Naming no names, but I gather that one or two high-profile broadcast journalists did a spot of editorialising the other night (to all intents and purposes on behalf of the anti-independence parties) and claimed that Nicola Sturgeon's suggestion of a super-majority requirement for any in/out EU referendum was "ironic". I was genuinely curious as to what the nature of this "irony" was, because it certainly didn't leap out at me as being obvious. Well, it turns out that our "neutral, objective" public service broadcasters expect us to believe that it's somehow ironic for the SNP to simultaneously think that Scotland and Scotland alone should decide whether it becomes an independent country, and that Scotland and Scotland alone should also decide whether it leaves the European Union or not. Erm, that doesn't strike me as being "ironic" so much as boringly consistent.
But naturally the journalists in question didn't frame the issue in those terms - they instead brazenly used the hardcore Tory unionist framing of "the SNP think the whole United Kingdom should have to agree about leaving the EU, but don't think the rest of the UK should have any say on Scottish independence". Nope, I'm sorry, guys, but that line doesn't make any more logical sense no matter how many times it's trotted out, and chuckling under your breath as you say it doesn't make it any more convincing either. The rest of the UK will never have a direct say in any Scottish independence referendum, for the simple reason that the independence of a country is no business of anyone else. Whether Scotland leaves the EU is, however, rather obviously the business of Scotland. The idea that Scotland being little more than an interested bystander while others decide its EU fate is somehow a logical and natural quid pro quo for us getting the chance to decide on independence for ourselves is so barking mad and downright offensive that it could only come from our friends in the London media establishment.
Even before these journalists revealed their true colours, I had seen equally nonsensical reactions to Sturgeon's suggestion on Twitter, along the lines of "hasn't she noticed who won?" and "45 is a bigger number than 55 in SNP maths". Er, WHAT? Weren't they listening at all? The whole point of what Sturgeon was saying was not that she thought the anti-independence campaign lost, but rather that she had noticed that they narrowly won, and in particular that she had noticed the basis on which they narrowly won. Much as they would have dearly loved to have won on the basis of "extinguish yourself as a nation, Scotland, subsume yourself into eternal British uniformity under one flag", it wasn't like that at all. It wasn't the Union Jack that flew over 10 Downing Street on referendum day, but the saltire. We were told that a No vote was a vote for Scotland to remain part of a family of four equal nations, and in spite of the speed with which Cameron backtracked on his "solemn vow" after polling was over, he was quite happy to reiterate the "family" thing. OK, so what does that actually mean in concrete terms - if anything?
It was supremely amusing to read Iain Martin in the Telegraph attacking Sturgeon for a "ham-fisted" intervention, because he seemed blissfully unaware that he had just walked straight into her trap. If he thinks it's outrageous that England could be forced by its much smaller neighbour to stay in the EU against its will, then I'm inclined to agree. But it's not SNP logic that has led to that possibility being raised, but the logic of Martin's own side. We argued in the independence referendum for Scotland and England to BOTH have the sovereign right to make their own decisions - Martin's side rejected that logic, and put forward the "family of four equal nations" logic as the alternative. All Sturgeon did was pursue that logic to its natural conclusion, and then waited to to see whether opponents of independence destroyed the legitimacy of their own victory by reacting with fury. They couldn't have been more obliging.
Why are you so angry, guys? Because the idea of little faraway Scotland being an equal partner to England is so self-evidently absurd? Why did you base your whole referendum campaign on that premise, then? Ah, so now you're saying that Scotland is an equal partner - but its consent isn't required for a major constitutional decision? How does that work? Are you saying that Scotland is only equal in theory but not in practice? Shouldn't you have clarified that point BEFORE polling day, or was it in the small print in your leaflets?
The more thoughtful response would have been to say that of course an equal partner in the UK can't be forced to leave the EU against its will, and therefore to head off a terrible dilemma for those who believe in the union it's vitally important to make the case in England for continued EU membership. But no, they just couldn't help themselves from sneering at Scotland's "delusions of grandeur", as they always do when they're caught unguarded. To put it mildly, it's been noticed in Scotland that the No campaign won a hollow victory on the basis of arguments they don't actually believe in, and that's doubtless why today's Ipsos-Mori poll shows an overwhelming 58% to 39% margin in favour of another independence referendum taking place within the next five years, regardless of circumstances. Whisper it gently, but people don't generally ask for a repeat referendum if they anticipate that the result will be the same. 1-0 to Sturgeon.
By the way, in case you think all of the above is an academic point, here is the latest YouGov polling on how people would vote in an in/out EU referendum...
I would vote to remain a member of the European Union : 47%
I would vote to leave the European Union : 33%
Great Britain -
I would vote to remain a member of the European Union : 35%
I would vote to leave the European Union : 44%
Doubtless Murdo Fraser or Kenny Farquharson will be along in a jiffy to tell us that those numbers are "pretty similar really".