quarta-feira, 5 de outubro de 2016
Scottish nationalist fury at ‘arrogant’ May government
Scottish nationalist fury at ‘arrogant’ May government
“This is not just about what London wants” — Scotland’s minister for Brexit.
By PETER GEOGHEGAN 10/5/16, 5:23 AM CET
GLASGOW — Prime Minister Theresa May’s “spectacular failure” to heed Scottish opposition to the U.K. leaving the European Union could precipitate another independence referendum, according to Scotland’s Brexit minister Michael Russell.
“This is not just about what London wants, it is about the interests that Scotland have, and the fact that they need to be heard,” Russell, a veteran Scottish National party (SNP) member of the devolved Edinburgh parliament, told POLITICO. “The arrogance of the U.K. government needs to be called to account.”
May has said that Scotland — which voted to remain in the EU — will leave along with the rest of the United Kingdom. There will be “no opt out” for the devolved administrations when Article 50 is triggered next March, she told the Conservative party conference Sunday.
The prime minister added that she would “never allow divisive nationalists to undermine the precious Union between the four nations of our United Kingdom.” May’s comments were not well received in Edinburgh. Scottish first minister Nicola Sturgeon accused May of “going out of her way to say that Scotland’s voice and interests don’t matter.”
“Strange approach for someone who wants to keep [the] U.K. together,” Sturgeon said on Twitter.
In the immediate aftermath of June’s vote, Sturgeon said that a second independence referendum was “highly likely.” Russell, her SNP colleague, said another independence referendum “remains an option” and warned May to “moderate her tone.”
“That option may look to many people more attractive the more they hear Theresa May. If that is genuinely what she wants, then she is succeeding. If it isn’t what she wants, then she had better moderate her tone,” he said.
But Scotland’s Brexit minister said the government in Edinburgh was open to dialogue with London.
“We expect there to be – and there must be – a constructive process of discussion between the governments,” Russell said. “Therefore, we are tuning out the rhetoric and saying what we need to do is to sit down and create the structure to allow that to happen.”
Both May and Sturgeon will be in the same room later this month, at a plenary session of the joint Ministerial Committee — the umbrella body that includes Westminster and the devolved governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
Russell said he was keen to “sit down and discuss the key issues that confront Scotland” but warned that May was playing to a “hardline audience” in the British Conservative Party.
“She has to remember, however, that she is now prime minister. She is not an aspirant to be prime minister, trying to be the darling of the conference. She is prime minister. She has to, therefore, take a much broader and wider view of the national good and she is spectacularly failing in that,” he said.
The U.K. Secretary of State for Scotland, David Mundell, accused Scottish nationalists of wielding a “sword of Damocles” with the threat of a second independence referendum.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon responds to opposition party leaders during first minister's questions on September 8, 2016 in Edinburgh, Scotland
Mundell told the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham that the United Kingdom is “Scotland’s vital union.”
“We can’t and won’t provide a running commentary on exiting the EU. But I want to be absolutely clear: We will negotiate as the United Kingdom; leave as the United Kingdom and face the future together as the United Kingdom; a Team U.K. approach. Because the U.K. is Scotland’s vital union,” the U.K. minister said.
Mundell’s colleague, Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson was expected to tell the Tory conference that Nicola Sturgeon “does not speak for the country” by putting a second independence referendum on the table.
Senior SNP figures have suggested the Edinburgh parliament could use legal means to keep Scotland in the EU by blocking the so-called Great Repeal Bill, the legislation that will remove the European Communities Act 1972 from statute books, starting the U.K.’s exit from the EU.
Currently, two court cases seeking to block Brexit on constitutional grounds are being heard in the High Court in Belfast.
Michael Russell confirmed that the SNP was “looking at these court cases” but said that starting a political dialogue was “the priority.”
In July, Sturgeon set out five “key tests” for Scottish interests in leaving the EU, including safeguarding free movement and access to the single market. But as the U.K. faces what looks like a ‘hard Brexit,’ calls for another vote on independence are likely to intensify.
Last month, Sturgeon launched a consultation on Scottish independence. Next weekend, thousands of SNP members will attend the party’s annual conference in Glasgow. Polls, however, suggest that a majority of Scots would still vote to remain in the U.K.
Some commentators have suggested that May’s hardline approach is in part an attempt to call Sturgeon’s bluff on holding another independence referendum.
Writing on the University of Edinburgh’s Centre for Constitutional Change blog, research fellow Kirsty Hughes said May has effectively ruled out any possibility for Scotland to negotiate a separate relationship with the EU from the rest of the United Kingdom post-Brexit.
“Any options for Scotland to stay, at least partly, in the EU while [the rest of the U.K.] left were always going to depend on political will as well as technical feasibility. Theresa May has made her position clear. What is Scotland’s response?”