Nicola Sturgeon will reveal legal course for indyref2 'within days'

14 June 2022, 14:08

Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a new paper on independence
Nicola Sturgeon has unveiled a new paper on independence. Picture: Alamy

By Gina Davidson

Nicola Sturgeon will set out how she will hold a lawful referendum on Scottish independence - without the consent of the UK government - within the next 16 days, before the Scottish Parliament breaks for summer recess.

Scotland's First Minister made the revelation as she unveiled the first in a series of new papers which she says will "make the case" for independence at her official Edinburgh residence of Bute House.

Ms Sturgeon said she understood that people wanted to know how she would "navigate" her way to a legal referendum, and criticised Boris Johnson for being undemocratic in his refusal to grant a Section 30 Order which would pave the way for the Scottish Government to hold a second constitutional vote.

She told LBC: "It would be unfair to independence supporters and to the country if I was to pretend there were no challenges to navigate through.

"I want to have and I intend to give people the choice. That mandate was given, not to me as an individual, but to the Scottish Parliament last year and I intend to honour that - that is what democracy demands.

"But there are legal challenges to work through if we are to have what I think is essential to deliver independence, a lawful process. And I would be less fair to people if I didn't say that I'm taking all of that seriously and behaving responsibly, and that I will set out that path very soon.

'Your question was before the summer recess? I said fairly soon. I'm not sure I would describe September as very soon so you can draw your own conclusions from that."

The Scottish Parliament breaks for summer recess on June 30.

Asked if Mr Johnson was an "iceberg" in the way of her navigation, she joked that icebergs both "melt" and "have hidden depths" which she doubted the Prime Minister had.

Speaking directly down the TV cameras to Mr Johnson she said: "I don't know whether you'll be watching or not, but i stand ready to negotiate a Section 30 Order, if you decide that you now are a democrat I have to see the evidence of that up to now is not promising, but I'll set out what we do in those circumstances if you continue to deny democracy very soon.:

Pressed on what will change she added: "I'd say what's going to change is I will set out a lawful way forward without a Section 30 Order if that is what is required.

"The other thing that I think is pertinent here is that we have a UK Government and certainly on this issue, this applied to Theresa May on this, but on this and many other issues, this certainly applies to Boris Johnson - a UK government that does not respect democracy and does not respect the rule of law. We saw that very powerfully as recently as yesterday.

"And ultimately, while I think it would be better for the people of Scotland and the people of the UK if we had two governments able to sit down on that democratic basis and agree that we disagree on the substance of independence, but agree the process by which the people of Scotland would decide, that would be far better.

"But I do believe that the problem of having a democracy denying UK Government and Prime Minister ultimately is their problem much more than it is mine because it actually becomes one of the powerful arguments for Scotland becoming an independent country where democracy and the rule of law are again the fundamental principles that underpin everything that we do."

The First Minister said the first paper detailed how neighbouring European countries, comparable to Scotland, use their "full powers of independence" to tailor policies to their own circumstances and "in doing so achieve better economic and social outcomes than the UK" particularly on GDP, poverty, wealth gaps and gender pay gaps.

Future papers she said, will cover currency, trade, EU membership, social security, defence and the economy.

When she was quizzed on the fact that none of the comparator countries - such as Norway, Denmark, Ireland, Iceland, Belgium, Finland, the Netherlands, Austria, Sweden and Switzerland - were in 300 year old political and economic unions with their land neighbour when they became independent, she said: "If we conclude, and it's hard to conclude otherwise, that being part of the Westminster system is not a choice, either in terms of economic growth and productivity, or in terms of social equity, fairness, tackling poverty... if we conclude that it's not serving our purposes, and it's not serving our interestsand a UK outside of the European Union is unlikely to start to do so, then I say, fo we just accept that?

"Do we just accept that we're going to be consigned to a future of ,compared to all of our neighbours, poor economic outcomes, not fulfilling our potential, being in a second best to put it politely situation, or do we say change is never easy change is never without challenge but actually, if all of these countries can be as successful relative to the UK as they are, then with hard work with commitment with good quality, why not Scotland?

"That's the choice that people in Scotland have to make and it will be the people of Scotland to make that choice. But just as I have an obligation to put the case for independence with my colleagues and with the wider independence movement, here's a real responsibility on the part of those who argue for the status quo to set out why they think that any longer serves the interests of Scotland."

The First Minister was also asked on the impact of Brexit - and if independence would hurt Scotland's economy and if it was admitted to the EU, a hard border at Gretna.

"it wasn't inherent in the Brexit process that it ended up the mess it has become," she said. "There was no plan, no prospectus, no basic honesty in the platform put before for the Brexit referendum.

"I'm publishing today the first in a series of documents already in one scene setting document today there is more evidence, more clear planning than there was in the entirety of the Brexit campaign.

"The world has many examples of constitutional change. And it's often said, the years around the Second World War, there were 50 independent countries in the world. It's 200 today.

"What matters is the way in which it is planned and the integrity and the honesty of the platform on which it is built. That in that sense, don't could not be more difference between the case for independence and the case for Brexit."

The paper and the new drive for independence was immediately criticised by opposition politicians who said Nicola Sturgeon was attempting to distract Scots from her domestic record.

Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar said: “Today’s speech from Nicola Sturgeon was a disappointing return to the politics of the past – the politics of strife and division.

“Thousands of Scots are being forced to choose between heating and eating and even more are facing sharp bill rises; our NHS is in disarray with lives being lost as a result and our transport infrastructure is falling apart before our eyes.

“For Nicola Sturgeon to turn her back on the issues facing the people of Scotland and decide at this point to focus on her own obsession is a sad example of how out of touch this government are.

“You cannot play politics while people’s lives and livelihoods are in the balance."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton MSP said: “The First Minister must be wired to the moon if she thinks that breaking up the UK is the priority for people.

“Nicola Sturgeon has ditched promises to close the attainment gap, to deliver islanders ferries, to bring down NHS waiting lists. Breaking up the UK is the only thing left and the only thing they really care about.

“This was a lesson in cherry picking and jam tomorrow while ignoring everything else.”

And Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “Scotland’s positive future is as part of the UK, bringing together people and communities, keeping the pound, avoiding a hard border between friends and families, investing more in our NHS and schools, and creating more jobs.

“With their warped priorities, the SNP and the Greens are completely out-of-touch with the people of Scotland."

Deputy leader of the new pro-independence Alba Party, Kenny MacAskill MP welcomed the announcement but added: "It is now for the Scottish Government to set out both the timetable and the means by which it will deliver  an independence referendum by the end of 2023 with or without a Section 30 Order being granted by Westminster.”