum might happen.

The SNP is much cheered by an opinion poll published this week that suggests 51% of Scottish voters would vote in favour of independence. That's the first poll in some time that has shown a majority in favour of leaving the UK. But most of the party's most senior politicians would rather see support running at closer to 60% before they enter a referendum campaign.

They want to focus their efforts on persuading people who voted No in 2014 to change their minds - and believe Brexit creates that opportunity. However, despite a clear majority of voters opting to remain in the EU in 2016, it is notable that support for independence has not grown substantially in the last two and a half years.

"As of 11pm tonight, the UK that Scotland voted to remain part of in 2014 - a UK inside the EU - will no longer be a reality." said Nicola Sturgeon.

She thinks that is reason enough to have another referendum, as well as pointing to successive SNP election victories and a vote in the Scottish Parliament supporting indyref2.

But Nicola Sturgeon is trapped in a constitutional stalemate with Boris Johnson. Every time she asks for his agreement to hold another referendum, he gives her a flat "no". She can't force him to change his mind and she can't have a legally binding vote without his permission.

Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Nicola Sturgeon is locked in a constitutional stalemate with Boris Johnson

Impatient members of her party would like her to take dramatic action, like holding a wildcat vote without agreement from Westminster. Today she suggested she might explore the legality of holding a consultative vote - but made clear that is not her preferred option.

Don't get stuck arguing about the process of getting to a vote, she insisted - but "focus on building and winning the political case for independence".

Nicola Sturgeon knows that case is not yet won. If she was able to hold an independence referendum this year she would not be certain of victory. And if she can significantly increase support amongst Scottish voters that - she hopes - will make it harder for Westminster to refuse to allow indyref2.

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