What will Boris Johnson now offer to Scotland?

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As the dust begins to settle on last week's victory for Boris Johnson, and the SNP steps up its demands for a second independence referendum. it appears that the strangehold of constitutional arguments on Scottish politics has just tightened.

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon have spoken: she to demand a Section 30 Order to enable a referendum, with he refusing to grant one. Ms Sturgeon will also this week produce a dossier to show why she believes her party has a "democratic mandate" to demand the right to hold another vote on independence, and Downing Street sources have said the Prime Minister will respond in kind, with all the reasons why he believes there should not an indyref2.

What will Boris Johnson do to ward off the demands of the SNP for a second independence referendum.

What will Boris Johnson do to ward off the demands of the SNP for a second independence referendum.

So what will Boris Johnson do?

While most questions have been about what the SNP will do in the light of the UK government's refusal to grant a Section 30 Order, will they take legal action, or try to hold an unofficial referendum (something the First Minister has always previously ruled out), perhaps the question should be what will Mr Johnson do to try and undermine the independence case?

It is worth recalling he adopted the title of Minister for the Union when he became Prime Minister after winning the Tory leadership election, and since Thursday he has spoken of One Nation Conservatism. If he believes in the latter, as much as he says he believes in the Union, he will no doubt have plans to show it in action.

During the election campaign he laid out what new public spending under his government would look like - increases to the NHS, to education, and to policing. All of those areas will see a rise in money to Scotland through the Barnett Formula, and there will be pressure on the Scottish Government to spend the increase in the same areas. If voters begin to notice a difference in their local services as a result, will that take the shine off the idea of a second independence vote?

Bypassing devolution

Further to that, Michael Gove suggested earlier this year that Westminster could start spending cash in traditionally devolved areas which he believed would strengthen the Union.

He said that while a “Treasury rule” means that the UK government “can’t spend money in areas that are devolved”, “once we’ve given the Scottish Government their fair share, the UK government should be able to spend additional money on the basis of need for projects that will strengthen the Union.”

Such a move would infuriate the Scottish Government, and indeed many other opposition MSPs, as it would mean the UK government effectively “bypassing” the Scottish Government and directly funding devolved areas. Again, however, if communities begin to see a difference on the ground in terms of local services, would they complain about how they were funded?

Brexit

Of course over-arching everything is the fact that the UK will now leave the EU - or at least enter the formal transition period - in January. With Scotland voting heavily to Remain, and polling showing that Scottish Remain voters are far more attracted to independence in the light of a no-deal Brexit, then the trade deals to be struck will be of vital significance to the independence debate. The Prime Minister has said Scotland has no party to play in his Brexit deal, he may well be advised by those in his Union office, that such rhetoric now needs to be scaled back.

Hoisting the Union flag

Mr Johnson might also take a leaf out of the Spanish government's book in terms of dealing with the demands for Catalonian independence. The Spanish flag was suddenly draped from every available advantage point after the controversial referendum in Catalonia. Could it be that the Union flag will become more prominent in Scottish public places? That might seem like a red rag to a bull, but Mr Johnson is not known for subtlety.

Whatever the plans of the new PM are, without doubt the independence debate has only just begun - again.

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