Get ready for Clash of the Titans

Who will blink first in the current titanic battle of the Amazons now raging over Scottish independence?

Tuesday, 21st March 2017, 8:21 am
Updated Friday, 24th March 2017, 10:59 am
1995 library filer of Chris Moncrieff. Photo by Peter Smith/PA

Here are two obdurate women, neither of whom are given to retreating, in eyeball-to-eyeball conflict over one of the great issues of the day, which will affect these islands for generations to come.

Nicola Sturgeon, Scotland’s First Minister, says Prime Minister Theresa May should not dare challenge the expected decision of the Scottish Parliament over an earlier, rather than a later, referendum on independence.

May says a referendum cannot be countenanced until after Brexit. In short, never the twain shall meet. The word “compromise” does not appear in either of the combatants’ vocabularies. So we could be looking forward with trepidation to an almighty collision, with the Scottish Parliament, in political terms anyway, at war with Westminster.

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And that would be a constitutional nightmare.

But that is the direction it appears to be heading. Tin hats at the ready!

- The key question now hovering, like the Sword of Damocles, over British politics is this: Will the Prime Minister let hangdog Chancellor Philip Hammond loose on another Budget in the autumn, following the disaster of his first one?

It should be easy, you might have thought, for her to sack Hammond, but it is not so simple as that. His dismissal now, so soon after he was appointed, would reflect badly on Theresa May’s own judgement. So she is stuck with him. Here is a man who not only did not read the small print, but did not even bother to read the large print either, with the Tory General Election manifesto shouting at him: We will not raise taxes or national insurance.

Why didn’t May spot it? Why didn’t his Cabinet colleagues point it out when he gave them details of the Budget the night before? Perhaps he did not show them that bit. And what on earth were the civil servants doing?

It all adds up to the biggest Treasury howler and humiliation in living memory. Yet, so far as I am aware, not a single head has rolled.