Not now! Construction of the “now-is-not-the-time” discourse of Theresa May and Boris Johnson vis-à-vis the second Scottish independence referendum


This publication doesn't include Faculty of Arts. It includes Faculty of Social Studies. Official publication website can be found on


Year of publication 2023
Type Article in Periodical
Magazine / Source British Politics
MU Faculty or unit

Faculty of Social Studies

Keywords Scottish independence; Second referendum; Theresa May; Boris Johnson; Discourse analysis; Discourse of delay
Attached files
Description Between 2016 and 2021, in response to calls for a second Scottish independence referendum, two British Prime Ministers—Theresa May and Boris Johnson—adopted a holding position, at the core of which was the “now-is-not-the-time” argumentative scheme. As a particular expression of strategic ambiguity, this delay discourse was intended to fulfil a specific political function: to postpone the second plebiscite sine die. As such, it marked a stark difference to the 2014 Scottish referendum campaign and provided the anti-independence camp with a new rhetorical resource. Having adopted the general orientation of the Discourse-Historical Approach to discourse analysis, and working with a dataset of May’s and Johnson’s public utterances on the second Scottish referendum, this article investigates how exactly this discourse of referendum delay was constructed in prime ministerial rhetoric. It concludes that some differences notwithstanding, the two PMs managed to create a largely consistent argumentative scheme.
Related projects:

You are running an old browser version. We recommend updating your browser to its latest version.