Sturgeon was never going to get his permission for another referendum. Now she’s never going to get it even more

by Colin Campbell

THE odds against another independence referendum being held next year were 5 to 1 on Monday.

The bookies last night hadn’t had time to change them.

But what would they be today? Maybe 10 to 1 and rising?

Boris Johnson was undoubtedly “badly wounded” by the number of Tory MPs who voted against him in last night’s confidence vote.

And he may suffer a few more cuts and bruises in two upcoming by elections.

But after having survived the confidence vote, no matter how precariously, he cannot be challenged again for another 12 months.

Unless, that is, he decides to resign. And as far as that prospect goes, greased piglets will fly first.

Boris Johnson is the most brazenly stubborn prime minister those of my vintage can ever remember. He puts even Margaret Thatcher in the shade.

The media vendetta against Johnson, largely driven by journalists jealous and envious that one of their former colleagues now holds the most important office in the land, will have it that he is still hanging on by his fingernails. But he will not quit, come what may. He’s made that clear, and on that pledge he sounds wholly convincing.

Between now and next year, if she is to keep her pledge to her seethingly restless supporters, Nicola Sturgeon will have to seek Johnson’s approval for a section 30 order for a referendum.

She was never going to get that. But after last night’s vote she is never going to get it even more.

Johnson has much to do to carve out some kind of legacy for his duration in No. 10.

I think we can say with some certainty that that will not include him going down in history as the man who presided over the break up of Her Majesty’s United Kingdom. Or came remotely close to risking it happening.

Sturgeon’s last appeal by formal letter to Johnson for a section 30 order was dismissed with a comically contemptuous scrawl which passed for his signature.

Next time she’d be as good submitting it on a sheet of toilet paper.

Those 5 to 1 odds being offered against a referendum relate solely to a legal referendum sanctioned by Westminster. There is no side bet on offer for a wildcat, illegal referendum emanating from Holyrood.

What might be the theoretical odds on that happening? Evens, 2 to 1 against?

After making promise after promise surely Sturgeon has to do something to at least try and appease her endlessly patient, endlessly frustrated, endlessly gullible supporters. She can’t let the months drift by into “indy 23” year and do absolutely nothing.

And yet the haze of helplessness hanging over her refuses to lift.

What can she do? A wildcat referendum, even if councils agreed to take part, which is highly unlikely, would be boycotted by more than half the population, would be meaningless, and would leave the SNP and Sturgeon and weird little Patrick Harvie and the lickspittle Greens as a laughing stock.

Nicola was on her best behaviour when she sat behind the Royal family at the Jubilee celebrations.

She devoutly wishes to separate Scotland from the rest of the UK but she wishes to do it in an orderly, legal fashion.

To do that she needs the co-operation of the occupant of Downing Street.

The realisation that he is now free to rampage around for another 12 months will have added to her woes last night.

Opposition from Johnson to another referendum will be “unsustainable” and “untenable” is the mantra the nationalists are liable to dust off and again drag out of the closet, the one where all their “mandates” are stored.

And how feeble a challenge that is to direct at a prime minister who last night outwardly looked calm and indeed ebullient, but who inwardly will have all the sympathetic and conciliatory instincts of a wounded, angry bull.

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