Stur­geon and May share a mo­ment

The Prime Min­is­ter and First Min­is­ter must both show lead­er­ship amid signs of dis­sention in the ranks

The Scotsman - - Perspective -

Nicola Stur­geon and Theresa May do not ex­actly see eye-to-eye. But, dur­ing a 40-minute meet­ing at Down­ing Street, the two lead­ers might have been for­given if they had shared a mo­ment, rolling their eyes to the heav­ens in mu­tual dis­may at the an­tics of party col­leagues.

The Prime Min­is­ter is strug­gling to keep the Tories united be­hind her rather foggy vi­sion of Brexit, while her cab­i­net min­is­ters seem to be do­ing their best to get sacked.

The First Min­is­ter, mean­while, has been forced to pub­licly crit­i­cise her pre­de­ces­sor Alex Sal­mond’s de­ci­sion to host a show on Rus­sia To­day – a chan­nel seen by many as a ve­hi­cle for Vladimir Putin’s pro­pa­ganda – and yes­ter­day she ap­peared to dis­tance her­self from con­tro­ver­sial sug­ges­tions by a Na­tion­al­ist MP at West­min­ster that she would hold a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum over in­de­pen­dence if the EU With­drawal Bill re­mained in its cur­rent form.

Within the SNP there are peo­ple who would hold “in­dyref2” to­mor­row if it were pos­si­ble, but Ms Stur­geon has taken a more prag­matic ap­proach, recog­nis­ing that the party must wait un­til polls show it is more likely than not to win. A sec­ond de­feat would surely end the in­de­pen­dence cause for a gen­er­a­tion. The po­ten­tial for chaos dur­ing the Brexit process may pro­vide an op­por­tu­nity for the SNP totry again. How­ever, the con­tro­versy over the West­min­ster “power grab” of mat­ters cur­rently con­trolled by Brus­sels is un­likely to be a cri de coeur to win the day.

That’s not to say the SNP doesn’t have a point. Even the Scottish Con­ser­va­tives have recog­nised some of the 111 pow­ers at is­sue would be bet­ter de­volved to Scot­land. Their in­ter­ven­tion may have helped per­suade Ms May to com­pro­mise. One can only hope she has the po­lit­i­cal band­width to do so in be­tween deal­ing with the blun­der­ing and po­lit­i­cal ma­noeu­vring of the likes of Boris John­son and Michael Gove.

Sim­i­larly Ms Stur­geon might pre­fer to spend more time run­ning Scot­land than herd­ing the overop­ti­mistic cats among the SNP’S ranks. Sug­ges­tions in­dyref2 could be held soon un­der­mine her more long-term strat­egy.

Af­ter a meet­ing be­fore the gen­eral elec­tion, Ms Stur­geon com­plained bluntly that Ms May had been “very dif­fi­cult”. But yes­ter­day’s meet­ing, she said, had been “con­struc­tive and cor­dial”. Shared trou­bles may just be form­ing a bond.

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