Theresa May will speak at the Tory Conference in Glasgow today. As the most powerful person in the UK, she will say it is her priority to champion the cause of Scottish unionism. This is very helpful, because – combined with the terrible absence of the Labour Party – it makes starker than ever the choice before Scots. Scotland can be an independent, social democratic nation state with present values preserved; or it can be a neoliberal, right-wing, low tax and spend sub-state controlled exclusively by English Tories. There it is.
The UK prime minister argued against Brexit but once it became clear that the Tory right-wing had won and its leaders had shot each other in the face, she became a prisoner of that right wing in order to secure a fair innings at Downing Street. Now she is pursuing a hard Brexit which will cause only harm to all of us while following on with other standard right-wing obsessions such as removing our protection of the ECHR and much more besides.
In her speech, she will say that Scotland should stop being blinkered about independence and its government should ‘get on with its day job’. Well, she would say that, wouldn’t she?
In fact, as her ability to turn on a sixpence over Brexit showed, Mrs May understands very well that getting Scotland out of the UK should right now be the main day-job of every politician in Scotland who isn’t a Tory. Frankly, that’s what she expects. The Tories have successfully established themselves as the voice of Scottish unionism and if they can keep enough Labour and Lib Dem supporters on board to win a second referendum then they can look forward to a political resurgence in Scotland at the expense of those same Labour and Liberal Democrat parties. The English Tory Party would then use its full capacity as UK government to give more and more power to the elbow of its Scottish branch on the basis that the SNP can’t win in Scotland forever and when they don’t then the Scottish Tories will be waiting. This much is simple politics. All the rest is bibbling and bobbling.
So, in truth, Mrs May is as comfortable with a referendum as independence supporters are. She’ll fight the good Tory fight and if Scots vote for independence she’ll shake her head in mock sadness at Scots’ embracing of a social democratic future, then carry on with her Full English Brexit before handing over to a new Tory prime minister in half-a-dozen years. If Scots choose a Conservative future, though, she will be hailed in history as the saviour of the union and the person who finally brought proper neoliberal Toryism to Scotland.
Theresa May will be full of bluster today. But she as much as anyone knows it’s Scotland’s call now. For God’s sake, let’s call it against a Tory future. For once and for all.