Once again, the question of Scottish independence dominates the news. Sturgeon has demanded a referendum in 18 months’ time so the people of Scotland have a chance to leave the UK before Brexit. May, predictably, has rejected this demand, and it seems that both the unionists and nationalists are preparing for battle.
However, May has made a crucial error, she has fallen for the First Minister’s trap.
Sturgeon would have known that the Prime Minister would reject a second referendum, but by pushing for it as the most inconvenient time, the SNP will make it look like Westminster is blocking the will of the Scottish Parliament. This will help build momentum for the nationalists when the referendum does take place after Brexit.
The truth of the matter is that the First Minister is in an equally awkward position as the Prime Minister. Having pledged in their manifesto to hold a second referendum should Britain leave the EU, the SNP are now forced to push for one in this parliament. However, public opinion is still not with the nationalists, and a second defeat could take the issue off of the political agenda for a significant period of time.
Therefore, the SNP have a problem, how do they generate momentum when the prospect of Brexit has not been enough?
It is here that the timing of the second referendum comes in. In a politically brilliant manoeuvre, the SNP have backed the Prime Minister into a corner. By stating that ‘now is not the time’ for another referendum May has essentially ensured that there will be another vote. This plays perfectly into the nationalist narrative of Westminster ignoring the will of the Scottish people. Would this be enough to give the nationalists the extra votes they need? Time may give us an answer.
So, what does the Prime Minister do now? May should use the nuclear option and accept the SNPs time schedule. While this may cause a backbench revolt with Labour and now forced SNP support the Prime Minister would survive comfortably.
This would turn the tables on the First Minister who would then be very likely to lose the referendum. Furthermore, to complete the political turnaround the Prime Minister should announce that while she will grant the referendum, it will have to be the last one of a generation. This would effectively destroy Sturgeons credibility in her Party and indeed damage the nationalist position for decades. With tension this high and the SNP making all of the moves, it is time for our Prime Minister to exploit the unexpected chink in the nationalist’s armor and fight what will be the decisive battle of the war of independence sooner rather than later.
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