British Prime Minister Boris Johnson began his two-day visit to Scotland on Wednesday. Despite the invitation he received, he would not meet the head of the Scottish government, Nicola Sturgeon. In the background the question of a possible new referendum on the independence of Scotland.
Sturgeon sent a letter to Johnson on Monday admitting significant differences between the two invited him to talk about what the Scottish and British governments could do together – recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. As assessed by the British media, the invitation, and especially its release to the public, was a clever move on the part of Sturgeon, because if Johnson accepted it, the Scottish government could present it almost as a state visit by the leader of a foreign country, if he did not accept – it would give the impression that he was avoiding dialogue.
Johnson got out of the way by writing back that he would be happy to meet Sturgeon in person – and with the heads of governments of Wales and Northern Ireland on the issue of joint pandemic recovery. When asked about the situation on Wednesday, the Scottish Prime Minister assured her that she did not feel ignored. As she said, it is a bit strange for most people that such a meeting will not take place because it is a missed opportunity, but Boris Johnson should explain himself.
Scottish Independence referendum
Against the background of these mutual attitudes is the question of a possible new Scottish independence referendum, which Sturgeon is promising and which Johnson refuses to agree to, which is necessary for it to be valid.
After the early May elections to the Scottish Parliament, which Sturgeon-led Scottish National Party (SNP) won again, she announced that she wanted the plebiscite to be held in the first half of the new term as covid conditions allow. But British media notes that the referendum issue in Sturgeon’s statements has clearly receded into the background since then.
The explanation for this may be public opinion polls which show that Scottish support for independence has declined significantly since Johnson’s last visit in January. While from the middle of last year to January, the supporters of independence won all the polls, some of them very clearly, since April this year almost all of them have been losing.
However, the advantage of the opponents of independence is so small and uncertain that also Boris Johnson cannot believe that the danger of Scotland’s secession has been averted. Hence, in the coming months, we should expect more frequent visits by members of the British government to Scotland to show the Scots the benefits of remaining in the United Kingdom.
Main photo source: Twitter / @ BorisJohnson