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OPINION

What The Race For U.K. Prime Minister Means For Scottish Independence Movement

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Townhall.com.
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AP Photo/Scott Heppell, File

Editor's note: This piece was authored by Noah Khogali

As the final two Conservative Party leadership candidates continue their tour around the United Kingdom, arguing why they should be the next Prime Minister, the SNP – the separatist movement which governs the Scottish devolved regional government – is suspiciously quiet. They know that with a new Conservative leader and prime minister in Westminster, their chances of Scottish Independence are fading fast. 

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In Leeds, weeks before the Scottish portion of the hustings tour where the two remaining candidates for prime minister market themselves to their party members, frontrunner Liz Truss announced that she would "ignore" the controversial nationalist figurehead and First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, labeling her an "attention seeker". Predictably, outcry ensued from those who have built a career on the back of that attention, as they realized that their time in the limelight is about to come to a close. 

Throughout the campaign so far, Truss and Rishi Sunak, her competitor for the premiership, have faced an onslaught from Scottish Nationalists critiquing their policy and politics, but most of all, their personality. A movement built on the oratory skill and the infectious personalities of First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, and former, now disgraced, First Minister Alex Salmond, can use only the pillar on which it has built itself to bludgeon those it battles against. Personality is their only meaningful weapon. Critiques of Boris Johnson’s character, and personal attacks on those who oppose nationalism and separatism have formed almost the entire Scottish Independence argument since separatism was rejected by the Scottish public in the 2014 referendum. With no more Boris Johnson to point at, their entire campaign strategy is thrown into oblivion.

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Both Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak break free of the box in which Scottish Nationalists look to put both Conservatives and Unionists. Truss is a reformed new age liberal, educated in the heart of Scotland, fiercely committed to giving Scots the future they deserve, while Sunak is the child of immigrants, who has built himself into one of the most successful business people in the UK, encapsulating the British spin on the "American dream". The attack lines that they have used on privileged Etonian Boris Johnson, and the stereotype of the Conservative constructed meticulously by well-paid nationalist spin doctors, will not work on Sunak or Truss.

Both Sunak and Truss have demonstrated a commitment to empowering the Scottish people and local communities, in the face of SNP consolidation of power in Edinburgh. The most powerful way to transform communities and build strong local economies is to empower local people to drive funding, policy and resource streams in the direction that they know it is needed. The economic might of Westminster, circumventing the quagmire of the SNP Government in Holyrood, channeled into the lives and communities of Scots have the potential to build a country that is the envy of Europe. Liz Truss and Rishi Sunak have both expressed intent to return to Conservative "first principles". If put to action in Scotland, the Scottish public will quickly realize it has been shortchanged by almost two decades of nationalist impotence in Edinburgh.

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Undoubtedly, the next Prime Minister faces an economic crisis on a massive scale that is devastating most world economies. Yet, whoever ends up in 10 Downing Street in September will also be greeted by a nation now, more acutely than ever, aware of the tax they are paying. For years, the UK has been sleepwalking into a high-tax economy. Fuel duty, for example, is six times higher than in the US. However, with the cost of living soaring and a growing need for scrupulously kept finances at home, more and more people are asking why governments should continue to take huge sums out of their monthly paypacket. In Scotland this is particularly significant as the nationalists continue to spend millions on an independence argument that they refuse to concede. When people are struggling to heat their homes and are forced to measure the financial implications of boiling a kettle, the new Conservative leader must simply point out what the nationalists in Scotland have prioritised. 

Roosevelt once said to Americans that they should "not let selfish men, or greedy interests skin your country of its beauty, its riches or its romance". Both Sunak and Truss have made clear that they will not let that happen in Scotland any longer. Scotland’s role in the leadership contest has reminded the public of its integral role in one of the world's most successful unions, but has also taken away the most important weapon wielded by Scottish Nationalists. Boris Johnson. 

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Noah Khogali is a Scotland-based politician, writer and broadcaster. Follow him on Twitter @NoahKhogali 

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