A quick analysis of Nicola Sturgeon’s letter to Theresa May – what can we learn from in in terms of Brexit?

Dear Theresa,

When we met in Glasgow on Monday, I wished you well for the negotiations that lie ahead now that you have formally invoked Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. I want to reiterate those good wishes now.

The priority here is the meeting on Monday – it is the first thing that she speaks of, I suspect the rest of the letter will be in reference to that meeting.

She starts with ‘we’ which is good in terms of relationship and shared experience, and then moves to ‘I’ and ‘you’ indicating distance in the relationship. She then repeats ‘I’ indicating this is about her.

It is also important to note the usage of the word ‘lie’  – rather than use the correct tense of ‘lay’ ahead.  This could be a colloquial usage but it is worth noting as it also holds the meaning of ‘untruth’

I very much hope that you succeed in realising your ambitions for the terms of the UK’s future relationship with the EU. A good deal for the UK is clearly in Scotland’s interests whatever constitutional future we choose.

She doesn’t tell us what Theresa May’s ambitions are for the UK relationship with the EU – notable by absence.   Rather she simply states that a ‘good deal’ for the UK is in Scotland’s interests – gain leaving out any specifics of what a ‘good deal’ would look like.

It is for that reason that I intend that the Scottish Government will play a full and constructive role in securing such an outcome.

This is a co-operative statement – however, if the Scottish government (such as it is) is not co-operative, will this have any real impact on the outcome? ‘I’ – we are still focused on her.  ‘I intend’ is a strong word assumes the power to decide what the Scottish Government will and will not do.  There is a big distance between ‘that reason’ and ‘an outcome’ as well as herself and ‘an outcome’.

‘Play a full and constructive role’ – to play a role one thinks of a part in a play or movie – is this how she sees the situation – a stage on which role’s are played?

I expressed my frustration on Monday that the process leading up to the invoking of Article 50 had failed to involve the devolved administrations in any meaningful way – a view that I know is shared by the First Minister of Wales.

‘I’ means we are still focused on her and now her feelings of ‘frustration’ – her feelings are important to her in this.  I wonder if the First Minister of Wales is happy about being pulled into to this?  did she consult him?  it is a sign that she doesn’t want to be alone in her statement about the process.

Far from securing a UK wide approach ahead of invoking Article 50 – as you committed to do last July – the voices of the devolved administrations were largely ignored and all attempts at compromise rejected, in most cases with no prior consultation.

She is now accusing Theresa May of breaking a commitment to secure a UK wide approach on Article 50.  I have italicised words weakening the last sentence – I would question if she really believes what she is saying here and rightly so – UK law was followed.

As we move forward into a new phase, we need to agree a more direct role and influence for the devolved administrations, reflecting the key interests that are at stake for all of us.

Collaboration is strong in this sentence.  Is she now representing Wales as she references ‘administrations’ and ‘all of us’.  She does not state what interests are as stake and this is weakened by ‘for all of us’.

However, whatever outcome is secured, it seems inevitable that it will remove the UK, not just from the EU, but also from the single market. As you are aware, that is not an outcome that the people of Scotland voted for. It is also an outcome that will have significant implications for our economy, society and place in the world.

In these very changed circumstances, the people of Scotland must have the right to choose our own future – in short, to exercise our right of self determination.

The exit of the UK from the EU is of higher importance than the Scottish vote, however, she distances the Scottish vote and refers to membership and single market removal as ‘an outcome’ – is there another out come that she is perceiving here that we are not being told about?

‘the people’ – she is distancing herself from ‘the people of Scotland’ but then changes to ‘our’ – incongruent language is important.

Indeed I noted the importance you attached to the principle of self determination in your letter to President Tusk.

As you are aware, the Scottish Parliament has now determined by a clear majority that there should be an independence referendum. The purpose of such a referendum is to give people in Scotland the choice of following the UK out of the EU and single market on the terms you negotiate, or becoming an independent country, able to chart our own course and build a genuine partnership of equals with the other nations of the UK. A copy of the motion passed by Parliament on 28 March 2017 is attached.

‘give people in Scotland’ – the article is dropped here as well as a change of reference from ‘of’ to ‘in’ weakening the importance of ‘the people’ – there is information missing here regarding how she views the choice being made in the referendum

The decision of the Scottish Parliament has been made in line with the tradition of popular sovereignty in Scotland – that the people of Scotland should be able to determine the form of government most suited to their needs – and with the clear commitment in the manifesto on which my government was re-elected last May.

‘the people’ – distancing is now congruent with followed by ‘their needs’

I am therefore writing to begin early discussions between our governments to agree an Order under section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998 that would enable a referendum to be legislated for by the Scottish Parliament.

I have, of course, noted and carefully considered your public position. However, it seems that we are in agreement on the essential matters.

For example we agree that now is not the time for a referendum.

‘your public position’ indicates that Theresa May has a private position that is different from that which she chooses to be seen publicly.   She has noted and carefully considered this before stating what follows, most importantly that now is not the time for a referendum.

You confirmed to me on Monday, and repeated in your letter invoking Article 50, that you intend the terms of both the UK’s exit from the EU and of a future trade deal to be agreed before March 2019 and in time for ratification by other member states – in other words, between the autumn of next year and the spring of 2019. As you are aware, this is the timescale endorsed by the Scottish Parliament for a referendum.

As I have said previously, if the timetable you have set out changes, we will require to consider the implications for the timing of a referendum. However, it seems reasonable at this stage to work on the basis of your stated timetable.

Is she stating that the referendum will go ahead with out Parliament approval?

We are also in agreement that – unlike the EU referendum – the choice must be an informed one. That means that both the terms of Brexit and the implications and opportunities of independence must be clear in advance of the referendum.

She i stating that the EU referendum was an uniformed choice that the voters did not know the terms of Brexit or its implications, however, she is distancing (with extra distancing) from the choice being informed on terms of Brexit and alternatives – this is a weak statement.

It is also worth noting that the clear precedent of the 2012 Edinburgh Agreement should make reaching agreement on this occasion a relatively straightforward process – addressing any concern you may have that discussions would be time consuming for your government when they are also preparing for EU negotiations.

In light of the above, there appears to be no rational reason for you to stand in the way of the will of the Scottish Parliament and I hope you will not do so.

Is she calling Theresa May’s state of mind into question here?

However, in anticipation of your refusal to enter into discussions at this stage, it is important for me to be clear about my position.

She fully expects refusal to enter discussions so brings the focus back to herself as a response.

It is my firm view that the mandate of the Scottish Parliament must be respected and progressed. The question is not if, but how.

This is her view, not the view shared by others.

I hope that will be by constructive discussion between our governments. However, if that is not yet possible, I will set out to the Scottish Parliament the steps I intend to take to ensure that progress is made towards a referendum.

This is un-necessary information, however, it is important for her to say it, to be seen as a leader of an independent state rather than an elected representative of a devolved state.

Again, I wish you well for all that lies ahead and stand ready to discuss both a section 30 order and the Scottish Government’s role in securing the best outcome for all parts of the UK.

I am copying this letter to the Presiding Officer of the Scottish Parliament and to Bruce Crawford, Convener of the Parliament’s Finance and Constitution Committee.

Nicola Sturgeon


This letter is largely adversarial on a personal level.  She is keen to present herself as a sovereign leader of an independent state rather than the lead representative of the majority political party of devolved government (she is not the elected leader of the Scottish people – however she assumes this in her turn of reference)

There is missing information regarding the purpose of the referendum and what exactly the choice is that being made by the people.  That she distances herself from ‘the people’ indicates to me that she may see the purpose and the outcome (social/economic) very differently from how it is presented (the choice being given) to ‘the people’ even though the social/economic impact as a consideration itself is shared.

She states the choice being given is to the people is to remain in the UK and leave the single market or to become independent ‘charting our own course’ and defining its relationship with the UK – this maybe why we are seeing sensitivity/deception around the purpose and outcome because in truth, if Scotland stays within the EU it will have no independence to choose its relationship with any other country, certainly it won’t be charting its own course.  It will be a choice of ‘who would you prefer playing second fiddle to? who gives you more power to self determine?’  presented in that light it would change the focus of the ‘informed’ choice.

She already anticipates that Theresa May will not respond positively (this is a stage with roles being played, is the script already known?).  So one is left to wonder why this is necessary and in this way, as currently the Scottish Parliament and even less the party leader of the majority seats, does not wield any significant power in the UK on an important subject like Brexit.

I suspect that she has strong sponsorship and is being encouraged to behave in this manner as a part of the campaign to undermine UK democracy being lead by political and business people alike.  Perhaps we should be wise to remember that this is a stage and consider what the title of the play is, who the actors are, and what the story is which the actors are already aware of.   To be a good play it has to be convincing and acted out well, and Nicola Sturgeon is certainly playing her part to the ‘full’.

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