Quintin Oliver: Scottish referendum call comes at worst time for May
AN expert on referendums has said Nicola Sturgeon's call for a new vote on Scottish independence comes at the worst time for the British government.
Quintin Oliver said prime minister Theresa May will be keen to avoid a poll on the future of the union in late 2018 or early 2019.
Mr Oliver runs Stratagem International, a Belfast-based consultancy firm, and led the ‘Yes' campaign for the 1998 Good Friday Agreement referendum.
He was also involved in the ‘Better Together' campaign urging a vote against Scottish independence in 2014.
Mr Oliver said the suggestion of another poll in late 2018 or early 2019 would be very difficult for the British government.
“They will be tied up in Brexit negotiations and discussions as to whether to have a quick UK election,” he said.
“This is the worst timing for the British government, to have its Scottish flank exposed.
“Their instincts will be to try and resist it.”
Mr Oliver said Ms Sturgeon has succeeded in building up support for the referendum in the Scottish parliament but will also be anxious about moving too early.
He said in normal circumstances those who push for a referendum “should be 20 points ahead before you go into the campaign”.
“She will be worried about going to early because the polls are still stubbornly below 50 per cent."
The conflict resolution specialist added that a key difference between any future referendum and the first one is that clarity now exists around major issues, including a drop in the price of oil, the need for a new Scottish currency and the impact a “hard border” would have on “trade and the movement of people”.