News ID: 258149
Published: 0424 GMT September 01, 2019

Nicola Sturgeon unites the causes of Scottish and Irish independence

Nicola Sturgeon unites the causes of Scottish and Irish independence

Ruth Davidson’s resignation as the leader of the Scottish Conservative party has sent shock waves across the Tory party rank and file in Scotland.

Following her resignation, Davidson told a press conference in Edinburgh that she had made the decision with a “heavy heart” and that leading the Scottish Conservatives since November 2011 had been the “privilege of my life”.

Davidson explained her resignation on both political and personal grounds. She cited “conflicts” over Brexit, in addition to her desire to secure a better life and work balance, Presstv Reported.

But there is widespread speculation that Davidson’s departure was bound up with profound political disagreements with Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The PM’s decision to suspend parliament, in order to remove the most formidable obstacle to a no-deal Brexit, is believed to have been the last straw for Davidson.

Her departure is potentially a mortal blow to the Scottish Tories, as Davidson was viewed as a counterweight to the formidable Nicola Sturgeon, who is Scotland’s First Minister and the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP).

When Davidson took over as leader of the Scottish Tories in November 2011, the party held only one constituency seat in Scotland. Under her leadership this jumped to 13 seats at the June 2017 British general elections.

Additionally, in the May 2016 Scottish elections, the Scottish Tories led by Davidson doubled their seats to 31, thus replacing Labour as the second largest party in Scotland.

These remarkable achievements were only possible because of Davidson’s charisma and leadership style, and specifically her ability to not appear as a typical Tory to the Scottish electorate.

In view of the Tories’ historically poor performance in Scotland, there is now a real risk of meltdown, especially in view of the broader context dictated by Johnson’s autocratic leadership style and his single-minded pursuit of a no-deal Brexit.

This development is a massive opportunity for Sturgeon who has repeatedly called for an independence referendum by the second half of 2020.

In recent days Sturgeon has stepped up her performance at the national level, most recently by staking out a strong position on the disturbances which rocked the Govan area of Glasgow on Friday evening.

Sturgeon has condemned the “sectarian disruption” at a peaceful march by local supporters of Irish unity at Govan’s Eldar Park. The march was violently disrupted by “loyalist gangs” sympathetic to “loyalist terrorist groups” in Northern Ireland.

Sturgeon’s intervention is important for two reasons: foremost, by describing loyalist agitation as “sectarian provocation” Sturgeon implicitly demonstrates her natural sympathy for Irish nationalism.

Furthermore, by roundly condemning the “loyalist gangs”, and holding them responsible for the violence, Sturgeon sends a sharp rebuke to Glasgow City Council, which had earlier tried to attribute blame to both sides.

Although Glasgow City Council is led by a senior SNP politician, the administration is not under the control of any single party. It is widely believed that the Scottish Labour party (which controlled the council for 37 years until 2017) still wields considerable influence on policy making. 

By implicitly embracing the cause of Irish unity, Sturgeon raises the stakes in the Scottish independence referendum debate, and in the process, applies more pressure on Johnson and the Tories.

But it remains to be seen whether Sturgeon can escalate the situation further by accommodating the demands of the more radical Scottish nationalists, who are clamouring for immediate action on independence.

Former British diplomat, and ardent Scottish nationalist, Craig Murray, has called on the SNP to stop its “shilly shally” on independence by moving “immediately” and “decisively” to “claim independence”.     



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