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The SNP’s new plan: wait for unionist voters to die off?

Just a few years ago, the Scottish independence movement was, whatever its many flaws, optimistic. This in turn engendered amongst its better elements a confidence, perhaps even a generosity of spirit, embodied by the phrase ‘are you Yes yet?’.

No longer. The First Minister who took office in 2015 confident that she had time to finish what Alex Salmond started can now hear the clock ticking. Sturgeon looks tired, her administration is dogged by scandals, and her movement is turning on itself.

Worst, despite Brexit, despite the pandemic, and despite Boris Johnson the polls aren’t moving in her direction, all whilst she faces – for perhaps the first time in two decades – a Government in London with sufficient self-confidence to refuse her demands for a referendum.

It is this context which probably best explains her unfortunate suggestions that “time is on my side”, and Scotland’s changing demographics mean delaying a re-run of the 2014 vote makes a separatist victory more likely.

Even on its own terms, this is dubious – Sturgeon won’t be the first self-styled progressive to share Disco Stu’s excessive confidence in the future – but also has ugly undertones. Pro-UK politicians have not hesitated to point out the implication that she’s waiting for their (admittedly older) voters to pass away. The cartoonists have turned it into “Are you dead yet?”.

In truth, there are at least as many long-term trends working against the First Minister as for her. Scotland’s energy exports grow both less economically significant and less politically palatable by the year. Every year post-Brexit increases the distance between the UK and the EU, which an independent Scotland would have to straddle as best it could. She is in the autumn of her own career and none of her potential successors have her standing with the electorate.

So the Government should resist this clumsy effort to bounce it into giving her another chance at breaking up this country.

Court rules Lewis ‘failed to comply with his duties’ over abortion

A High Court judge has ruled that Brandon Lewis has failed to meet his obligations as Secretary of State by failing to ensure the timely rollout of abortion service in Northern Ireland, the News Letter reports.

However, he declined to issue an order forcing the Northern Irish Office to set out a timetable for doing so.

This responsibility has fallen on the Government after Parliament used the most recent collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly to legislate for abortion in the Province – a rare example of a case where ‘riding roughshod over devolution’ is broadly considered to be a good thing.

Sturgeon accused of ‘covering up’ first Scottish outbreak of Covid-19

In the now long-running battle between the SNP and the Government over the future of the UK, the memory of how each administration handled the pandemic has emerged as a key battlefield. Westminster’s woeful response did what Brexit could not and breathed new life into the Nationalist cause, only for more recent evidence of the Scottish Government’s own screw-ups to take the wind from their sails again.

This week, opposition politicians accused Nicola Sturgeon of ‘covering up’ the first major outbreak of Covid-19 north of the border. Emails released under a freedom of information request suggest that the First Minister overruled public health officials who believed the event, at a Nike conference, was a “legitimate public interest matter”. It only became public in a BBC documentary three months later, according to the Daily Telegraph.

Apparent concerns about ‘patient confidentiality’ were used to justify keeping it quiet.

This follows other stories about much more serious Scottish Government errors, such as releasing patients who had tested positive for Covid-19 into care homes.