Scottish independence

Boris Johnson’s Scotland problem

A few months ago, Tory aides spotted a suspicious pattern. If they agreed on a new Covid policy to be announced in a week, Keir Starmer would get wind of it and demand it was implemented immediately. In No. 10, two conclusions were drawn: that they had a mole (perhaps on Sage) and that the Labour party’s policy was to try to look prescient. The conclusion? Ignore it. In such times, they reasoned, no one cares about Westminster games. But it’s a different matter when it comes to being upstaged by Nicola Sturgeon. To many Tories, she is the real opposition leader these days. If Boris Johnson’s premiership collapses —

Letters: Solidarity is the best thing for Scotland

SNP sophistry Sir: Andrew Wilson (‘Scot free’, 21 November) poses the question: ‘What if the case for independence was a highly sophisticated position?’ If only. For the SNP position is one of sophistry rather than sophistication. Wilson states that Scottish voters want Scotland to return to Europe. He also states that an independent Scotland would retain sterling, but does not mention the two policies are incompatible. It would be impossible for an independent Scotland to join the EU using sterling. Wilson declares that staying in the Union is riskier than independence, but we should all reflect on the words of Ronald MacDonald, Adam Smith Professor of Economics at Glasgow University,

More devolution in England could save the Union

Tory MPs are already starting to talk about May’s various elections. Boris Johnson’s first post-Covid electoral test will take place on 6 May and will show the durability — or otherwise — of his 2019 electoral coalition now that Brexit is ‘done’ and Jeremy Corbyn is gone. Can the Tories hold on to the much-prized Teesside and West Midlands mayoralties? If the answer is yes, the party will feel it can face the future with confidence. If not, it will start to panic. But the most significant result of the night will be the most predictable one: a Scottish National party victory in Holyrood. The SNP is currently polling comfortably,

Scotland can’t afford to remain part of the Union

Tony Blair’s biggest achievement was delivering a referendum that unified Scotland behind devolution and gave all parties a stake in its success. Boris Johnson is wrong to say it was ‘a disaster’, but in being wrong is helping precipitate the logical next step: independence. The opinion polls that show a growing majority for Scottish independence will mystify those who believe the lazy, metropolitan idea that independence is an emotional fantasy — all Braveheart, Bannockburn and bagpipes. How, they ask, could a band of Caledonian romantics ever convince the canny Scots to opt for such a thing? But what if the case for independence was a highly sophisticated position advocated by

Devolutionary theory: How Westminster is killing the Union

Robert Conquest’s third law (which may not have been his third law) says that the behaviour of any bureaucratic organisation is most easily explained if one assumes it has been captured by enemy secret agents. This maxim often comes to mind when I read about the UK government’s latest wheeze to ‘save the Union’. Ministers’ new ideas are invariably the same idea they’ve been having for a decade now: devolution has failed, let’s have more of it. The Tories have already transferred more powers to Holyrood twice, in 2012 and 2016, and both times we were assured that doing so would subdue the separatists. And that was the last we heard

To save the Union, negotiate Scotland’s independence

The first cabinet meeting of the new term and Boris Johnson’s summer holiday were both dominated by one concern: how to turn the tide on Scottish nationalism. Johnson’s foray into the Highlands was intended to demonstrate his own personal commitment to the Union; it also allowed him to find out for himself how awful mobile phone coverage is in much of rural Scotland. The cabinet on Tuesday discussed how to stop the Scottish National party turning the legislation that will underpin the UK’s post-Brexit internal market into their latest argument for independence. The Prime Minister is confident about his chances of knocking back the Nationalists. The decision of the Scottish

Scexit has become a matter of faith, not fact

There is a satirical flowchart that sums up Scottish nationalism better than a thousand articles. It begins with the question: ‘Did Scotland do good?’ The chart branches off to the left for ‘Yes’ and the right for ‘No’. Answer ‘Yes’ and you are led to the outcome ‘proof that Scotland doesn’t need the UK’. Answer ‘No’ and you are assured it is ‘proof that the UK is holding Scotland’ back. Both branches then lead to the same end: ‘Independence’. Andrew Wilson is a walking, talking, but above all, believing version of this flowchart. In fact, it should be christened the ‘Wilson Diagram of Infinite Nationalism’. All that is good in

Here’s Nicola: can Boris Johnson stop Scottish independence?

Boris Johnson is far from being the first prime minister to holiday in Scotland. David Cameron used to slip off the radar at his father-in-law’s estate on the Isle of Jura, and plenty of other Conservative premiers have enjoyed a Scottish August on the grouse moor. But Johnson may be the first to holiday north of the Tweed as a matter of political calculation and convenience. He comes to Scotland to show his commitment to what he calls the ‘magic’ of the Union. About time too. At last — at long last, Scottish Unionists might say — the cabinet has recognised it has a problem in North Britain. Indeed, the

Alex Salmond will have his revenge

Alex Salmond has been cleared of sexual assault following a trial at the High Court in Edinburgh. The jury returned this afternoon and found the former First Minister not guilty of 12 charges and resorted to Scotland’s special not proven verdict on a 13th allegation. Salmond’s twin defences were that the claims against him were ‘exaggerations’ (he wasn’t perfect but he had never done anything criminal) or ‘deliberate fabrications for a political purpose’ (he was the victim of a conspiracy). In private, much of the Scottish political and media class already had him hanged, drawn and quartered and so this verdict is being met with a mixture of shock, horror

Auditions for Sturgeon’s replacement are already taking place

Nicola Sturgeon has told Andrew Marr: ‘I do intend to lead my party into the next Scottish Parliament election and hopefully win that and stay as First Minister.’ What’s this all about, then? Didn’t she just record a stonking General Election victory north of the border? Yes, she did. Isn’t polling support for the SNP at levels that would impress even Kim Jong-un? Not quite, but not far off. The SNP leader finds herself in an unusual position. Electorally, she is her party’s most successful leader – winning three Westminster elections in a row and a third term in office at Holyrood. But Scottish Nationalists didn’t become Scottish Nationalists to

Can anyone stop the SNP’s drive for independence?

Nicola Sturgeon’s reshuffle of her Westminster team is more than a post-election shake-up of the Nationalist front bench. For one thing, it represents a shift to the next generation. Mhairi Black (25), who became something of a political superstar upon her election in 2015, has been promoted to Scotland spokeswoman; freshly elected Stephen Flynn (31) is suddenly shadowing the chief secretary to the Treasury; David Linden (29) will head up housing and local government policy; and Amy Callaghan, the 27-year-old who unseated Jo Swinson in East Dunbartonshire, will lead on pensions. The SNP has a wealth of talent coming up and is giving them their first step on the ladder.

Boris Johnson promises to ‘unite and level up’ the UK. Can he really achieve that?

Boris Johnson’s victory speech in Downing Street was aimed at the voters unsure about his government, whether they be the voters who backed his party for the first time, or Remainers who didn’t vote Tory. In an acknowledgement of how difficult it will have been for many traditionally Labour voters to turn away from their party, he said: ‘To all those who voted for us, for the first time, all those whose pencils may have wavered over the ballot and who heard the voices of their parents and grandparents whispering anxiously in their ears, I say thank you for the trust you have placed in us and in me and

Nicola Sturgeon’s threat of Indyref2 could save the Scottish Tories

In the village of Waterfoot on the outskirts of Glasgow, a lady in her thirties is explaining to her local Conservative MP, Paul Masterton, why he has her vote. It can’t exactly be described as complimentary. ‘We were talking about this the other night. Corbyn’s an absolute clown and Nicola’s just horrific so… I don’t want to say the best of a bad bunch…’ Masterton chips in before things get awkward: ‘Don’t worry. I’ve heard lots of phrases said on the door. “Best of a bad bunch” would be acceptable.’ His seat, East Renfrewshire, was a Scottish Tory stronghold before the party’s 1997 wipeout. When Boris Johnson called the general

The real reason Nicola Sturgeon is campaigning against Brexit

Nicola Sturgeon, who claimed this week that ‘Scotland is rich enough, strong enough and big enough’ to take its place ‘among the proud, independent nations of the world’, is a slippery fish. She claims the case for Scottish independence will be strengthened by the UK’s departure from the European Union and yet she campaigned for Remain during the referendum and has done what she can to obstruct Brexit since. For instance, the 35 SNP MPs voted against Theresa May’s withdrawal bill three times. If they’d voted for it on the third occasion, it would have passed. Does Sturgeon feel obliged to oppose Brexit because she’s convinced it will eventually happen

Nicola Sturgeon’s play for time

Nicola Sturgeon is a reader and, to judge by the statement she has just made to the Scottish parliament on the implications of Brexit for Scotland’s future, the book she’s been reading lately is ‘The Gentle Art of Letting People Down Gently’. The people being, in this instance, the SNP members preparing to attend the party’s conference in Edinburgh this weekend. Of course many headlines will focus on her suggestion that Scotland should, given the wreckage of Brexit and the manner in which Scotland still faces being withdrawn from the EU against its will, enjoy a new referendum on independence before the next Holyrood elections in 2021. That is a

Scotland’s luvvies are coming unstuck over their bid for the Channel 4 HQ

Those who worry that Channel 4 has become risk-averse might be fretting needlessly. The broadcaster has shortlisted Glasgow as a location for its new headquarters. Currently, C4 has only 30 staff based outside London and hopes shifting its HQ to the regions, along with two other ‘hubs’, will help it better reflect that narrow slice of the country beyond SW1. In shortlisting Glasgow, Channel 4 has decided either that there will be no second independence referendum any time soon – which is bold – or that any such re-run would not be commercially disruptive – bolder still. Independence is the elephant in the room of Glasgow’s bid, a project spearheaded by SNP-run Glasgow City

Scotland’s vast deficit gives nationalists another dose of reality

Happy GERS day everyone! For the uninitiated, the publication of the Government Expenditure and Revenue Scotland figures has become one of Scotland’s most-cherished annual political bunfights. It is a kind of Caledonian Festivus, during which certain rites must be observed. Some people enjoy the Festivus Miracles, others relish the Festivus Feats of Strength and magical thinking but everyone agrees that the true meaning of Festivus – and GERS – is only truly made apparent during the traditional and joyous Airing of Grievances. Today, happily, will be no exception. the latest GERS figures show some improvement in Scotland’s financial position. The deficit run by Scotland last year only amounted to £13.3

The battle for Scottish independence is far from over

It is August and, except in Washington and Pyongyang, the square root of heehaw is happening. This poses certain difficulties for the residents of Grub Street. Desperate times call for desperate measures and if that means burning your hot take then so be it.  Hence the recent proliferation of articles claiming that Scottish nationalism is on the brink of extinction, undone by internecine feuding and subject to the implacable laws of diminishing returns. Well, there is just enough truth in this for it to be a vaguely tenable proposition: the SNP did endure a terrible election result in June (even though they remain the most popular party in Scotland) and

How not to handle an independence referendum

If David Cameron seeks any testament to his handling of Britain’s difficulties with Scottish separatism, the mess that Spain is making of a very comparable demand from Catalan separatists could stand as grisly evidence of how not to do it. The government of Catalonia in Barcelona has defied Madrid by announcing an October referendum on independence. The Spanish government calls the referendum illegal and threatens to suspend Catalonia’s autonomous administration should it go ahead, if necessary by force. ‘Send in the tanks’ is the shorthand for Madrid’s apparent threat, and somebody is going to have to climb down or the prospects are dire. Within Catalonia, the polls consistently point to

Moving on | 30 March 2017

Most people are glad to see the end of a referendum campaign, but the losing side always wants to keep going. Nicola Sturgeon has this week demanded a second vote on independence, in defiance of public opinion. And as Brexit talks begin, the country is still divided, with many people wishing to see the negotiations break down and the referendum result be overturned. The Prime Minister will need to fight these two battles in different ways. In Scotland, she must take care not to fall into the nationalists’ traps. Ms Sturgeon ran for office promising not to call a second referendum unless it was ‘clear’ that a ‘majority of people