Serious PM-FM negotiations will have to happen eventually
Theresa May heads to Scotland today for the last time before triggering Article 50 on Wednesday.
Her trip will centre on a difficult meeting with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon. Gone will be the smiles and handshakes that marked their first meeting just after May become Prime Minister, with her talk of wanting the Scottish Government ‘fully engaged’ in discussions over Brexit. On that occassion, the prime minister assured Sturgeon:
“I won’t be triggering Article 50 until I think that we have a UK approach and objectives for negotiations – I think it is important that we establish that before we trigger Article 50.”
Less than a year later, and that commitment lies in tatters. In her quest to placate the hard Brexiteers in her party, spurred by the lack of any effective opposition form the Labour Party, Theresa May’s commitment to striking a UK wide consensus lies in tatters.
Reports suggest that officially there will be no discussions today between the PM and first minister over a potential second independence referendum for Scotland, perhaps just as well given that they would be a waste of time given how entrenched both sides are. But they cannot put the difficult talks off indefinitely. At some point, one of the two leaders meeting today will need to blink first. The question is who? Whose resolve is stronger?
The meeting comes as a new BMG poll for the Herald newspaper shows growing support for Scotland remaining in the UK among older voters.
It finds that 66 per cent of over-65s are opposed independence, with 27 per cent in favour, six per cent who did not know and one per cent who preferred not to say. The results mean that those who expressed a view were in favour of the Union by 71 per cent to 29 per cent.
In the i newspaper meanwhile, the man who headed the Yes campaign in the 2014 independence referendum has called for a rethink about the economic case for Scotland going it alone. In his article, Blair Jenkins, Chief Executive of the Yes campaign argues that ‘the economic case that was presented for Scottish independence made it all sound a bit too easy’. Looking ahead for a potential second vote he continues:
“This time, as Nicola Sturgeon has signalled, there has to be more of an acknowledgement of the challenges and choices that we will face if we vote Yes, alongside a clear-headed examination of the damaging consequences of voting No. This time both options involve major change and there will be no risk-free choice on the ballot paper.
“A positive but realistic plan for economic growth under independence can be contrasted favourably with the certain losses and genuine dangers of Brexit.”
Ed Jacobs is a contributing editor at Left Foot Forward
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