Set aside the stratospheric constitutional and political cost of different parts of the UK having different immigration policies – and when did the SNP care a jot about the impact on the UK of asymmetric devolution of anything – the most interesting [and telling] response to Michael Gove’s attempted vote catcher for the Leave EU campaign came from Scotland’s First Minister.
Gove – in his campaign appearance in the Scottish borders yesterday, 13th June, suggested that while, at the moment, immigration policy for the UK as a whole is reserved to Westminster, a majority vote to leave the EU could open the way for the Scottish government to negotiate to control immigration to Scotland.
Nicola Sturgeon was quick to respond, calling the Gove vote bait ‘a fib and a half’.
This leaves the First Minister open to two sharp political hits on the instability of her own truthfulness.
If the Gover’s bribery was a ‘fib and a half’:
- what scale of ‘fib’ was Ms Sturgeon’s infamous indy prospectus, the White Paper on Scotland’s Future?
- and what scale of ‘fib’ was Ms Sturgeon’s voluntary announcement, days before the Scottish Election on 5th May, that the new road bridge across the Forth, the Queensferry Crossing, was ‘on time and on budget – thanks to our stewardship’? Less than a month later it was revealed that the bridge is actually months behind schedule – and of course, although this is not being mentioned in a compliant media, delay will have a direct impact on cost.
However, why was the FM so swift in trying to down the Gover’s ploy?
It may be – and is – an unworkable concept within the union, but many will not understand that; and the proportion of Scotland’s population worried about inward migration will see the possibility of Scottish control of Scottish immigration as attractive – as will a fair number of the Bravehearts, who will see it as more potential power for Scotland.
Anything likely to increase the Brexit vote in Scotland is anathema to the FM and some of her senior cabinet colleagues – not because they support the retention of Britain’s EU membership but principally because the absolute last thing they want is to be under the gun to call a second indyref, should Brexit win the day.
Unlike Alex Salmond, who has been unequivocal in ramping up the inevitability of indyref 2 should Scotland vote to stay in the EU against an overall UK majority for leaving – Ms Sturgeon has attached the caveat of’ ‘almost certainly’ to her cleverly deceptive statements on this potential development.
She is desperately concerned at what is within the bounds of possibility – that on 24th June she will either have to commit to indyref 2 or come clean, for the first time, with a very large proportion of the SNP’s ground troops – that she will not call for a second referendum on independence, regardless of the outcome of the coming vote.
Scotland as a whole is no more tolerant than is any other part of the UK – and it will be interesting to see just what proportion votes for Brexit on 23rd June.
Not all of those living in Scotland who will vote to leave will be motivated by the immigration issue – but it would be naive to imagine that this is not a widespread – and manipulated – anxiety.
For the record, we remain certain that the British majority will be to stay in Europe.