My fellow supporters of Scottish democracy, I’d like to discuss the speeches Nicola Sturgeon gave after the Supreme Court ruling. Who was she speaking to? Why did she say what she said? And does she realise voters like us aren’t who she says we are?

The first of the speeches was to news reporters, shortly after the ruling on Wednesday; later the same day, the First Minister also addressed a group of supporters outside Holyrood. Both speeches featured similar themes and striking phrases. But was I the only one thinking: you talking to me?

The reason this matters – who exactly Ms Sturgeon was supposed to be talking to – is because it’s one of the fundamental rules of politics. You may literally be speaking to a crowd of people who think you’re brilliant, but the people you should really be speaking to are the ones you need to win over at home. Question is: did Ms Sturgeon forget this?

Take her comments about democracy for example. Not only did she address the Holyrood crowd as “my fellow supporters of Scottish democracy”, she went on to say the independence movement had become “Scotland’s democracy movement” and that the UK Government was guilty of “democracy denial”.

She also said this: "The more contempt the Westminster establishment shows for Scottish democracy, the more certain it is that Scotland will vote Yes when the choice does come to be made. In the meantime, the SNP will launch and mobilise a major campaign in defence of Scottish democracy.”

This is pretty strong stuff – reflected in the banners and comments of her supporters on the street. What they were saying, pretty much, was that the court’s ruling exposed a travesty of democracy and a second referendum now lay at the whim of MPs in London. They also said there was a mandate for the referendum and most Scots wanted it. And the banners featured some familiar phrases. “Scottish not British.” “We are not a colony.” Etc.

For all I know, Ms Sturgeon and her supporters may think this line of argument is going to be effective in getting Scottish blood boiling over (not mine). But have they thought through the implications of what they’re saying? If the people in the crowd at Holyrood are “supporters of Scottish democracy”, does that mean people who disagree with them are not? Are we not part of “Scotland’s democracy movement” too?

If that’s what Ms Sturgeon and her supporters believe – and by implication it must be – it’s an extraordinarily misguided thing to say. What they appear to be suggesting is if you don’t specifically believe a referendum should be held next year based on the SNP and the Greens having most of the seats in Holyrood, you’re a democracy denier. This has always been implied in some of the criticisms unionists face, but to now say that those who disagree with Ms Sturgeon are not democratic is a significant heightening of the rhetoric.

It is also wrong of course. What Ms Sturgeon said last week was that “no establishment, Westminster or otherwise, will ever silence the voice of the Scottish people” which forms the basis of the anti-democratic idea. Her supporters said something similar when they claimed a referendum now lay at the whim of MPs. But Scots elect MPs to Westminster. We may think the system needs to be improved (by being made more federal for example) but we are explicitly part of it and a large number of Scots wish to keep it that way. They are not anti-democratic, they just take a different view to Ms Sturgeon.

The First Minister’s reference to the “voice of the people” is also contentious and touches on what proper democratic test we should use to establish what the voice actually is. The SNP and the Greens believe it’s winning most seats on the basis of a minority of the votes – this, they would say, is the voice of the people. But others believe that for something as important as the constitution, it takes more than that and there should only be a referendum when there is genuine, high, and sustained support for it (in my view, at least 60%).

To take this view, as many do, is not anti-democratic – in fact, it is more democratic than claiming you have a mandate when the electorate is divided down the middle. And anyway, you cannot have a mandate for something that is illegal – you can campaign to change the law but until then you must act within it. Even so, Ms Sturgeon was still insisting after the ruling last week that her mandate was undeniable. It isn’t.

Interestingly, there have been moments when the First Minister appears to suggest something slightly different. In her speech at Holyrood, she said her task was to build, through dignified persuasion, clear majority support for independence. I agree: clear majority support (which it doesn’t have) and dignified persuasion (which surely excludes calling Scots who disagree with you anti-democratic). Does Ms Sturgeon think that if, after all the rancour, she had actually managed to get a referendum next year and won by 50.1% or something, it would meet that test?

The point is that, as Ms Sturgeon herself said, her job is to persuade the doubters, which is why the talk about democracy deniers is misguided. The court’s ruling, she said, created temporary relief for unionists, but has she wondered why they might be feeling relieved? Isn’t it because the idea of getting to a referendum, and possibly a narrow win for Yes, on the back of a situation where voters are divided 50/50 is a troubling idea? So yes, I am feeling relieved and it’s because we know that independence, if it does happen, won’t now happen that way.

And surely the bigger point is this: if independence is to happen, or not, we have to agree on some of the ground rules, even if it takes a ruling of the Supreme Court to force the SNP to agree. Ms Sturgeon said last week that she would not go “cap in hand” to Westminster to ask for a referendum. But she must now accept that she will have to negotiate any referendum with the UK Government. That is the legal position, the reasonable position, and the democratic one.

We should also agree – and this especially applies to leaders who seek to win us over – that it isn’t undemocratic for Scots to believe in a route to a referendum that’s different to Ms Sturgeon’s or the SNP’s. Such Scots are not democracy deniers and the First Minister should show them some respect. Of course this is only my take on the subject. It is, in the end, only my opinion. But perhaps, my fellow supporters of Scottish democracy, you agree with it. You do not? That’s absolutely fine.

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