Leader comment: A hard Brexit’s effect on Scotland

David Mundell said it was 'ridiculous' to suggest Jacob Rees-Mogg would attack devolution if he became Prime Minister (Picture: PA)
David Mundell said it was 'ridiculous' to suggest Jacob Rees-Mogg would attack devolution if he became Prime Minister (Picture: PA)
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It may be “ridiculous” to suggest a future in which Prime Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg starts trampling all over devolution, but it also makes a lot of sense. It just depends on your point of view.

If you are Nicola Sturgeon, raising the spectre of a British leader from the right wing of the Conservative Party issuing diktats to Holyrood from south of the Border is canny politics. She could hardly wish for a better scenario to further the cause of Scottish independence. Rees-Mogg’s political views – his support for a hard Brexit chief among them – are at odds with those of many Scottish Conservatives, let alone Scots in general.

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The Eton-educated multi-millionaire is probably canny enough to realise the dangers of such actions, so Scottish Secretary David Mundell may well have been right when he dismissed the vision in Sturgeon’s crystal ball. The idea that Rees-Mogg, if he did indeed become Prime Minister, would “start imposing regulations and rules in Scotland” was “frankly ridiculous”, Mundell told MSPs yesterday.

What is plausible, however, is that Rees-Mogg and like-minded Tories could either force Theresa May into a hard-Brexit or oust her to prevent a deal with the European Union that would keep the UK in the Single Market or allow relatively frictionless trade. The hard-Brexiteers have been ramping up the pressure on May in recent days and, assuming she does not give in to their demands, there will be a reckoning. Moderate Conservative MPs and those from other parties will have a decisive role to play in deciding the outcome of one of the most important political battles in modern UK history. They will need to take into account the effects on the economy, relations with the European Union, peace in Northern Ireland and, being politicians, their particular party’s own interests. But to this list they must add the effect on Scotland and the state of the Union.

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Scotland voted decisively in favour of remaining in the EU so it’s reasonable to suggest the majority would be unhappy if the UK Government does decide on a hard Brexit. If its champion, Rees-Mogg – whose support among rank-and-file Conservatives has been dubbed ‘Moggmentum’ in a nod to the Jeremy Corbyn-supporting Momentum movement – was installed in 10 Downing Street, the discontent would only increase.

Members of the ‘Conservative and Unionist’ party might want to bear that in mind.