SCOTTISH POLITICS: MAY YOU LIVE IN INTERESTING TIMES

Monday 04 July, 2016
scottish politics

If Armando Iannucci had scripted events of the last week for The Thick of It, it would have been dismissed as being far too unrealistic. It’s been a week unlike any other. 

It’s particularly telling that in the week that the Scottish Government launched a five year education plan, started implementation of their Land Reform Act and measures for Crown Estate powers, they’ve barely received any coverage.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called a Cabinet meeting on Saturday morning to discuss the Scottish Government response to the EU referendum result. The result was historic: Scotland would forge its own foreign policy, separate from the rest of the UK, for the first time in 309 years.

The Scottish Parliament voted on Tuesday to pursue a policy of protecting Scotland’s place in the EU’s single market. Nicola Sturgeon was in Brussels a day later, meeting with European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker, who boosted the Scottish position significantly by suggesting: “I’ll listen to Nicola Sturgeon. Scotland won their right to heard in Brussels.”

Sturgeon had already met with EU Parliament President Martin Schulz – said to be sympathetic to Scotland’s position – but could not secure discussion with European Council President Donald Tusk.

Labour’s week was no less extraordinary. It started with Ian Murray – the only Labour MP north of the border – tendering his resignation as Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland. It has ended with the Scottish Parliamentary party divided over the future of Jeremy Corbyn. Murray hasn’t been replaced yet, although the favourite would appear to be Dave Anderson, the Blaydon MP. It’s a sign of the times that this news was broken to journalists by David Mundell, Secretary of State for Scotland.

The joke used to be that there are more pandas in Scotland than Tories. Scottish Tory candidates for Prime Minister seem to be doing one thing the pandas aren’t, and multiplying. Three of the five candidates were born in Scotland, with Michael Gove (Edinburgh), Liam Fox (East Kilbride) and Stephen Crabb (Inverness) all in the frame.

Scottish Conservatives leader Ruth Davidson has said that she’ll reserve judgement until there is a two-horse race, but she was blunt in her assessment of Boris Johnson’s withdrawal from the race, saying: “It’s not for everyone (leadership). Some people just haven’t got it. Maybe he’s one of them.”

Thursday was the final First Minister’s Questions before the summer recess, and given the events of the last week there was no end of term feel to proceedings. The anger at the decision to take the EU Question to the voters was palpable throughout.

It would be foolish to suggest that the recess will make for a quiet summer. There is every reason to suggest that there may even be a recall of parliament.

For years, Scotland has been the place where extraordinary political events have taken place. It seems that the UK is finally catching up.

First published on www.publicaffairsnetworking.com