Helen Martin: Respect from PM to Scots is long overdue

Under normal circumstances, a new Tory PM making their first priority a trip to Edinburgh to meet with the Scottish First Minister would have merited extensive coverage.

By The Newsroom
Monday, 18th July 2016, 11:53 am
Updated Thursday, 25th August 2016, 6:52 pm
Prime Minister Theresa May meets with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the steps of Bute House in Edinburgh. Picture; Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)
Prime Minister Theresa May meets with First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on the steps of Bute House in Edinburgh. Picture; Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images)

Nice and Turkey rightly took precedence in the news agendas at the end of the week. But it doesn’t lessen the significance of Theresa May’s alternative approach to the traditional British bulldog, blind obduracy stance taken by her predecessors over Scotland’s role and importance in the UK.

There is a long history of both Labour and Tory governments at Westminster deciding the best way to handle Scotland is to ignore it and carry on with English business as usual – unless they are forced into acknowledgement by something like an independence referendum.

Even then, following the No vote, the initial response was a Westminster sigh of relief, which would have been followed by popping Caledonia back in its box if it wasn’t for that damn, last-minute promise of greater powers which, on winning reflection, Cameron probably deeply regretted.

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With Scotland’s elected SNP MPs being treated in the chamber with sneering derision, like a bunch of comprehensive kids at an Eton open day, rather than a serious sector of opposition, it looked as if nothing much was going to change. So what if Scotland voted to remain in the EU? Tough – it was a UK referendum. Even Nicola Sturgeon’s calm statesmanship (“stateswomanship” sounds so clumsy) wouldn’t have seen Cameron leaping on a plane or train and racing to the Capital for a face-to-face meeting.

It’s difficult at this stage to see how another independence vote (coming faster even than Sturgeon would like) can be avoided, unless the EU collapses – which is a real possibility.

Scotland voted Remain, England voted Leave. While some here still cleave to the UK, many No voters in the independence referendum, and especially those under 30, are currently reconsidering – quite openly on social media – because leaving the UK is their only hope of remaining in the European Union, other than applying for any other EU passport and citizenship to which they might be entitled . . . and that would be a disaster for Scotland. We need our young people to stay.

Many Scottish parents and grand-parents plumped for Remain for that reason; to stay united with their young adult offspring geographically and politically, and back their hopes for the future.

How, despite the finest political diplomacy and will to compromise, can a devout Unionist PM and a Nationalist FM create a situation in which Scotland has an entirely different relationship with the EU, and yet remains in the UK. Oh the joy of two-letter acronyms!

Today, another vote that could puncture the “precious, precious bond of the Union” takes place as MPs declare Aye or Nay to renewing Trident.

Of course, to Mrs May it is precious. Scotland’s departure would reflect badly on rUK and make it an even smaller player on the world trading stage where it now has to deal.

But whether through her own recognition and intelligence, or on the advice of Ruth Davidson, Theresa May has at least begun her premiership by treating Scotland with respect. And whatever the outcome, that’s long overdue.

Makeover for May is a shoe-in

Unlike our new PM, I am not a design label fashionista. I favour disposable, supermarket ranges because I keep pretending my middle-age spread is a temporary fixture and when it miraculously disappears I can buy some better gear. So, not an authority on style I admit.

But when Mrs May selects her distinctive wardrobe pieces, especially clingy dresses and flappy trouser suits, I’d suggest she take into account that when wearing heels, she walks like a lanky, arthritic farmer.

Like Margaret Thatcher, Hillary Clinton and other world-stage women, I expect we will see a subtle makeover taking place on posture, hair, make-up, voice tone – and possibly a heated discussion on shoes. Don’t imagine Boris will change much, though.