A leading light of a pro-European Tory Group described the rush to implement Brexit, whilst casting aside the implications of Scotland and Northern Ireland voting to remain, as ‘the English majoritarian mindset’. Herein lies Theresa May’s greatest problem. To satisfy the anti-EU bloc, she must be seen to drive forward the Brexit agenda and in doing so, trammel the concerns of Remainers in any part of the UK but especially the Celtic fringe, if she, as a former Remainer, is to retain power.
In a move that was lifted from the Thatcher playbook, the Prime Minister declared: ‘Now is not the time’ and with that statement, unilaterally refuses to approve a Section 30 order. Notably, yet again, Mrs May doesn’t take the Scottish Parliament’s request to the House of Commons for a vote, instead her decision alone is suffice to stymie the sovereign will of the Scots.
Of course, the current constitutional predicament is anchored in the Scottish National Party’s decision at a National Council meeting in March 2000 that Scottish independence required to be triggered by a plebiscite. Overturning decades of party thinking that a simple parliamentary majority of Scottish seats would be a mandate for the opening of independence negotiations, it did what Alex Salmond said it would at the time: give a safety net to people who wanted to see the SNP in government, gaining respect and credibility before taking the decision on the country’s future.
It’s hard to remember that the first Scottish Parliament election in 1999 was fought on the grounds that a parliamentary majority would trigger independence. The decision then was right but ten years in power has changed the landscape.
Commentators and academics alike now argue that every election is fought on the dividing lines of Yes/No. Even Ruth Davidson wants to make the Council elections in May a referendum on a referendum. Maybe it is now time to extinguish the veto which the minority Tories have by removing the need for Westminster permission at all.
Rumours abound that the Prime Minister is keen to hold an early General Election to strengthen her majority to get Brexit legislation such as the Great Repeal Bill through the Commons, gain a mandate for a hard Brexit to thwart the Lords and frankly, hit a man when he’s down, i.e. the Labour Party as a whole.
There is a reality check in that the Tories do not have a guaranteed threshold to overturn the current legislation for calling an early election and no one seriously thinks Labour turkeys will vote for an early Christmas. However, should it come to pass, what better opportunity than to put it to Theresa May that if the SNP (or independence-supporting parties) gain a majority of seats, that is not a fresh mandate for a second Scottish Referendum but a de facto decision of the Scottish people to self-determine their future?
The SNP may not hold all 54 of the current 59 but all it requires is a majority of Westminster constituencies in Scotland to be won and the greatest popular vote. As the SNP is unlikely to form a UK government, its policy platform couldn’t be clearer: vote SNP for independence, or vote Tory for the Union. Would Labour and Lib Dem voters tactically vote Tory (and in doing so potentially prop up a Tory majority for more cuts to liberties and public spending)? Would Tory voters hold their noses to vote for a Labour candidate in the hope of stopping the SNP? I doubt it.