Sturgeon wants second Scottish independence referendum by 2021

24 Apr 19

A second referendum for Scottish independence should be held by 2021 if Brexit goes ahead, first minister Nicola Sturgeon has told the Scottish Parliament.

Setting out the Scottish Government’s plans to pass legislation by the end of this year, Sturgeon said a framework bill setting out the rules and principles of a referendum would “protect the option” of an independence referendum within this parliamentary term.

“A choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation should be offered later in the lifetime of this parliament,” she said.

“If Scotland is taken out of the EU, the option of a referendum on independence within that timescale must be open to us. That would be our route to avoiding the worst of the damage that Brexit will do.”

She accepted that the agreement of the UK government was needed to “put beyond doubt” the ability of the Scottish Government to hold a second referendum, but said Westminster’s opposition to transfer the necessary power through a section 30 order would prove to be unsustainable.

“The Westminster system of government does not serve Scotland’s interests, and the devolution settlement, in its current form, is now seen to be utterly inadequate to the task of protecting those interests,” she said.

“In other words, the status quo is broken.”

She said Brexit had exposed a “deep democratic deficit” at the heart of how Scotland was governed which demonstrated that the country needed a more solid foundation on which to build its future.  

The economic consequences of inaction on Brexit would be severe, she said.

“If we are unable to stop or even mitigate Brexit, we will find it harder to export our goods and services across the single market, Scotland will become less attractive to inward investors…the result will be fewer jobs and an economy that is smaller than it should be,” she said.

“With all of our assets and talents, Scotland should be a thriving and driving force within Europe. Instead we face being forced to the margins and sidelined within a UK that is itself increasingly sidelined on the international stage.”

Independence, by contrast, would allow Scotland to protect its place in Europe, she said.

For the first time in 20 years, there was a risk of devolution going backwards, “not through the blatant, wholesale removal of powers…but by an increasing use of Westminster’s powers to override the decisions of the Scottish Parliament and constrain devolved decision making,” she said.

Preparations for a no-deal Brexit had been scaled down in the wake of the decision to extend Brexit until October, but Sturgeon expressed “regret and anger” at the money and effort already spent preparing for an outcome the UK government should have ruled out.

“If an agreed way forward is not found quickly, the risk of no deal will rise again as we approach the October deadline, with the potential for yet more money, time and effort to be wasted,” she said.

But Jackson Carlaw, interim leader of the Scottish Conservatives, described the proposal for a further referendum as “inherently divisive”.  

“Astonishingly, the way Nicola Sturgeon thinks we can come together is for Scotland to be plunged into another divisive referendum within the next 18 months,” he said.

“That is frankly absurd.”

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard said plans for another referendum were a distraction from the “real and serious” issues facing Scotland and accused Sturgeon of attempting to pacify SNP members before the party’s spring conference at the weekend.

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