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By Jason Michael
The rumour mill is turning in Edinburgh, and however much we would not like to put too much stock in gossip we know that Scotland has been backed into a corner. It is altogether likely that a referendum will have to be called sooner rather than later.
Nicola Sturgeon’s Scottish government has run clean out of options. A hard Brexit from the European Union is the only show in town, and in spite of the sensible alternatives offered to Downing Street by the First Minister the ball is now rolling. EU citizens in the United Kingdom will not be protected, the terms of the Good Friday Agreement in Northern Ireland will not be respected, and the House of Lords has been warned that it faces being abolished if it stands in the way of May’s hasty schedule for triggering Article 50. Scotland has waited for a response from the British government, but it is now clear that whatever form that response now takes its content is now academic.
The Brexit White Paper is finally here but with no substantive response to the Scottish Government’s proposals. gov.uk/government/upl…—
Alyn Smith MEP (@AlynSmithMEP) February 02, 2017
Rumours and speculation are now flying around Holyrood – in both camps – that Sturgeon is on the verge of calling another Scottish independence referendum, the last option now available to her to safeguard the decision made by Scottish voters in June last year. It has always been the Scottish government’s position that the UK choosing to exit the EU against the will of the Scottish people would constitute a material change of circumstances; that the UK Scotland voted not to leave in 2014 would no longer exist. That has now happened and none of Nicola Sturgeon’s proposals have been taken seriously by Theresa May.
In the immediate aftermath of the June referendum result Sturgeon did say, much to the consternation of those most eager for independence, that independence was not her starting point regarding her approach to Downing Street. She said that as First Minister her starting point would be defending the interests of Scotland. That it is now certain that there will be no Scots representation in the Article 50 negotiations, that the consent of the Scottish parliament will not be sought, and that there will be no special deal for Scotland, defending Scotland’s interests boils down to one thing – calling another independence referendum and winning it.
At the moment these are only rumours, but any reasoned analysis of the Scottish position must also conclude that this course is inevitable if Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP in government are to retain any credibility. Theresa May and the British government have been playing a tactical game; comprehensively ignoring Scotland’s proposals while limiting its options, in a sense smoking out or forcing a premature call for another referendum. This strategy, however, is as likely to backfire on London as it is to succeed. Scots – both Yes and No voters from 2014 – do not want to leave Europe and another vote on this issue will force Scotland to make a final decision on the question of what union it wants to be in. Rumour it may be, but it is not unlikely that within the next two weeks we will know.
Alex Salmond slams caller who calls Scottish independence “treacherous”