What’s a year or two between friends? Quite a lot, it seems – and even longer between sworn political enemies. Theresa May got her own back on the first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon by refusing her request for a second independence referendum before Brexit negotiations are complete. That position sounds kinda reasonable – until you think it through.
By the time Brexit is signed, sealed and delivered, Scotland will be outside Europe having to fight its way back in. That’s not what 62% of Scots wanted when they voted to remain in June 2016.
Now though it clearly wouldn’t matter if continuing EU membership got 100% backing north of the border. The Scottish parliament – touted by Westminster as the most powerfully devolved in the world – must still meekly ask permission for a second referendum from a prime minister whose party has fewer MPs in Scotland than there are pandas in Edinburgh zoo.
Only in centralised Britain could that seem like anything but a democratic nonsense. It’s clear the prime minister has roundly and contemptuously rejected every attempt by the Scottish government to achieve a differentiated settlement within the UK. Nicola Sturgeon delivered an options papers in December and has yet to receive the courtesy of a formal reply. So it was predictable the Scottish first minister would finally break ranks and decide she and Holyrood had been snubbed one time too many – and equally predictable that this prime minister would play hardball and throw Sturgeon’s request straight back in her face.
So who will blink first? And whose suggested timing makes most sense? The Scottish first minister wants another referendum on independence between autumn 2018 and spring 2019 in the belief that if Scots vote yes before the end of Brexit negotiations, Scotland could remain in the EU and avoid most of the great reform bill chaos…