When world leaders, negotiators and activists came together in Glasgow for the start of the Cop climate summit, curious delegates who picked up a Scottish newspaper may have seen a small announcement from the Scottish National Party.
His main image was of the famous sun-bathed rocks of Skye, with a soft portrait of the Prime Minister, and he said, “A nation waiting welcomes the nations of the world.”
Despite the simplicity of this proposal, public enthusiasm for independence has fallen since it reached an all-time high of 59% at the height of the pandemic in October last year. Most opinion polls in the last six months have shown that the yes is below four to eight points.
Was that message out of place? Her pro-UK opponents have accused Sturgeon of pursuing a “divisive obsession” while the rest of the world focused on a collective effort to combat a global crisis, a charge she denies.
The hardest of the pro-independence movement fear that Sturgeon has lost his spark, tired of the long hours he spent managing the Covid crisis, the impacts of Brexit and the Alex Salmond crisis and leading his government. Last week he addressed the issue of life after politics and revealed to Vogue magazine that he could take in children in the future.
Some internal critics, reinforced by their allies in Salmond’s small separatist party, Alba, are openly challenging Sturgeon over the timing of a referendum and questioning his willingness to organize one.
Angus MacNeil, a dissident SNP MP who chairs the Commons trade committee, hinted in a newspaper column last week that Sturgeon knew Boris Johnson would never accept a referendum and that the Supreme Court would block any attempt by her to organize one without her approval. He had to find another way to achieve independence, he argued.
However, there are few concrete signs that Sturgeon is as ambivalent as his critics claim. When he presented his government program in September, he said officials had asked them to start drafting a new case for independence. Aware, too, of the state of mind of the public, Sturgeon insists that the fight against Covid has immediate priority over the impetus for a new vote of independence. And their strategists have their eyes set on other factors, the police weather talking to each other.
What Cop can do is encourage prudent Scottish voters to adopt a more ecological and climate-friendly worldview. If so, this could work for the long-term benefit of Sturgeon and the wider independence movement.
His SNP government shares power for the first time in 14 years with the pro-independence Scottish Greens. For the first time since the deconcentration in 1999, there are green ministers in Holyrood and their agreement includes holding an independence vote before the next Scottish election.
The designation of Glasgow as the host city – perhaps chosen by Conservative ministers in London to show that the UK is embracing Scotland – directly influenced Sturgeon’s decision to sign the agreement with the Greens. It was a political decision, not one based on numerical advantage in Holyrood: it has aligned the SNP with a more left-wing party to amplify the proclimatic demands of its government, at a time when green politics, thanks to Cop , is ascending.
Although Sturgeon does not have a seat at the negotiating table, no decentralized administration in Cop enjoys an important profile at the local conference, welcoming Greta Thunberg and the Minga Indígena collective and campaigning for the voices of women and girls be. advanced in conversations.
She is far enough away from any political failure in Cop not to be tainted by them, though she may point out the differences she says independence would entail.
This strategy is likely to emerge clearly later in November, when the SNP will hold a brief party conference in which Sturgeon is expected to prioritize the push for a second independence vote. Any failure of Cop’s policy and his government’s most important emphasis on climate and the environment will be of great importance.
If Cop helps change the mood of the Scottish electorate and ultimately makes voters susceptible to the toughest changes in their energy use, and the driving, shopping and holiday habits it involves CO2 emissions, Sturgeon has bet that the SNP and the independence case will win.
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