NICOLA STURGEON’S move to effectively put on hold plans for a second referendum on Scottish independence – the so-called Indyref2 vote – demonstrates some rare realism on the First Minister’s part.
If it wasn’t for Theresa May losing her majority, there would have been far more attention on the SNP leader after her party lost 21 seats, and half a million votes, on June 8.
For, while the election here was an old-fashioned battle between Labour and the Tories, the traditional left and right political tribes, unionism versus nationalism characterised the campaign north of the border. Put simply, Scottish voters – after making a once-in-a-generation decision to remain in the UK as recently as 2014 – can’t understand the logic of seeking independence and then meekly surrendering new-found powers to Brussels (assuming, of course, that Scotland does, in fact, meet the EU’s membership criteria).
Ms Sturgeon did not couch her climbdown in these terms. She described it as ‘taking stock’ as she ‘reset’ the referendum timetable – but this is a humiliation for a vain-glorious leader who had always linked the issue of independence to the UK-wide vote on Brexit. Like Mrs May, she is now much diminished.
However it does not make Mrs May’s task any easier. After all, she still has to secure a Brexit settlement that satisfies all four nations of the United Kingdom and their vastly differing priorities – the views of the 13 Scottish Conservative MPs elected this month are, for example, already at odds with their more Eurosceptic colleagues.
Either way, there’s now an opportunity for Mrs May to work even more collegiately with political rivals across the country as Ms Sturgeon effectively leads the call for a softer Brexit in these uncertain times. She should take it and remember, to paraphrase her predecessor David Cameron, that we are – still – all in it together.
Art of the possible: Yorkshire first, London second
THAT cultural attractions and projects across Yorkshire are to receive increased funding – and at London’s expense – offers an object lesson in the art of the possible.
Testimony to this region’s creative talent which is perfectly illustrated by the dynamic way in which Hull has embraced its status as this year’s City of Culture, it shows the capital does not – and should not – have a monopoly on ideas and investment.
After all, the Arts Council is only providing an additional 16 per cent of funding for the next four years because organisations across the county have put forward funding bids so compelling that they simply could not be turned down by officials.
It also helps that this is one governing body which recognises the social and economic importance of culture in the regions to improving the quality of lives for all.
There’s still much to do. Yorkshire’s museums cannot afford to rest on their laurels – London still holds all the aces here – while this region’s cultural revolution will gather further momentum if Channel 4, a TV channel synonymous with creativity and innovation, can be persuaded to relocate here. The spin-offs would be significant and help counter the impact of the BBC’s operations at Media City in Manchester.
And there are lessons here for the rest of the county’s decision-makers. If Yorkshire is to follow the example of the arts and receive a fairer funding deal when it comes to other sectors, like transport and education, it needs to start seizing the initiative rather than simply blaming others.
Where there’s a will, there’s a way...
EVEN though there’s nothing more quintessentially British than wildflowers coming into full colour in a green meadow, these tranquil fields are not being afforded sufficient protection.
New research reveals that 97 per cent of such land has been destroyed since the 1930s – the equivalent of a geographical area that is one-and-a-half times the size of Wales. It’s critical context.
Without a new approach to nature conservation, and the countryside in general, botanical experts fear iconic meadow flowers such as the ragged robin, harebell and field scabious will disappear altogether.
Yet, while it does require the planning system to be more sympathetic towards the country’s natural assets, the onus is also on local residents to speak out when they see priceless gems being threatened by improper use – whether it be by flytippers with no regard to the countryside or developers putting forward unsymathetic building plans. If they don’t, it will be too late.