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Can someone brainstorm hypotheticals for the UK Parliament to consent to a second referendum on Scottish independence from the United Kingdom (henceforth "Indyref2")? This doesn't duplicate How could Scotland become independent given that Theresa May rejected a referendum?, which was asked in March 2017 and answered in July 2017.

Disclaimers against deus ex machina. Rule out black swans.

  1. No superweapons. The change must be realistically justified.

  2. No impacts by astronomical objects or natural disasters. A tsunami, earthquake, meteorite or asteroid, disease, or COVID strain or variant can't suddenly impacting just England, but not Scotland.

  3. No sudden increases in wealth. Scotland can't just suddenly discover gold or precious minerals, and pay the U.K. for independence.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is still repeating her demands for Indyref2. On Dec 1 2020, Scotland’s First Minister said she will use next May’s Holyrood election to try to win a mandate to hold an independence referendum “in the early part of the new Parliament”. I can't imagine how this will happen before the next UK general election on 2 May 2024, even if the UK reaches no deal on Brexit and trades with the EU on WTO terms. Here are my reasons.

  1. I can't imagine why Boris Johnson would reverse his rejection in January 2020.

Nicola Sturgeon's request for a referendum was rejected by the UK government in January 2020.[62] In his official response, Boris Johnson wrote that Sturgeon and Salmond had promised that the 2014 referendum would be a "once in a generation" vote, that both the Scottish and UK governments had pledged to implement the outcome of that vote, and that his government "cannot agree to any request for a transfer of power that would lead to further independence referendums".[62]

However, the UK government has repeatedly said it would not grant the consent that Ms Sturgeon has argued would be needed if any referendum was to be legal. And Scottish Secretary Alister Jack has said there should not be another referendum for "25 or 40 years".

  1. The UK government and SNP (Scottish National Party) won't hold a referendum amidst COVID19, which has to be mitigated and curbed first. Two-thirds of SNP voters want Covid recovery before Scottish independence referendum.

2022 appears to be the earliest date. One-quarter of the world may not get a vaccine until 2022, experts warn. Harvard University researchers predict that recurrent winter outbreaks will probably occur after the first, most severe pandemic wave; prolonged or intermittent physical distancing may be necessary into 2022; and a resurgence is possible as late as 2024. According to Dr. Anthony Fauci, a “profound degree” of herd immunity won’t likely happen until the end of 2021 or beginning of 2022, he said, which is why he predicts public health measures such as face masks and social distancing will continue until then..

  1. I can't imagine how else the SNP can convince the UK government. The SNP probably cannot insurrect violence, as Scotland doesn't have its own military. The British Armed Forces can probably suppress any attempt at violence.
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  • I do think this is a duplicate. There is no fundamental change in context. Only the UK parliament can approve for Scottish independence, which it can do by simple majority. So it is simple. A vote passed in Parliament. We can make up scenarios, but this would be an exercise in Worldbuilding, not answering a question. – James K Dec 20 '20 at 22:38
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    @JamesK "no fundamental change in context"? Truly? (1) New Prime Minister, Boris Johnson. (2) COVID19 (3) No Deal Brexit. – Intellectually disabled Dec 20 '20 at 22:48
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    A prime minister with the same policy on Scottish independence. And the other things are about Scotland. Covid doesn't change the constitution. The question and the answer are the same, hence a dupe – James K Dec 20 '20 at 22:53
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    I'm sorry, but we generally don't handle hypothetical questions on this website. We can only speculate on what could convince the politicians in London to allow another Scottish independence referendum. And wild speculation isn't what we are doing on this website. – Philipp Dec 29 '20 at 20:00
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No democractic nation can long sustain direct repression, as taking on the role of repressor historically has had the effect of reshaping a democracy into a authoritarian state (see Israel). So if the SNP win an overwhelming majority in their own election, which does look likely right now, and if on the strength of that election they proceed to hold their own referendum, and if the results of that self-hosted referendum are huge and unmistakable, I think it is more likely than not that the U.K. governing party would start to create a process for an orderly transition.

If they tried to go hardline against an overwhelming public result, then it would likely result in massive public demonstrations in Scotland and things would start to spiral. There is zero chance that a U.K. government is going to deploy the military in any truly aggressive way against Scot civilians. The objection that the SNP do not have the authority to hold a referendum doesn't really matter if they simply hold "a vote." There is nothing in law or precedent that prevents them from doing so.

One of the problems for Boris is that regardless how "non-binding" any such vote/referendum may be, if he leaves it to the SNP to control the whole process, from what exactly will be the question to what kinds of terms are set out for the people to consider, then he risks losing much more than if he had participated and owned responsibility for the process. And then the U.K. would be into a kind of interminable Scexit because the fine details that would need to be disentangled make exiting the relationship with the EU look like a walk in the park.

So the short answer is if 80% of Scots vote SNP and then 80% of Scots vote for independence in a non-binding referendum run by the SNP, then the deed will be done. As a Canadian with experience with ardent Separatists like the SNP, I can assure you that their word is never any good when it comes to promising never to hold another referendum or even not to hold another one before some particular distant date. History is that Separatists always lie and they will always repeatedly hold referenda whenever they can get away with it, which means until their own people get fed up and turn them out of office. If the people keep electing them you should expect to keep seeing referenda.

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  • Excellent answer in many ways, but how does your first paragraph square with the example of Catalan and Basque separatism in Spain (which has had strong and often majority/plurality support in those regions for decades)? Of course, you could argue that Spain is to some extent an authoritarian power in those regions; but that’s then a sufficiently weak sense of “authoritarian” that it’s just semantics, not an argument that the UK wouldn’t act the same way with Scotland. – Peter LeFanu Lumsdaine Dec 31 '20 at 12:50
  • The Constitution is a reserved subject so any referendum needs Westminster approval. Any unofficial referendum will not produce an "unmistakable" result as it will likely be boycotted by Unionists. The results would likely end up similar to Catalonia. – Alan Dev Jan 2 at 16:10

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