Nicola Sturgeon announced today that her government plans to hold another independence referendum on 19 October 2023.
Speaking to Holyrood in a televised address, she said that the 2021 Scottish general election’s pro-independence majority gave her a mandate to pursue another referendum.
Like the 2014 vote, the referendum would be consultative, meaning that the result of the vote would not automatically split Scotland from the rest of the UK.
In the event of a “Yes” vote, legislation would have to be passed in both the Scottish and the UK parliaments to split Scotland away from the union.
The First Minister said to the Scottish Parliament that a vote to leave the UK would allow Scotland to fully exploit the benefits of being an independent country, saying.
“Independence is about equipping ourselves to navigate the future, guided by our own values, aspirations, and interests.
“It is about helping us fulfil our potential, here at home, and play our part in building a better world.”
She also said that independence would allow Scotland to take full control of its finances and draw closer to Europe.
Whether the Scottish Government has the power to hold a referendum without the consent of the UK government is currently unclear, with the First Minister announcing today that the question would be referred to the Supreme Court before the end of the day.
Sturgeon also said that the Scottish Government would continue to ask Boris Johnson to introduce a Section 30 order to Parliament, which would provide the UK government’s consent for the consultative referendum to be held.
Nicola Sturgeon said, “It is, of course, possible that the Supreme Court will decide that the Scottish Parliament does not have power to legislate, even for a consultative referendum.
“To be clear, if that happens, it will be the fault of Westminster legislation, not the court.
She continued, should the court not rule in favour of Holyrood’s power to call the referendum, that “any notion of the UK as a voluntary union of nations is a fiction.
“Instead, we will be confronted with this reality: no matter how Scotland votes, regardless of what future we desire for our country… Westminster will always have the final say.
“There would be few stronger or more powerful arguments for independence for that.”
Should legal and political efforts to secure an October 2023 referendum fail, the First Minister said that the SNP would fight the next UK general election as a “de-facto referendum” on independence.
The question on the October 2023 referendum would be the same as the 2014 referendum question, reading, “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
According to The Guardian, a spokesperson for Downing Street said that Boris Johnson’s government opposes a second independence referendum.
Ian Murray MP, Labour’s Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland characterised on Twitter the announcement as a “dead cat” strategy.
“The FM ‘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 Conservative leader Douglas Ross said to Holyrood that Nicola Sturgeon was focusing on independence at the expense of other issues.
He said, “The real priorities of people across Scotland are on the back burner.
“The First Minister is putting her plans to divide Scotland front and centre.”
Scottish Labour Party leader Anas Sarwar said the timing of the referendum was not appropriate given the ongoing nature of the coronavirus pandemic in Scotland.
He also questioned the validity of the mandate the First Minister had, saying that Scotland was “still a country living under covid restrictions” during the 2021 election.
He continued, “Nicola Sturgeon said during that campaign that people who didn’t support a referendum or independence through the recovery should vote for her, safe in the knowledge that covid recovery would be her priority.”
“Covid hasn’t gone away, and our recovery hasn’t even started.”
Sarwar further said on Twitter after the announcement,
“Nicola Sturgeon is using the ‘thank you’ she was given, and the promise she made to lead us through the recovery, to instead pit Scot against Scot and focus on her priority, her obsession, her purpose.
“Scotland deserves better.”
Image Credit: “Contains information licensed under the Scottish Parliament Copyright Licence”