Nicola Sturgeon has requested the power to hold a referendum on Scottish independence and Boris Johnson knows he must tread carefully, says Max Liu...
"Sturgeon believes the case for an indyref2 was boosted by the 2019 general election in which the SNP won 48 of Scotland's 59 seats at Westminster. She says she has an 'unarguable mandate' to hold a vote."
A referendum on Scottish independence in 2020 is 10/1 on the Betfair Sportsbook after Boris Johnson said he would give "careful consideration" to Nicola Sturgeon's request to hold a vote next year.
The SNP leader and Scottish first minister has written to the British Prime Minister asking for the powers to hold a referendum to decide her country's future. However, Johnson has previously ruled out allowing a vote, claiming the matter was settled at the 2014 referendum in which Scots votes 55 to 45% to remain part of the UK.
Johnson on collision course with Scotland?
Sturgeon believes the case for an indyref2 was boosted by the result of the 2019 general election in which the SNP won 48 of Scotland's 59 seats at Westminster. She says she has an "unarguable mandate" to hold a vote.
Johnson, however, is likely to reject Sturgeon's request. He stated during the general election campaign that he would not let Scotland hold a referendum and reiterated his commitment to preserving the union. He said a minority Labour government, forced to rely on the support in parliament from the SNP, would grant an indyref2 - an argument which probably damaged Labour at the ballot box, just as it did in 2015 when David Cameron made similar claims.
With a majority of 80, Johnson is in a strong position in parliament but Scotland is one of the areas where his premiership could prove vulnerable. Scotland voted 62% to Remain at the 2016 in-out referendum on the UK's membership of the European Union and, with MPs this week passing Johnson's withdrawal deal through the Commons, the UK is set to leave the EU on 31 January.
UK-wide polling this week showed 40 to 27% saying there should not be an indyref2. However, in Scotland the outcome was 46 to 43% the other way, with a small majority in favour of another vote.
Scotland's future could prove to be one of the biggest challenges facing Johnson in office. The outcome of the 2014 referendum was closer than Cameron expected when he gave then first minister Alex Salmond the power to hold the vote.
Subsequent election results, in 2015, '17 and '19 have indicated growing support for independence and, earlier this year, a poll showed a small majority of Scots in favour of leaving the UK. On Betfair, you can get even odds on Scots choosing independence at the next referendum.
Sturgeon warned Johnson that a simple "no" to a referendum would not be sufficient. She has ruled out holding an unofficial referendum like the one in Catalonia in 2017 which resulted in civil unrest, Catalan politicians being given long prison sentences by the Spanish courts and Catalan president Carles Puigdemont living in exile in Belgium.
But the question of Scotland's future is not going away - as indicated by the opening of a new Exchange market on the year of the next referendum which suggests it's a matter of when not if.
Johnson will need to think very carefully about how he handles the matter. Cameron will go down in history as one of the worst PMs, due to his decision to hold the EU in-out referendum, but even that ignominy would pale by comparison if Johnson becomes the Tory PM who lost Scotland from the union.
David Lammy considering Labour leadership bid
David Lammy says he will decide over Christmas whether to enter the contest to be Labour's next leader, which will begin in the New Year, but sets out his vision for the party today.
At current odds of 65.064/1, Lammy is an outsider for the job, coming a long way behind the likes of leading candidates Keir Starmer 3.02/1, Rebecca Long Bailey 3.3512/5 and Lisa Nandy 6.611/2 on the Exchange, all of whom you can read about here.
However, Lammy has been MP for Tottenham since 2000 and would be the longest-serving politician in the race unless Yvette Cooper 16.5, who was first elected to parliament in 1997, decides to stand. Starmer and Long-Bailey became MPs in 2015 while Nandy was part of the 2010 intake. If he were to win, Lammy would be the first BAME leader of a major UK political party.