After a weekend of crisis and turmoil at Westminster here are five developments which have made the case for independence stronger and more vital than ever.
1: The moral vacuum at Westminster
A sex scandal which led to flagrant breaches of social distancing rules forced UK health secretary Matt Hancock to resign over the weekend but the truth is he should have gone months ago … and other ministers should have followed him.
The UK’s National Audit Office has said that more than half of the £18bn spent on contracts related to the Covid pandemic was awarded without competitive testing.
Matt Hancock has been accused of cronyism over the awarding of contracts to former work colleagues and to a company in which he held shares.
He has also been busy rewriting history by telling a parliamentary inquiry there was never a national shortage of personal protective equipment in England. There are now calls for a full investigation into claims that the former health secretary used a private email account to conduct government business.
There have been so many allegations made against him – and other Westminster Tory politicians – that it was obvious months ago there should have been resignations or sackings.
Giving evidence to a Commons committee, Boris Johnson’s former top aid Dominic Cummings claimed the Prime Minister had called Hancock ‘’hopeless’’. Yet it was only when it became obvious that he had lost the support of Tory MPs that he had to go.
Cabinet Minister Michael Gove is facing questions over using money set aside for Covid to poll attitudes to independence. He has also been found in the High Court to have acted unlawfully in awarding a contract to former associates.
2: The deepening disaster of Brexit
Six months after post-Brexit rules took effect on January 1 almost a third of British companies have suffered a decline or loss of business, according to a survey for the Financial Times. Scottish industries such as fishing have been particularly badly affected, with trade to Europe dropping dramatically because of a huge increase in red tape.
41% of companies who had engaged with Scottish Enterprise between January and April said the top challenges they faced were caused by the end of the Brexit transition period
Evidence published last week by the Scottish government showed that 41% of companies who had engaged with Scottish Enterprise between January and April said the top challenges they faced were caused by the end of the Brexit transition period.
And for many firms the situation is getting worse. Now a shortage of workers from Europe is making life more difficult. Twenty of the biggest hauliers in the UK have urged Boris Johnson to ease the difficulties they have with driver shortages and customs delays.
They warned the problems could cause a shortage of supplies in shops.
3: Disastrous trade deals
The Scottish agricultural industry has warned of the serious consequences which could arise from the UK government’s first international trade deal signed since Brexit. Farmers fear the deal with Australia could see their products undercut by Australian imports and food standards undermined.
They have warned the Australian deal could serve as a template for similar – or worse – deals with huge food exporters such as the USA and Brazil. So far they have been far from comforted by Westminster’s vague promises of ‘’safeguards’’.
The UK government is this week planning to push ahead with plans to cut furlough support. Powers over furlough payments remain reserved to Westminster.
The Scottish government has introduced 100% business rates relief for the full financial year of 2021-22. But Westminster plans to end business rates relief exemption south of the Border on July 1.
The SNP’s shadow chancellor Alison Thewliss said: “It’s beyond any doubt that Scotland is vulnerable under Westminster control, and that the only way to keep Scotland safe from Tory cuts is to become an independent country.’’
The new chairman of the Electoral Commission signalled he could agree to Scottish government demands that the vote be held regardless of Westminster’s opinion
5: Indyref 2
Boris Johnson’s insistence that he can block a second independence referendum was undermined yesterday when the new chairman of the Electoral Commission signalled he could agree to Scottish government demands that the vote be held regardless of Westminster’s opinion.
John Pullinger said the commission was not ‘’a body of the UK parliament’’. If the Scottish government wants to hold indyref 2 against Westminster wishes Mr Pullinger said he would have an ‘’independent discussion” with it.
He said he would be open to those talks if the Scottish government wanted ‘’something to be done that helps them with their democracy’’.
The SNP clearly has a mandate for indyref 2 after winning the Scottish election in May, when voters returned a majority of pro-indy MSPs.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says she will call the second referendum during the current parliamentary term. But Boris Johnson has has continued to say now is not the time for the vote and last week Cabinet Secretary Michael Gove said he ‘’couldn’t see’’ it happening before 2024. Their power to impose such a block looks increasingly shaky.