Friday, 16 Apr 2021

Nicola Sturgeon threatens new Scottish referendum without PM’s permission

Nicola Sturgeon has said she will push forward with a new referendum on Scottish independence if she wins key elections this year – regardless of whether London gives her the go-ahead.

The First Minister’s position will put her on a collision course with Prime Minister Boris Johnson, who has repeatedly insisted he will not allow a new referendum – labelling the 2014 vote a ‘once in a generation’ decision. Scots voted by 55% to 45% to remain part of the union seven years ago.

But the SNP’s Ms Sturgeon will stand on a referendum platform at upcoming elections north of the border, which polls suggest she is on course to win comfortably. 

Asked if she would hold an advisory ‘home-made Scottish referendum’ if her party wins, she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr show: ‘I want to have a legal referendum, that’s what I’m going to seek the authority of the Scottish people for in May.

‘And if they give me that authority that’s what I intend to do.’

She added: ‘The polls now show that a majority of people in Scotland now want independence.’

The First Minister branded the Prime Minister ‘frightened of democracy’ over the question.

She quoted Robert Burns during the interview on Sunday, saying Mr Johnson’s opposition to a second referendum reminded her of the poet’s ‘timorous beastie’.

It comes after the Sunday Times reported a series of opinion polls which found voters across the UK believe Scotland is likely to become independent within the next decade.

The Scottish Parliament election – and a host of other votes – are due to take place in May, however there is some suggestion that they could be delayed because of the pandemic. 

Ms Sturgeon was asked about the Prime Minister’s suggestion there should be a 40-year gap between the last independence referendum and any future one.

She said: ‘It’s Robert Burns’ birthday tomorrow, our annual Burns Day.

‘And when I hear Boris Johnson talk about this I bring to mind a Burns poem: ‘Cowerin’ timorous beastie, what a panic’s in thy breastie’.

‘He’s frightened of democracy.’

Any move to go ahead with a referendum without the official green light from Westminster will provoke comparisons with Catalonia, which held an ‘illegal’ referendum on independence from Spain in 2017, despite Madrid’s opposition.

The independent side won comfortably, but there were chaotic scenes on the streets of Barcelona and other Catalan areas, as police violently stopped many people from voting and the Spanish government condemned the election.

Catalonia remains part of Spain. 

Meanwhile, Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross hit out at the SNP’s publication of its ‘roadmap to a referendum’ – an 11-point document which sets out how the party intends to take forward its plans for a second vote.

Mr Ross told Times Radio: ‘Why don’t we have an 11-point plan to protect jobs in Scotland?

‘Why don’t we have an 11-point plan to ensure businesses get the support they need?

‘Why don’t we have an 11-point plan to rebuild our education system in Scotland?’

He added: ‘This is where the focus should be in Scotland right now, not fighting another independence referendum.’

In response to the SNP’s ‘roadmap’, the UK Government said the issue of Scottish independence was settled ‘decisively’ in 2014.

A spokeswoman said earlier: ‘Now more than ever, we should be pulling together to strengthen our United Kingdom, instead of trying to separate it.’

The Sunday Times published the results of opinion polls in the four nations of the UK, which found a majority of voters thought Scotland was likely to be independent in the next 10 years.

In Scotland, the poll found 49% backed independence compared with 44% against – a margin of 52% to 48% if the undecideds are excluded.

In Northern Ireland, 47% still want to remain in the UK, with 42% in favour of a United Ireland and a significant proportion – 11% – undecided.

However, asked if they supported a referendum on a United Ireland within the next five years, 51% said yes compared with 44% who were against.

In Wales, where support for independence is traditionally weakest, 23% still backed leaving the UK while 31% supported a referendum.

Across all four nations, more voters expected Scotland to be out of the UK within 10 years than thought it would still remain.

The newspaper also reported that Oliver Lewis, a former Vote Leave campaigner, would lead new attempts to promote the Union.

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