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Iran Press TV

Nicola Sturgeon faces uphill task in her talks with Boris Johnson

Iran Press TV

Saturday, 28 December 2019 4:46 PM

The New Year promises to be eventful and all-important for the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP), Nicola Sturgeon.

On December 19 Sturgeon formally requested a fresh Scottish independence referendum from the British government.

The British government is expected to give its answer early in 2020, but the likelihood of compromise is very low.

In early November, Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, ruled out a Scottish independence referendum whilst he is Prime Minister.

In view of the Tories' impressive majority in the new Parliament, this raises the real possibility of a Scottish independence referendum getting pushed back by five years.

Needless to say, this directly clashes with Sturgeon's oft-stated desire to hold a referendum in the second half of 2020.

Sturgeon, who is also Scotland's First Minister, has a fine line to tread in both negotiating in good faith with the Tory government in London – and staying within the law by ensuring that the result of any referendum is legally binding – and accommodating radicals both within her party and in the broader Scottish nationalist movement.

In recent months radicals in the broader Scottish independence movement have been calling for a Plan B to achieve independence from London. Anticipating London's refusal to issue a Section 30 order – the mechanism required to fully legalise the referendum – the radicals have been clamouring for "alternative" routes to independence.

The SNP has been struggling to contain these radical elements since the Brexit referendum in June 2016. In October 2018, the Scottish government's Constitutional Relations Secretary, Mike Russell, advised the radicals that they must "wait" for the "right moment" to hold an independence poll.

But in the wake of the Tories' resounding victory in the general election, patience is wearing thin amongst the stalwarts of the Scottish independence movement.

The former British diplomat, Craig Murray, who is a key Scottish nationalist ideologue, spoke for many nationalists when he wrote on his blog on December 20, that: "London will never give independence – we must take it".

In his blog post Murray effectively argues for bypassing Section 30 altogether by empowering the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood to legislate for an independence referendum.

If, as expected, the British government attempts to block this path, Murray calls for the establishment of a "National Assembly", composed of elected Scottish representatives in the UK, EU and Scottish parliaments, which would subsequently "declare" independence and seek "recognition" from the international community.

Needless to say, this combative approach is in stark contrast to Sturgeon's and the SNP's as set out by the highly legalistic "Scotland's Right to Choose" document, published on December 19.

It remains to be seen if Sturgeon can continue to marshal her famous political skills to contain thoughtful radials such as Murray.

The nature and intensity of the clash between London and Edinburgh will likely determine Sturgeon's path. If London proves overly recalcitrant, then Sturgeon may have little choice than to fully embrace the broader Scottish nationalist movement.

The stage is set for the most decisive year in Scottish history since the Act of the Union in 1707.

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