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Unionist party leaders are the main risk to the UK

Image credit: PA

Unionist party leaders are the main risk to the UK

If reaction to the opinion poll that I published last week in Holyrood magazine is anything to go by, the debate about Scottish independence has just got a whole load more messy.

Commentators have been predicting for some time that a Boris Johnson led UK government on track for a hard Brexit, could see him as the last prime minister of a United Kingdom but last week’s poll by Lord Ashcroft Polls, confirmed that the drift had already begun.

And with more than half of Scots now in favour of independence and a majority wanting a second referendum within two years, it really feels like game on.

It is of course just one poll, but with support for independence never having really waned since 2014, it’s a solid base to start from that does look increasingly likely is now on the up.

And the reaction has been predictably vitriolic. Lord Ashcroft is a former deputy chairman of the Conservative Party and remains a committed Tory but even he has been accused of being an SNP sleeper by what should be his own side.

The poll put support for Scottish independence at a headline figure of 52 per cent to 48 per cent and is the first to register what many people believed was happening anyway, that there is an increase in support for independence because of Brexit and because of BoJo.

None of which is comfortable reading for the Scottish Conservative leader, Ruth Davidson who was a committed Remainer and has reluctantly got behind the new prime minister having previously voted for anyone but him.

Scotland voted overwhelmingly to stay in the EU and the poll has only confirmed the fact that the appetite for Scots to be European has been cemented by the intervening three years of inaction by an inept government at Westminster with 67 per cent of them now saying they would vote to remain.

Indeed, when Scots were asked if they had to choose between the Union or the EU, a majority chose our European chums.

But in what had already been a miserable couple of weeks for the Scottish Conservative leader, in which she has ironically had to deny that she is considering breaking her own union with the UK party and has also seen her popularity among Conservative members plummet, the Labour Party, as ever, ride to Davidson’s rescue.

Appearing in a Q&A at the Edinburgh fringe, John McDonnell, the shadow chancellor, when asked whether he would support a second referendum, said that it would be a decision for the Scots. And while that might sound reasonable enough in polite society, in the hands of the Scottish commentariat that was proof positive that the Labour Party was at war with itself.

And so it was left to poor Richard Leonard, the Scottish Labour leader, already suffering the ignominy of being voted a less popular leader among Scots than even Boris Johnson, having to explain to McDonnell that the Scottish party had a policy of opposing a second referendum. That fell on deaf ears and saw McDonnell only double-down putting Scottish Labour back in its box. Again.

And that’s the rub for the pro-Unionist parties, Scottish constitutional politics is not a game for the faint-hearted but with independence looking ever closer, they find their own party leadership being the main risk to their precious Union.

Sometimes separation just make sense

Read the most recent article written by Mandy Rhodes - There's a terrifying pattern of mendacity to Boris Johnson's government

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