Sturgeon’s independence blow after ‘no enthusiasm’ in France: ‘Goes against our ambitions’

Nicola Sturgeon's leadership record 'failing' says Farage

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The Scottish First Minister recently renewed her calls for a second vote on independence by 2023 during her Scottish National Party’s (SNP) first conference since the May elections. Prime Minister Boris Johnson, however, has so far said he will not grant one. But the SNP has indicated it is prepared to hold a referendum without his consent and head to the courts to settle it.

This would create a constitutional standoff with Westminster.

But according to a recent poll, a narrow majority of Scots are against the idea of railroading an independence vote through, believing the power to hold one should lie with Westminster.

The survey, conducted for POLITICO by Redfield and Wilton Strategies, also found that Scots aren’t “currently convinced by the merits of independence”.

It will come as a blow to Ms Sturgeon who previously believed her near-majority win in the Holyrood elections had given her the mandate to hold an Indyref2.

Going off previous reports and analysis, it appears foreign states like France are also unconvinced of the merits of an independent Scotland — concerned about the potential negative outcomes on its own interests.

Scotland and France have a long history of alliance, the Stuarts having partnered with France’s King in 1422 in the latter’s fight against the English.

Yet, despite this Auld Alliance, ahead of the independence ballot in 2014, Francois Gresset, deputy mayor of Aubingy — which has historical links with Scotland — said opinions on the ballot remained a hot topic.

While he conceded that “most people in Aubigny are for it […] there are many factors to take into account”.

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The BBC’s Hugh Schofield noted in 2014:”His reserve on the issue is tacit acknowledgement that full-blown independence for Scotland may not tally with France’s modern-day convictions and priorities.”

He added: “Certainly, in Paris — though no-one in government would presume to say it openly — there is no enthusiasm for Scottish independence.”

This was, he said, because France believes in the nation state, and would be wary of regions like Corsica or Brittany getting ideas about breaking away themselves.

However, according to French political scientist Dominique Moisi, that is not the real reason for France’s Lack of support for independence.

He told the BBC at the time: “France is not Spain, where the precedent Scotland might set for Catalonia is very real.

“Here the regions make a lot of noise, but there is no risk of separation.

“No, for France the argument against Scottish independence is our dream of a strong United Kingdom, fully engaged in Europe, whose purpose is to counterbalance a Germany that gets more powerful every year.


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“Anything that detracts from that strong United Kingdom — as Scottish independence would do — goes against French ambitions in Europe.”

While 700 years ago France and Scotland had a common cause against England, from it forging a military bond, present-day political environments have changed.

However, after 2014 things changed again.

In 2016, the UK left the EU, and so while France’s dream of a “United Kingdom, fully engaged in Europe” is not totally discarded, it has been scaled back considerably.

Scotland and Northern Ireland were the only two parts of the UK to vote to remain in the EU, while Wales and England voted to leave.

Ms Sturgeon has repeatedly set-out her plan to take the country back into the bloc if it were to gain independence.

While Paris has remained tight-lipped on the issue, French President Emmanuel Macron has since hinted at his position on the debate.

In 2017, he was asked if he was in favour of a ‘Yes’ vote but maintained that it wasn’t his place to say, although added that Scotland would be eager to follow its own path.

When asked if he supported a free Scotland, Mr Macron replied: “Vive l’Écosse Européenne” (long live European Scotland).

He is one of a handful of European leaders to have praised Ms Sturgeon for her plans of rejoining the EU in recent years.

In July 2019, SNP MP Alyn Smith drew parallels between Ms Sturgeon and European Commission President Urusla von der Leyen during an interview with the Brussels chief.

He said: “I’d like to invite you to Scotland to come and see our very pro-European sentiment.

“You’ll be very welcomed by our very strong First Minister who’s a very strong pro-European lady.”

Ms Von der Leyen claimed she was “a fan” of the SNP leader.

She responded: “I know, I’m a fan of hers.

“And as I have a child studying in the UK, I know first-hand how the debates are. So, respect and good luck.”

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