Speaking at the Conservative Spring Forum, Theresa May said Britain had to pull together and accused Nicola Sturgeon of using Brexit as a pretext to engineer a second independence referendum.
Now is not the time for one, said the PM to the SNP and Sturgeon. But by doing so she has fallen into a trap that the SNP have been quick to exploit to its own advantage.
Soon after May’s speech, the SNP leader shot straight back with a claim the ‘muddled’ Prime Minister is at ‘odds with democracy’.
Worse for the PM, the buoyant SNP MP Angus Robertson attacked the PM on its interference to the Scottish democratic process.
In the opening address to the SNP’s spring conference, Robertson said to the conference:
Let there be no doubt, Scotland will have its referendum and the people of this country will have their choice. They will not be denied their say. Scotland’s referendum is going to happen, and no UK prime minister should dare to stand in the way of Scottish democracy.
But here is the problem. The PM didn’t understand the underlying issue behind the call for a new referendum. The question wasn’t if Scotland should be able to have a new referendum or even when it will happen, but it was how the First Minister will be able to boost the support for her own party before key local elections.
But May wanted Sturgeon to know that only she is the one who is calling the shots on a second independence referendum, not Sturgeon, not the SNP and certainly not the Scottish parliament.
May wanted to demonstrate that she was still in control of the situation after her government’s U-turn on the budget, and thought that Sturgeon was an easy target.
Unfortunately, and probably without realising it, the PM has started a constitutional crisis with the Scottish parliament.
By saying that only her can decide when a Scottish Independence Referendum can be called, she implied that any decision made in Westminster, and by her, will always be more important than any decision made in Holyrood.
In other words, Holyrood is a second-tier parliament even when it comes to decisions that only affect Scotland.
This attitude will be interpreted as Westminster telling the Scottish people what to do. This is precisely what the SNP want.
Of course, some would argue that the PM wanted to prevent having a new referendum while negotiating our exit from the EU.
But saying no to Sturgeon was simply not an option as it means that the Scottish parliament cannot decide when to call a Scottish independence referendum.
What will happen now if Sturgeon wins, even by a narrow margin, a key vote in Holyrood next week on her demands for a referendum?
Will the decision be considered unlawful by Westminster? Will the PM continue with her sheer arrogance? Or will she just back down and lose all credibility?
Yet Sturgeon has only a minority government that will rely on six Scottish Green party members to win the vote, but if the First Minister wins, she will rely heavily on that vote as evidence that her demands are legitimate and cannot be refused by Westminster. Surely the PM should have understood that Sturgeon wanted her to refuse?
The PM’s incapacity to understand what Sturgeon really wanted to get out of her call for a new Scottish independence referendum raises the question of May’s capability of doing the job.
It wasn’t the right time to open a new frontline with the SNP when the country is about to start negotiating our way out of the EU. The main priority is to get the country ready before the negotiations start. Instead, the PM decided to show off her authority by interfering in Scottish politics.
Is May fit for the job? No, she isn’t, we all knew that already. However, what we didn’t know is that her lack of understanding even the basics of the British politics, could lead the country to its biggest political crisis in living memory. So, yes – the PM is wrecking this country.