Scottish independence

Andrew ‘Calamity’ Cooper – the man who blew Remain – in talks to take on Scotland project

Scottish nationalists may want to get the champagne at the ready. Word reaches Steerpike that Andrew ‘Calamity’ Cooper – the serial bungler whose last project was the EU Remain campaign – is being sounded out to lend his expertise to Scots trying to save the union. The SNP want a referendum within two years; Theresa May has said ‘not yet’ but plans are being made by unionists. Unsurprisingly, Cooper has been at a bit of a loose end since the EU campaign. A campaign is currently being set up in preparation of a second independence referendum — with the working title ‘New Direction’. It’s thought that Populus, Cooper’s firm, is the frontrunner to be

The Spectator podcast: Sturgeon’s second stab

On this week’s episode we question whether Nicola Sturgeon might be tempted by a second independence referendum, consider the increasingly frosty relations between the USA and Russia, and ask whether city dogs are a menace to sheep. First, Theresa May was in Scotland this week for meetings with Nicola Sturgeon ahead of Scottish Tory conference. Thanks to Brexit, the Scots appear to have another opportunity to try and go it alone, but with support for independence still routinely polling below 50 per cent, will she pull the trigger? Alex Massie joins the podcast to discuss the subject which he wrote his cover piece on, saying: “Britishness still matters to many Scots — but for

Alex Massie

Back into battle

On 24 June last year, in the Georgian splendour of her official residence in Edinburgh’s Charlotte Square, Scotland’s First Minister offered her reaction to Britain’s decision to leave the European Union. Since Scottish voters endorsed Remain, it was now, Nicola Sturgeon said, ‘highly likely’ there would be another referendum on Scottish independence. Since then that promise — one viewed with dread by the two million Scots who voted to preserve the Union in 2014 — has been variously ‘on the table’, ‘more likely’ than ever and even ‘all but inevitable’. The clock is ticking. Later this month, Sturgeon will address her party’s annual conference. She is expected to outline the

Nicola Sturgeon’s Brexit plan is flawed

There is a smart, hi-tech media room in the Scottish government building which overlooks Holyrood – but it has been all but abandoned since Nicola Sturgeon took over. That’s because Scotland’s First Minister prefers Bute House, her official residence in Charlotte Square, for announcements that have a chance of attracting a decent TV audience. She knows the Georgian grandeur makes her look authoritative – even presidential – and there she was again this morning when she unveiled her plans for a separate Scottish Brexit deal. It was no surprise that she was flanked – yet again – by just the Scottish saltire and the European flag. The Union flag was nowhere to be

Letters | 3 November 2016

An MP’s first duty Sir: Toby Young writes (Status anxiety, 29 October) that Zac Goldsmith’s decision to campaign for Leave in the referendum was an example of his integrity, because ‘anything else would have been a betrayal of his long-standing Eurosceptism as well as his father’s memory’. Goldsmith’s loyalty should have been to his constituents, not his deceased father. Ian Payn London SW6 Standing or sitting Sir: Can I suggest that a sitting MP who resigns their seat in the middle of a Parliament is prohibited from standing in the subsequent by-election? As a taxpayer, I resent having to pay the bill for multimillionaire Zac Goldsmith’s self-indulgent posturing. Dr Louis Savage Cheltenham,

Free speech and the right not to bake a cake

Let us consider the case of the Ashers family bakery in Belfast which, in 2014, refused to make a cake. Or as some would have it, a ‘gay cake’, although that’s obviously ridiculous because all cakes are quite gay. This one, though, was requested by Gareth Lee, a local gay rights activist, who wanted it to have a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street on it, under the slogan ‘SUPPORT GAY MARRIAGE’, as the centrepiece of an event organised to do just that. On the basis that they were devout Christians, however, the family running this family bakery refused. And so, sore affronted, Lee sued. Really, if anybody

Nicola Sturgeon is caught in an independence referendum fix

Nicola Sturgeon is in a bit of a fix. After saying that the Scottish independence referendum was a once-in-a-generation event she is calling for a second one just two years after the first. But polls show Scots have no appetite for this vote. Unlike the SNP activist base, which is itching for another fight – and there have even been signs of a Momentum-style infiltration of the SNP, raising the prospect of a split in a party whose strength has (hitherto) been in its discipline. So what’s the First Minister to do? Her answer, in the SNP conference, is to assuage the activists and publish a new referendum bill. Her

Nicola Sturgeon’s cherished Brexit grievance rears its head

Politics is a question of priorities. Push always comes to shove and that’s when you discover what a party really thinks is important. We’ve seen this repeatedly this year. The Labour party, for instance, has decided power is for other people. And the Conservative party has decided that leaving the European Union is something worth risking the Union for. If we have to break-up the United Kingdom to save the United Kingdom, then so be it. A price worth paying, you know. But don’t pretend you weren’t warned about this. Because you were. Repeatedly. There’s a reason, you know, why Ruth Davidson and most of her Holyrood colleagues campaigned for

Another poll shows that Brexit hasn’t changed Scottish appetite for independence

Throughout the EU referendum campaign, we heard that Brexit would not only sink the UK economy but destroy the Union because Scots were likely to vote Remain. In the event there was a difference at the polls—38 per cent of Scots voted for Brexit, vs 52 per cent in the UK as a whole—but was it enough to destroy, or even threaten, the Union? Polls in the immediate aftermath showed an uptick for support for Scottish separation which has since ebbed away. Kantar TNS has today published a poll showing that 53 per cent of Scots are against independence, which confirms the YouGov poll taken at the end of August showing 54

Where has all the money gone, Nicola Sturgeon?

Just three years ago, the Scottish government enjoyed claiming that an independent Scotland would be one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Perhaps even the sixth wealthiest, as measured by GDP per capita. Sometimes the claims made were a little more modest. Scotland might be only the 14th richest country on earth. But, however the figures were calculated and wherever Scotland was presumed to rank, one thing remained consistent: Scotland would be richer than the United Kingdom it would be leaving behind. Well, you can’t make that case any longer. In truth, it wasn’t a case sensible people bought in the first place. It was too good to be true,

The UK that Scotland voted to remain within ‘doesn’t exist anymore’

The First Minister gave an interview on Scotland’s position in the UK after Brexit on the Andrew Marr Show this morning. Here’s what she said: Andrew Marr: Can I ask first of all, is it your priority to have a negotiation as Scotland with Brussels to allow Scotland to more or less seamlessly stay inside the EU? Nicola Sturgeon: My short answer to that is yes, but let me perhaps expand on the position that I find myself in. Marr: Please do. Sturgeon: You know, the first thing I should say is that I didn’t want to be in this position this weekend. I hoped very much and campaigned to

If Scotland had gone independent today, it would be facing sado-austerity

Today is Independence Day, the 24 March, the day Alex Salmond nominated as his ‘independence day’ following a Yes vote. Today’s edition of The National, the newspaper dedicated to the cause of Scottish independence, imagines what might have been. But one rather important story is missing. Yesterday, the Institute for Fiscal Studies updated its forecasts on what an independent Scotland would look like. The result: it’d have the worst deficit in the developed world (see graphic, below). In his official forecasts Alex Salmond envisaged raising up to £7.5 billion of oil revenue. This was before the oil price plunge. Last weeks’ Budget revealed the actual amount: zero. (The graph, below, shows the

The Age of Nicola: Sturgeon maps out the road to independence

The problem with Nicola Sturgeon is that she is, by the standards of contemporary politics, unusually straightforward. There is little artifice and even less deceit about Scotland’s First Minister. What you see is what you get; what she says is what she mostly means. That is, even when she’s sidling past the truth it’s clear what she really means. And so, there it was, out in the open at last: a clear confirmation that Jeremy Corbyn and his Labour party are Nicola Sturgeon’s useful idiots. Sure, there may not be any need for another referendum on independence before 2020 – not least because, as matters stand, that referendum might, like

Nicola Sturgeon explains how a second independence referendum could be ‘unstoppable’

Nicola Sturgeon has a plan about how to achieve another independence referendum, even if there won’t be a pledge for one in the SNP’s next manifesto. On the Today programme, Sturgeon pointed the finger at the Tories in Westminster — the bogeymen she believes will help the nationalists make the case for independence: ‘I think we do what we have done over a period of years: we continue to make the argument for the economic and social and political case for Scotland to be independent country and I believe very strongly the onus is on those who support independence to do that. I also though happen to think that there will be things our opponents

Ukip MEP on dangers of an independent Scotland: we’ll end up living in caves, eating cold porridge

This morning Nicola Sturgeon said in an interview on the Andrew Marr Show that a second referendum on Scottish independence is now ‘inevitable’: ‘I’ve always believed and I still believe today that Scotland will become independent and it will become independent in my lifetime.’ While many unionists were quick to point out that Sturgeon had said that the last referendum was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, David Coburn opted to take a different tack when it came to voicing his opposition to that ‘awful strident woman’: Saw that awful strident woman on Marr today talking about a second spearation referendum which she can't produce SNP total Fail — David Coburn (@coburn4ukunion) October 11, 2015 The Ukip

Do English Tories care more about the EU than the UK?

This morning Ruth Davidson, leader of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party, outlined the extent to which she agrees with Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the Scottish National Party. Both wish Scotland, and indeed the United Kingdom, to remain a member of the European Union. It is true, as Ms Davidson noted, that the SNP oppose even holding a referendum on the terms of British membership but it is also the case that, at least notionally, each wish, or are on record as desiring, a broadly comparable set of EU-wide reforms. Now, as Mark Wallace rightly observes, Davidson’s case for continued EU membership is a purely practical one. The emotional and

Is Labour still a Unionist party?

The answer to this question, it turns out, comes from Kenny Dalglish. The answer is mebbys aye, mebbys naw. At the weekend the Scottish party’s former leader suggested Labour should have (some kind of) ‘free vote’ in the event of there being another independence referendum. Kezia Dugdale, the latest occupant of this poisoned throne, conceded Labour MSPs should, if there is another referendum, be free to campaign for independence if that’s where their heart lies. Now, in one respect this makes sense. Labour are in a hopeless position in Scotland right now. Moreover, the party cannot recover unless it wins votes from erstwhile supporters who have crossed the constitutional aisle to support the

Unionism’s referendum triumph has proved as bitter as it has been short-lived

Nicola Sturgeon got one thing right this morning. A year on from the independence referendum, Scotland’s First Minister allowed that the plebiscite “invited us, individually and collectively, to imagine the kind of country we wanted to live in”. The answer, you may be surprised to be reminded, was Britain. Surprised, because it has since become commonplace to observe that the losers have become winners and the winners losers. Scotland, everyone agrees, is a changed place even though (almost) everyone agrees that the country would still reject independence were there another referendum next month. (The economic questions that hurt the Yes campaign so badly last year are, if anything, harder to answer

Alistair Darling: there’s no ‘silver lining’ to Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership

Today marks one year since the Scottish independence referendum and many of the key figures are reflecting on how politics has changed. Alistair Darling, the former Labour Chancellor and leader of the Better Together campaign, spoke on the Today programme about Scotland, but it was the remarks on his own party that were the most striking. He said Jeremy Corbyn was elected leader thanks to the ‘disillusionment’ of people who are ‘fed up with the established order’. But Darling said ‘I honestly don’t know’ whether John McDonnell will ever become Chancellor: ‘Just at the moment, it seems to me to be difficult [to judge] but I’m willing to be surprised. I’m sure all clouds have a silver lining but I haven’t quite

Paul Mason comes to Alex Salmond’s defence over BBC bias

With Alex Salmond currently engaged in a war of words with Nick Robinson over the BBC’s ‘disgraceful’ coverage of the Scottish referendum, there is one former Beeb employee he can turn to in his time of need. Step forward Paul Mason. Mason — who worked as Newsnight‘s economics editor before defecting to Channel 4 — joined Salmond on stage at the Edinburgh book festival to plant a few blows in the direction of his ex-employer. Despite pleas from Nicola Sturgeon for the BBC to enhance its presence in Scotland with a BBC Scotland TV channel, the PostCapitalism: A Guide to Our Future author said the BBC’s unionist values were part and parcel of