Afterbrexit: Scotland trolls Theresa May by passing laws she has ridiculed

The Brexit vote split firmly along the Scottish-English border, with the Scottish Remain vote leaving no doubt that the region wanted to stay in the EU; it's just the latest in a series of ever-more-obvious examples of the political incompatibility of the Scottish electorate with English Toryism.

In 2014, the Scottish independence referendum came within a ginger whisker of splitting the UK in two. In election after election, the Scots have voted in left-wing, anti-austerity governments composed of SNP and Labour MPs for the devolved Scottish government in Holyrood. After the Brexit vote, Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was openly hostile to the outcome, and made noises about Scotland leaving the UK in order to stay in the EU (there were also widespread rumours that the Scottish MPs would vote against the UK leaving the EU, "rescuing" England from the Leave campaign).

EU elements campaigned heavily against the Scottish independence vote, concerned that if there was a precedent that said that independence movements could pull regions out of their national federal systems and remain in the EU, it would turn into a "contagion" that would spread to places like Catalonia, who have looked to the Scots as an example of how they could rid themselves from the right-leaning, austerity-happy Spanish government in Madrid but stay in the EU. There are similar anti-austerity and regional independence movements across the EU.

Now that Brexit seems inevitable and the most paleoconservative, ultra-Thatcherite wing of the Tories have seized power in England, the Scottish Nationalist Party is urgently signalling its unhappiness with English politics. The latest example is the introduction of a bill to establish an "inequality test" for new legislation before the Scottish Parliament.

Under this system, new Scottish laws would have to be assessed for the impact they'd have on inequality prior to their passage — think of it as an environmental impact statement for inequality. The parliament would be able to pass legislation regardless of this measure, they could vote in legislation considered to be a one-way ticket to massively increased inequality, but would have to do this in the teeth of an on-the-record statement about the likely impact of their vote.

Theresa May hates this: the policy was introduced by Gordon Brown (the Scottish Labour politician who served as PM after Tony Blair resigned as leader, in the runup to the financial crisis and the subsequent election of the Tory-Libdem coalition and then the Tory majority government). Theresa May was made Home Secretary in the new coalition government shortly after Brown introduced the inequality measures, and virtually her first act was to scrap them, calling them "ridiculous" and saying they were gone "for good."

By introducing this legislation, at this moment — weeks after May was made PM — Sturgeon and the Scots are basically telling May to go fuck herself.

The politics here are amazing. Anything May says to antagonise the Scots will later be held against her if Scotland secedes from the UK. Anything that Sturgeon does to antagonise May will only make her seem stronger and more desirable by the Scots electorate who feel like they're about to get torn out of the EU because of English xenophobia, Toryism, and neoliberalism.

I anticipate more of this to come. The list of things that Scots would love, and Theresa May would hate, is very long indeed. May is Thatcher without the charm, determined to rule by shock-and-awe, brooking no compromise or wishy-washy concessions to the majority of Britons who didn't vote for her party (and the 100% majority of Britons who never voted for her as PM). Appointing clowns and thugs and nutters to positions of power is a way of signalling that there's no more business as usual and if you're in her way, you're going to get squashed.

But Sturgeon's victory condition is to bait May into dudgeon and ham-fisted retaliation, which gives Sturgeon a delightful position from which to taunt, poke and bollock Westminster: tails Hollyrood wins, heads Westminster loses.

Given that Scotland is taking up this idea, it's fair game as a policy demand in the US, particularly since the Scottish initiative can be improved upon as they gain experience. Oh, wait, the US is exceptional, so we don't learn from the experience of other countries, like the success of single payer. Silly me. Never mind.

Separately, and I'd be curious to get the reaction of readers in the UK, there seems to be a tit-for-tat dynamic developing between May and foreign leaders on multiple fronts, which looks in large measure to be Brexit being seen as tantamount to a declaration of war. Admittedly, May started with the shocker of appointing Boris Johnson as Foreign Secretary, which was followed by Nicola Sturgeon arguing she had a veto over Brexit (which appears to be an inaccurate reading), and the EU appointing very seasoned negotiators: Didier Seeuws by the European Council, and Michel Barnier by the European Commission. As we wrote, UK officials reacted to Barnier's designation with dismay, since he's been a torn in the banks' side in post-crisis regulatory talks. So it will take a lot of work to get Brexit talks on a constructive footing, particularly since the initial gambits look to be increasing animosity.

Scotland Disses Theresa May by Reviving Anti-Inequality Law She Loathes
[Yves Smith/Naked Capitalism]