Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has set a target date of October 19, 2023, to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence.
Sturgeon has written to UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, saying that she “stands ready to negotiate the terms of a section 30 order” which would grant formal consent from Westminster for a legal independence vote.
However, the UK government has previously suggested that consent will not be forthcoming, and the PM said ahead of Sturgeon’s statement on Tuesday that it is “not the time” for another independence vote and that the UK was “stronger working together.”
Speaking in Holyrood, Sturgeon said that if consent was not granted by Westminster, then she would continue her push for a referendum anyway.
The first minister believes that she has a “cast-iron mandate” for a second independence referendum, with her pro-independent Scottish National Party [SNP] and the Scottish Greens holding a majority at Holyrood after the 2021 Scottish Parliament elections.
Together, the power-sharing partnership of the SNP and Scottish Greens hold 72 of the 129 seats in Scotland’s Parliament.
Sturgeon has already asked the Lord Advocate of Scotland to refer the consent case over a second referendum to the Supreme Court, which will rule on the legalities of holding an independence vote without Westminster’s consent.
If the Supreme Court were to rule that the Scottish government could hold a referendum, Sturgeon said that Holyrood could mobilise rapidly to pass through a Referendum Bill.
The proposed referendum would put the same question to the Scottish people as was in the first referendum in 2014: “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
The first minister indicated that if the Supreme Court’s conclusion did not uphold the right for the Scottish Parliament to hold a referendum, then she would fight the next general election solely on Scottish independence to make the vote a “de facto referendum”.
Sturgeon said: “What I am not willing to do, what I will never do, is allow Scottish democracy to be a prisoner of Boris Johnson or any prime minister.
“My determination is to secure a process that allows the people of Scotland, whether yes, no or yet to be decided, to express their views in a legal, constitutional referendum so the majority view can be established fairly and democratically. The steps I am setting out today seek to achieve that.”
Sturgeon’s plan to pave the way for indyref2 has been criticised by opposition parties in Scotland, who raised concerns that the independence issue was taking precedence over more pressing matters such as the cost-of-living crisis and education.
Scottish Conservative leader, Douglas Ross, said that his party would not “take part in a pretend poll” and accused Sturgeon of having a “selfish obsession” with independence which was the “wrong priority”.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader, Alex Cole-Hamilton referred to the push as an “appalling waste of energy and focus”, while Scottish Labour leader, Anas Sarwar, suggested that two-thirds of Scots did not want a second referendum.
Sarwar said: “Covid hasn’t gone away, and our recovery hasn’t even started.
“Isn't it the case that the ‘Pandemic Nicola’ that said she wanted to pull us through is gone and the ‘Partisan Nicola Sturgeon’ that wants to divide our country is back pursuing a referendum that two thirds of Scots don't want right now?
“Frankly, Scotland deserves better.”