Dan Wootton: Boris can't ignore the Union question for much longer

Nicola Sturgeon is using Covid to advance her independence dream

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Boris Johnson must start thinking much more about how to save the Union.

With the coronavirus political crisis abating, the fight for Scottish independence has the potential to become the defining issue of our time. A proactive approach by the government is not only sensible, it’s necessary.

A Cabinet minister has today leaked two suggestions to The Times reporter Tom Newton Dunn for a front page story about how the Union can be salvaged. The first: Scots should be able to vote in a second independence referendum, regardless of where they live in the UK. The second: Former Scottish Tory leader Ruth Davidson should be appointed to a new role of constitutional secretary that would install her as the head of the pro-Union campaign.

Both make perfect sense to me. Scots who happen to be living somewhere else in the UK must not be disenfranchised the next time there is a vote.

The future of the Union will arguably impact them more than Scots who remain in their home nation. There’s a lot of them too: An estimated 800,000 Scots are living in England, with a further 50,000 in Wales.

And there is a precedent for such a move, given that Brits abroad were able to vote in the 2016 Brexit referendum.

One thing I can guarantee is that Nicola Sturgeon is prepared to throw political mud to further the independence cause.

We saw that again today as she pushed back hard against Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham, who is rightly furious Sturgeon slapped a travel ban on his citizens for no apparent reason.

Sturgeon has used the coronavirus crisis to advance her independence goals, which is why it’s right for other leaders to push back hard when what she’s saying is totally nonsensical.