If Sturgeon bids for Scottish independence, Theresa May only has herself to blame

How can Brexiters deny 'the will of the Scottish people'?


The farcical and chaotic stumble towards Brexit over the last year has, in hindsight, held very few surprises, with the roots of where we are now planted very publicly in the days after the EU referendum.

The Tory Party fell apart straight away, with Prime Minister David Cameron abandoning his post and breaking his promises, leaving the country to clean up his mess.

His colleagues turned on each other, until the most cynical and opportunistic among them emerged to lead a voyage she knew was doomed. (Better to rule in hell than serve in heaven, I suppose.)

The opposition split rather quickly, with the Liberal Democrats staking out their quixotic position of defiant Europhilia, while Jeremy Corbyn called for Article 50 to be triggered post haste, to the horror of many in the Labour Party.

A leadership contest later, the official opposition party had agreed to push for a ‘Left Brexit’ to win back working class voters – a course which chimed with Corbyn’s pre-leadership Euroscepticism.

Nicola Sturgeon, as I wrote at the time, was the only politician who really knew where she stood. The First Minister of Scotland made it very clear that a good majority of her constituents had voted to stay in the EU, and being dragged out would justify a second vote on Scottish independence.

Less than a year later, Sturgeon is poised to give an ‘important speech’ on the eve of the Brexit Bill clearing parliament. If, as is widely expected, this means a renewed bid for Scotland seceding from the UK, no-one can say they were not warned.

Theresa May’s government has promised to engage seriously with the concerns of the devolved administrations, who might have been placated by some repatriation of powers from Westminster.

Instead, the government has strung their colleagues along, providing no information or guarantees, and expecting the same compliance they received in parliament.

(Recall that it was not Labour or the Lib Dems who took the government to court over May’s attempts to bypass the votes and debates she now holds up as a mandate for her plans. That was left to private citizens, who faced death threats from the public and a sneer campaign by the national press.)

If the settlement voters in Scotland elected to remain part of in 2014 changes in a substantial way – not being in the EU, for example, or a different cadre in power in Westminster – one can hardly be surprised that the Scottish National Party should demand another vote.

And how could the British government deny the people of Scotland this right when they take as their mandate for everything the vote of ‘the people’ last June?

It could be argued that it’s precisely when the chips are down that Scotland should stay and fight in solidarity with the people of England, Wales and Northern Ireland against this Brexiteer government. But that’s quite a lot to ask, and supposes more of a ‘fightback’ in Britain than can easily be detected.

And given Theresa May’s openly nationalist position on everything from Donald Trump to EU nationals to refugee children, her ‘hand’ (to use the Brexiteer parlance) is pretty weak. If the Prime Minister can say her first priority is the welfare of British citizens, how can she condemn the SNP for saying the same for Scotland?

Whatever Sturgeon says today, and whatever you read about it afterwards, this is a crisis made in Westminster, by a Prime Minister who was billed as a ‘safe pair of hands’.

Adam Barnett is staff writer for Left Foot Forward. Follow him on Twitter @AdamBarnett13 

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