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Indyref2: Nicola Sturgeon announces date of referendum

Justifying her efforts to relaunch the independence movement, the First Minister argued that “the people of Scotland said ‘yes’ to an independent referendum” last May by electing “a clear majority of MSPs committed to that outcome”. The democratic decision, she said, “was clear”. Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross responded, however, that “Nicola Sturgeon has shown again today that the SNP’s selfish obsession with a divisive referendum is always their top priority”.

Ms Sturgeon pointed to “compelling evidence of the stronger economic and social performance relative to the UK of a range of independent countries across Europe that are comparable to Scotland”.

She described this as an “inspiration” to her country.

The SNP leader threw particular criticism at the Conservative Party Government, which she said had “ripped us out of the EU against our will”.

UK Ministers, she added, “have created the worst cost of living crisis in the G7 and saddled us with the second lowest growth in the G20”.

It was “not enough” to simply mitigate these issues, the First Minister insisted.

Nicola Sturgeon

Nicola Sturgeon. (Image: Sky News)

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivers a statement to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament,

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon delivers a statement to MSPs in the Scottish Parliament (Image: PA)

She argued instead that another referendum was essential.

Ms Sturgeon proposed that a “legal, constitutional referendum” be held on October 19, 2023.

The question on the ballot paper would, if a vote takes place, be: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

The Scottish Government is seeking clarity on the lawfulness of its direction of travel from the UK’s Supreme Court.

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Douglas Ross

Douglas Ross. (Image: Sky News)

Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray speaking during the Scottish Labour conference

Scottish Labour MP Ian Murray speaking during the Scottish Labour conference (Image: PA)

There has been much speculation over how Ms Sturgeon’s promise of a second referendum before the end of 2023 could be delivered.

Angus Robertson, the SNP’s Constitution Secretary, last week told the BBC he was “fully content that with the prospectus beginning to be rolled out… we have a perfectly adequate window of opportunity both for legislation to be passed, for the opportunity for the people to scrutinise the prospectus that the Scottish Government will publish”.

But others have suggested the party could not legally hold a referendum without permission from Westminster.

Mujtaba Rahman, Europe Managing Director at the Eurasia Group, even noted that an illegal vote would “undermine Scotland’s case for EU membership”.

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Nicola Sturgeon: a profile

Nicola Sturgeon: a profile. (Image: Express)

Responding earlier this month to the SNP’s launch of a new independence drive, Boris Johnson said the First Minister ought to “respect” the 2014 vote.

The Prime Minister said: “The decision was taken by the Scottish people only a few years ago, in recent memory.

“I think we should respect that.”

Ms Sturgeon responded that the UK Government is failing to “respect Scottish democracy” and insisted she would not allow this to be a “prisoner of Boris Johnson or any prime minister”.

Scottish independence supporters gather in George Square for a rally

Scottish independence supporters gather in George Square, Glasgow, for a rally (Image: Getty)

In her speech today, the First Minister conceded that “independence won’t always be easy”, adding that “it isn’t for any country”.

She laid out a “wealthier, greener, fairer nation” – one that is “outward looking and internationalist”.

Shadow secretary of state for Scotland Ian Murray suggested Ms Sturgeon’s push for an independence referendum in 2023 will keep the Conservative Party in power at the next general election.

The Labour MP tweeted: “The [First Minister] ‘we must rid our country of this Tory govt’. But we will use the next GE to keep them in power.

“She’s given the game away. Scottish politics is paralysed and this dead cat [independence referendum] strategy is to deflect from this FM’s appalling record in government.”

People have taken to social media to voice their anger at Ms Sturgeon’s move.

Twitter user Susan Lindgren commented in response to the news: “Meanwhile Scotland to slip further behind the rest of the UK while we have no competent devolved government.” Another Twitter user, addressing Ms Sturgeon and recalling the 2014 vote, said: “We voted no. Do you actually know the meaning of the word democracy?”

Fellow Twitter user Newcoross chimed in: “The SNP can’t run a rail service, keep accurate financial accounts or build a ferry. What part of that [makes] you think they are remotely competent enough to run a country? They haven’t actually fulfilled just about any of their pledges over the last decade and a half.”

And Twitter user MM simply said: “Sturgeon has handed her notice in.. #PretendyRef.” A fourth person using the platform added: “So much going on in the UK and in Europe but Nicola Sturgeon is wanting another referendum.”

Dr Matt Qvortrup, Professor of Political Science at Coventry University, told Sky News the Scottish Parliament does not have the right in any shape or form to hold a consultative referendum.

He said: “What will happen is the SNP will have a rallying cry. They will say the nasty people down in England and Boris Johnson is to blame for all this. That will be a great rallying cry in a General Election. But the Scottish National Party will at best get a little bit over 50 seats in the Westminster parliament, which is just not enough.

“You can call a legal referendum under one of three conditions. Either if you are a former colony – Scotland is not. Secondly, if you live in a dictatorship and the United Kingdom is not a dictatorship. Thirdly, if there is a legal provision for a referendum, which, at the moment, there isn’t in the absence of the consent of Westminster.”

He continued: “Legally speaking… the legal opinion is very, very simple. A government or public body can only do what they are legally allowed to do. The Scottish Parliament does not have the right in any way, shape or form to have a consultative referendum.”

Labour MSP Sarah Boyack said what was striking was that even SNP supporters do not want a referendum on Ms Sturgeon’s time scale because people are more worried about the cost-of-living crisis, rebooting the NHS and making sure the economic impacts of Covid are tackled properly.

She said: “We got none of that from the First Minister today, sadly.”

Asked if Scotland would vote for independence if a referendum could be held, Ms Boyack told Sky News: “To be honest I think this was as much about her keeping her own back benchers and the independence movement happy.

“We know that the opinion polls are still saying that there’s not a huge wave of enthusiasm for independence. I think what we’re not being pushed towards is spending a divisive 16 months debating independence again when people really want to use the powers this parliament has.”

Ms Boyack added people in Scotland are having to choose between heating and eating, saying: “We just think it is political judgement that is wrong about the SNP and that’s what’s fundamentally wrong about today. It’s the choice they have made to go for an independence referendum and park everything else.”