So, filtering out all the diplomatic fluff, what is the substance? No change! After the meeting that was never supposed to happen, all we know is that Theresa May continues to be locked into a ‘One Nation’ British Nationalist project that is all ideology and no ideas, and that Nicola Sturgeon remains content to let Theresa May bounce from gaffe to faux pas to scandal like the ball in a pinball machine – only without the same degree of control. Which is precisely where we were before.
We saw Nicola Sturgeon strut the stage of political theatre like a seasoned professional. We saw Theresa May tread that same stage like it was her gallows. Just as we’ve seen so many times before.
It’s not difficult to imagine what went on in the meeting. Theresa May unable to move. The First Minister refusing to blink. The British Prime Minister, stiff and uncomfortable as she is obliged to stick rigidly to her script; terrified that she might say something meaningful or significant. Now is not the time to be saying anything that might hint at now being the time for anything. Nicola Sturgeon, perfectly at ease as she enjoys the luxury of options. There are things she could say. But she knows that Theresa May hasn’t finished blundering yet. There’s no pressure. Her mandate from the Scottish people isn’t going anywhere. She has an authority that May didn’t possess even before she squandered whatever authority she did have in that crazy snap election.
As well as the luxury of options, Sturgeon has the bonus of time. She knows that there will be another independence referendum. She is aware of the factors which will influence the timing of that referendum. She is cognisant of the fact that, while much depends on what Theresa May does over the coming weeks and months, nothing that May might do is critical. The referendum will happen regardless.
In the meantime, Sturgeon can be confident that pretty much everything Theresa May says and does will serve to bolster the Scottish Government’s position on Brexit and further weaken the British state’s crumbling defences.
Which is not to say there are no pressures on the First Minister. She will be thinking ahead to the referendum campaign and the process following a Yes vote. She will already be considering the inevitably tricky parallel negotiations with the rUK and the EU. She will be working hard to keep a Scottish foot in all the doors that the British are so wilfully determined to close.
But perhaps the most immediate concern for Nicola Sturgeon is the matter of when to declare the new referendum. She could do it now. This would certainly please some of the less thoughtful elements of the Yes movement. But that doesn’t make it a smart move. Other than placating that clamorous clique, it’s difficult to see what else might be gained by launching the referendum campaign proper while the British establishment is still working up its slapstick routine.
The Downing Street meeting between Theresa May and Nicola Sturgeon changed nothing. But, from Nicola sturgeon’s perspective, that’s no bad thing. Politically, she’s in a very good place.
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