Edinburgh / London (dpa) – Instead of meeting at tea time, there is now an ice age between British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon.
Friendly, but clearly to the point, Johnson, who planned to travel to the northernmost British part of the country on Wednesday, ignored an invitation from Sturgeon for a one-on-one meeting. “Relationships between London and Edinburgh are cold and essentially – if not publicly – hostile,” said political scientist Kirsty Hughes of the German news agency.
The dispute is fueled by the key question – unanswered in the invitation and rejection – Sturgeon’s call for another Scottish independence referendum. Your Scottish National Party (SNP) wants a referendum, they want out of the UK and back into the EU. She was rewarded for this course during the elections to the House of Representatives in May. The SNP failed only narrowly because of the absolute majority. But along with the Greens, who also advocate secession from London, it has plenty of votes in Parliament in Edinburgh. According to media reports, a formal partnership is imminent.
The situation is complicated
Sturgeon confidently announced that he would hold a referendum next year. But the situation is complicated. Most experts believe that a referendum is illegal without London’s approval – and the Johnson government has so far rejected it. She refers to the 2014 survey, when a small majority favored staying. The SNP, on the other hand, emphasizes that with Brexit, which the Scots reject, the conditions have fundamentally changed.
For the prime minister, his two-day visit to Scotland – his first since the general election – is a razor blade ride. “Johnson knows he’s not popular in Scotland,” said expert Hughes. “His visits are of particular benefit to those who support independence.” Critics accuse the prime minister of an ‘England First’ policy at the expense of other parts of the country. This is probably one of the reasons why the trip only became known in the short term.
When Johnson went to Scotland in January, Sturgeon criticized the visit at the height of the third corona wave as unnecessary. Now she explicitly invited her opponent. She had heard he was going to Scotland, she wrote sharply. This is a good opportunity to meet in person and talk about the way out of the corona pandemic. In Britain, health policy is a matter for the state. “We disagree politically, but our governments should work together where possible.” Climate policy must also be coordinated, as Britain will host the COP world climate conference in Glasgow, Scotland, in November.
But Sturgeon would certainly have called the “IndyRef2”, as the independence referendum is called. Because it is important to check whether the British government has changed course. Over the weekend, Foreign Secretary Michael Gove, himself a Scot, surprised everyone by stating that London would not stand in the way if there was a “firm will” in the north to hold a referendum.
Gove didn’t say what should be decisive. “They know they cannot prevent a democratic decision,” said a senior politician in Edinburgh ahead of the DPA’s independence campaign victory. “You want to save time.” Because time speaks for the Union right now: if up to 58 percent of Scots were in surveys for months, it’s currently less than 50 percent – and the trend is downward.
Johnson assured “dear Nicola” that he was very interested in meeting in person. As discussed, the best setting for this is a meeting that also includes heads of government from other parts of Wales and Northern Ireland. “He shuns Sturgeon — essentially out of political cowardice,” political scientist Hughes said. Johnson is a burnt child: When he was in Sturgeon’s Bute House in July 2019, he was booed by protesters – and left the building through the back door.