Sturgeon slaps down Looney Tunes by ruling out ACME independence

It was the shortest crime caper since Wile E Coyote lit the fuse on an ACME rocket then forgot to let go.

Thursday morning’s papers had brought news of a speech by SNP deputy leader Keith Brown in which he hinted that Nicola Sturgeon might hold a second independence referendum even if Westminster said No.

One small problem with the plan: it would be, well, illegal. This conjured up images of Sturgeon and John Swinney, the Thelma and Louise of Scottish separatism, speeding along backroads, sirens in the distance, a ballot box in the back seat and a road map of Catalonia in the glove compartment.

Alas, it wasn’t to be. ACME independence blew up in Brown’s face.

’Irrespective of the views of her errant deputy, will the First Minister rule out that divisive plan?’ Jackson Carlaw enquired, as though referring to a child who had peed on the neighbours’ hydrangeas.

The First Minister, whose tone suggested that the child would be sent to bed without supper or a decent speaking slot at party conference, muttered through clenched teeth: ‘The legal basis for the next independence referendum should be the same as the basis for the last independence referendum.’

That wouldn’t go down well with the grassroots. If she wasn’t careful, the National might run a front page only mildly adulatory.

Febrile they were yesterday. Cheering, jeering, jabbing fingers and pounding desks. Not the visiting schoolchildren who lined the public gallery; they were the picture of respectful hush.

The grown-ups below were making a display of themselves. This is what happens when you toss peanuts into the monkey enclosure at the zoo or raise the topic of independence at Holyrood.

Carlaw started it by asking if the First Minister agreed that ‘Scotland does not want to be in a separate currency’. Sturgeon smelled a set-up. These were her words from 2014, so she bodyswerved: ‘I am always delighted to talk about independence’ — we hadn’t noticed — ‘but there is a constitutional issue that is more immediately pressing right now.’

Brexit has been a Godsend for Sturgeon. Without it, she’d have to deflect awkward questions by replying: ‘Oh yeah? Well, so is your face.’

Theresa May was taking Scotland ‘out of the European Union against our will’. This wasn’t to be confused with the time Nicola Sturgeon tried to take Scotland out of the EU against our will by seceding from the UK. That was different, mostly because the Tories are monsters who live under your bed and eat your pets when you’re not looking.

Besides, Sturgeon ventured: ‘The way to determine what people in Scotland want is to allow them to choose in a referendum.‘

If only we’d thought to try that.

She continued to pepper him with questions about Brexit. Carlaw said the leader of the Scottish Conservatives would be taking questions soon enough — from the First Minister’s seat.

The roar of ridicule was like a jumbo jet taking off. Roseanna Cunningham snapped her head forward at deadly speed, doubled with affected giggling. Government backbenchers wiped mock tears from their eyes.

‘At least Jackson Carlaw had the good grace to laugh at himself,’ Sturgeon rejoindered.

Not something the First Minister could be accused of. ‘Let me tell him how I will be spending the rest of my day,’ she began.

‘Not answering questions,’ Carlaw interjected.

Actually, she would be busy ‘saving Scotland from the disaster of a Tory Brexit’.

No wonder she doesn’t worry about paying a car park tax when travels around on that high horse all day.

Richard Leonard asked about the currency of an independent Scotland but as the First Minister’s answers grew more dismissive, his questions became longer and more fitfully punctuated. His shoulders jerked up and down and his voice grew shriller.

I thought he was choking on a Polo mint and wondered why Iain Gray was taking so long with the Heimlich manoeuvre.


Originally published in the Scottish Daily Mail. Letters: Stephen at

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