Theresa May’s tenure in Downing Street may only be in its nascent stages, but already she has made efforts to send out a strong message that Scotland matters to her.
Her first statement as Prime Minister spoke of the “precious bonds” of the United Kingdom and this has been followed by yesterday’s visit to Bute House so soon after taking office.
The warm words about forging a constructive relationship that came from both Mrs May and First Minister Nicola Sturgeon were encouraging. So was Mrs May’s promise to “listen” to Scottish Government options when it comes to Scotland maintaining a relationship with the EU.
The reality, however, is likely to prove more fraught. Mrs May might be prepared to listen, but the reality is that Scotland actually achieving its own EU arrangement presents enormous challenges. Earlier on Radio Scotland, David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, offered his opinion of the likelihood of a special Brexit deal for Scotland when he said such an idea was “fanciful”.
Mrs May also talked of securing a “UK approach” to Brexit before triggering withdrawal. Whether a UK approach would have room for a separate Scottish way forward is a moot point. As is how the rest of the EU and Brexit-voting England and Wales would react if they had to wait for Scotland to agree to a UK approach.
Mrs May is to be commended for striking the right tone and for being prepared to listen to options, but Ms Sturgeon’s view that exploring all options for Scotland includes consideration of a second indepedence referendum is almost certainly going to lead to a clash.