How Theresa May's Scottish 'power grab' could fuel demand for a second independence referendum

  • Tory leaders May and Davidson refuse to say whether Downing Street will hand over crucial EU powers to Scotland after Brexit
  • Sturgeon says failure to hand over powers makes fresh independence referendum more likely

LONDON — The Scottish National Party have accused the Conservatives of a power grab after Theresa May refused to say whether she would hand crucial powers to Scotland after Brexit.

Agriculture and fisheries policy — including the vital issue of subsidies — is currently set in Brussels, and the UK will regain control of those powers once it exits the EU as part of the “Great Repeal Bill.”

On Wednesday, May refused in parliament to rule out taking those powers straight back to Westminster rather than devolving them to the Scottish government, something First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says would make a fresh independence referendum more likely.

The SNP claims that it was previously promised control of existing EU powers after Brexit. A senior SNP source told the Times that failure to do so would represent a power grab, while Sturgeon warned this week that the Conservatives are using Brexit to “undermine the foundations of devolution.”

Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson stoked further SNP anger on Wednesday when she told the Times that that the issue of how cash for farmers was raised, and who allocated it, was up for debate.

She said: “So does it come out of the Scottish parliament’s budget, and they have to levy additional taxation for that? Or are we assuming that’s coming from the Treasury? If it does come from the Treasury are we talking about where it’s administrated?”

Davidson added: “All these things are absolutely legitimate questions and they are questions we need to answer in quite a mature fashion about where it best lies.”

There are growing suggestions that Sturgeon is gearing up to call a fresh independence referendum after May triggers Article 50 later this month, and pollster John Curtice told BI in February that it would be “politically catastrophic” for May to deny the first minister such a vote.

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