Not a single UK government has ever wanted a referendum on Scottish independence, but "from the perspective of this government the timing could not be worse," he said.
On Monday, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon announced that she will ask London to give Edinburgh legal powers to hold a new referendum on Scotland's independence since Theresa May's government has failed to consider Edinburgh's interests when devising the Brexit strategy.
The leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) further said that if Westminster gives the green light to the referendum, she would like it to take place in late 2018 or early 2019, in other words at the time when London will be in the process of negotiating the divorce from the European Union. This will put an additional strain on the UK government since it will be engaged in the Brexit talks and the campaign in favor of Scotland remaining in the UK at the same time.
"The UK government will certainly be concerned that Brexit vote could weaken its position. It also certainly does not want to be involved in fighting what is likely to be an intense and closely fought referendum when the UK government apparatus is already going to be more than fully occupied [with] getting out of the European Union and coming up with a negotiated deal that the government says it will sell successfully to the parliament and indeed to the wider public," Curtice observed.
This is why the UK government could try to delay the vote on Scotland's referendum instead of blocking it.
Curtice expressed doubt that delaying the referendum is in the UK's interest.
"Apart from the uncertainty, it gives Nicola Sturgeon more time to try to create a majority in favor of independence because at the moment at least opinion polls still suggest that the yes campaign is narrowly behind in the polls. So the longer Nicola Sturgeon has got, maybe the greater her chances of moving the polls. She will have to move the polls if she is going to win this referendum," he explained.
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