Leader comment: PM’s ‘Brexit is good for you’ spin is kidding no-one

Theresa May is facing her first conference as party leader. Picture: PA

Theresa May is facing her first conference as party leader. Picture: PA

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Theresa May gave a convincing impression of a Prime Minister embarking on a charm offensive with Scotland when she met with Nicola Sturgeon at Bute House in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote.

Back then Mrs May insisted she was “willing to listen to options” on Scotland’s future relationship with the European Union and would not be triggering article 50 until a “UK approach” had been agreed for negotiations.

Ms Sturgeon described their discussion as “constructive and very good” and said she envisaged a good working relationship with the new Prime Minister.

It would be interesting to know whether Ms Sturgeon still believes that to be the case after reading the article Mrs May has penned on Scotland and the EU.

Released by Holyrood magazine ahead of the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Mrs May’s said that she believed the Nationalists must take partial responsibility for the Brexit vote. The justification for this unlikely position was the nine years the SNP have now been in power in Scotland, making them “the establishment party”, who must shoulder the blame for an “underlying sense that people have felt ignored by politicians”.

Now that further detail has been published, we hear that Mrs May now believes that Scotland’s status in Europe will be enhanced, 
rather than diminished, by the Brexit vote.

Scots can look forward to Brexit offering “an exciting chance to forge a new role in the world,” she said.

It is hard to believe that these words are coming from a politician who was involved in the campaign to keep Britain in the EU.

Now she is telling voters that coming out of the EU will actually be better for us all, it does beg the question on what basis she believed Britain should have stayed in only a few months ago.

This appears to be a clear attempt by Mrs May to spin a message to suit events. It also comes across as trying far too hard to keep people in Scotland happy by telling them Brexit will not be as bad as they were led to believe.

Mrs May’s message to Scots, 62 per cent of whom opted to stay in the UK, has distinct echoes of Margaret Thatcher’s efforts to woo voters in Scotland with her repeated assertions in the 1980s that we would be grateful for the introduction of the poll tax, and should consider ourselves lucky to be chosen as the first part of the UK to enjoy its implementation.

If Mrs May is intent on improving her own credibility and building support for her party north of the border then she would do well to do more listening rather than telling people in Scotland that what they didn’t vote for is going to be good for them.

But at the moment she is at risk of undoing some of the impressive work that Ruth Davidson has done as leader of the Scottish party.

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