Leader comment: Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May just shared a moment
Nicola Sturgeon and Theresa May do not exactly see eye-to-eye.
But, during a 40-minute meeting at Downing Street, the two leaders might have been forgiven if they had shared a moment, rolling their eyes to the heavens in mutual dismay at the antics of party colleagues.
The Prime Minister is struggling to keep the Tories united behind her rather foggy vision of Brexit, while her cabinet ministers seem to be doing their best to get sacked.
The First Minister, meanwhile, has been forced to publicly criticise her predecessor Alex Salmond’s decision to host a show on Russia Today – a channel seen by many as a vehicle for Vladimir Putin’s propaganda – and yesterday she appeared to distance herself from controversial suggestions by a Nationalist MP at Westminster that she would hold a second referendum over independence if the EU Withdrawal Bill remained in its current form.
Within the SNP there are people who would hold “indyref2” tomorrow if it were possible, but Ms Sturgeon has taken a more pragmatic approach, recognising that the party must wait until polls show it is more likely than not to win. A second defeat would surely end the independence cause for a generation. The potential for chaos during the Brexit process may provide an opportunity for the SNP totry again. However, the controversy over the Westminster “power grab” of matters currently controlled by Brussels is unlikely to be a cri de coeur to win the day.
That’s not to say the SNP doesn’t have a point. Even the Scottish Conservatives have recognised some of the 111 powers at issue would be better devolved to Scotland. Their intervention may have helped persuade Ms May to compromise. One can only hope she has the political bandwidth to do so in between dealing with the blundering and political manoeuvring of the likes of Boris Johnson and Michael Gove.
Similarly Ms Sturgeon might prefer to spend more time running Scotland than herding the over-optimistic cats among the SNP’s ranks. Suggestions indyref2 could be held soon undermine her more long-term strategy.
After a meeting before the general election, Ms Sturgeon complained bluntly that Ms May had been “very difficult”. But yesterday’s meeting, she said, had been “constructive and cordial”. Shared troubles may just be forming a bond.