Commentary: Derek Bateman reacts to Nicola Sturgeon’s confirmation that she will press for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Poor Theresa sure misjudged this one. The scoffs that Sturgeon was bluffing look limp and laughable now, no doubt based partly on the murmurings of her Scottish outpost where Foghorn Ruth has been bellowing No Surrender.
So used are we to asserting the arrogance of Westminster that it hardly registers today but here it has been on display with a vengeance. Sturgeon cleverly did not threaten independence, rather she accepted the UK vote but wanted Scotland’s separate decision respected.
Would it have hurt May too much to have made it known she had investigated with Brussels the possibility of such a deal on separate membership of the Single Mafrket – only to be told it was proving difficult?
Did she openly debate the UK remaining in the European Economic Area where a Norway option might have been used to assuage Scottish opinion?
Could she have brought herself so low as to meet Sturgeon to propose a joint responsibility for ag and fish after Brexit?
Has she given any iota of respect to anyone except the madcap Brexiteers by wilfully bypassing parliament and ignoring the 48 per cent? In a pale impersonation of Thatcher she has stamped her foot. No! No! No!
She cut Sturgeon, and therefore Scotland, out of the thinking and decision-making process so that the First Minister spoke unaware if May was about to make an Article 50 declaration. Such is our place in the Union. So much for 50 MPs. So much for devolved government. So much for respect. A real politician would not make these basic errors. The saddest part of this story is the use of the phrase…’she will ask permission to hold a referendum…’ That is the Union is miniature. Somebody else will decide if we have the right to vote on our European future – us, Scotland, one of the ancient nations of Europe, in supplicant mode to people who do little more than spit metaphorically at our feet.
May has in fact provoked a reaction by her intransigence, goading her opponent into the nuclear option which was spelled out all along in her manifesto. Tory moans now, led by Davidson, that the promise of indyref2 does not stand up because the SNP lost a majority of seats is cackhanded democracy. The SNP won the election. Decisively. Davidson did not.
She is in a poor position to complain about division. Nothing has divided Britain like her party’s suicidal dalliance with xenophobia and narrow nationalism. There is no division greater than removing ourselves from the world’s biggest international power sharing bloc and richest market place.
Sturgeon has done a rare thing – acted like a leader. She has been clear, consistent and committed. She has also retaliated against a two-faced opponent who offered blandishments but reneged when it mattered. Now May will, as I wrote last week, enter the Brexit talks with a broken pencil and carrying someone else’s notes. She no longer commands all she surveys and will be a more shrunken figure viewed from the other side of the negotiating table.
The strength of the economy and the trade balance shows the UK’s muscle, she will aver. Not without the oil and the whisky exports, she will be reminded. Renewable energy sources but not Scotland’s, Prime Minister…etc. All the way through the irritating adjustments will have to be made for the possibility of Scotland’s departure from one union and remaining in another.
Her job just got a lot more complex and the fact is she’s already at sea and listing in favour of the anti-EU ideologues who’d rather play with Trump than Brussels. She lost what control she had today to a smarter politician. It was a mistake not to engage Sturgeon and try to enlist her in the process however tangentially to appear at least to be keeping her on side for as long as possible. Instead of reading it as a Sturgeon bluff, she needed to realise the impossible position Sturgeon is in, given her manifesto commitment, and try to help her out in order to rescue the Union.
May’s lack of trust in her equals and her unhealthy abhorrence of parliament are creating a figure of Shakespearean tragedy. As the cost of Brexit unravels before us, today’s sudden thrust of the dagger will be the first of many.