Monday

23rd May 2022

UK shoots down Scottish leader's call for new referendum

Listen to article

Scotland's first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has renewed her call for a second independence referendum, but was immediately shot down by the British government.

"For countries of Scotland's size, independence works. It works for Denmark, for Ireland, for Austria, for Norway, for Finland - and for so many others beside. These are disparate countries with different resources and economies, but independence works for all of them," she said at a video-conference of the Scottish National Party (SNP) on Monday (13 September).

Read and decide

Join EUobserver today

Become an expert on Europe

Get instant access to all articles — and 20 years of archives. 14-day free trial.

... or subscribe as a group

"I hope the Scottish and UK governments can reach agreement - as we did in 2014 - to allow the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland to be heard and respected," she added.

"Democracy must - and will - prevail," she also said.

"The United Kingdom is after all a voluntary union of nations. Until recently, no one seriously challenged the right of the people in Scotland to choose whether or not they wished to become independent," Sturgeon went on.

"Frankly, it is not up to a Westminster government which has just six MPs in Scotland to decide our future without the consent of the people who live here," she said.

Sturgeon accused British leaders of using Brexit as a weapon to attack independence.

Brexit, which she described as an "obsession of the Tory right", had wreaked economic damage on Scotland, she noted.

And "Westminster will use all that damage that they have inflicted as an argument for yet more Westminster control," she said.

"By making us poorer, they'll say we can't afford to be independent. By cutting our trade with the EU, they'll say we are too dependent on the rest of the UK," she added.

The first minister also diverged from Westminster on coronavirus by opting to keep in place face-mask rules and vaccine-pass restrictions.

And she said Tory asylum policy "fails the basic test of humanity".

She spoke from a position of strength, after a new survey by the Panelbase pollster the same day showed the SNP had 47 percent support, meaning it would win 53 MPs out of 129 in the Scottish Parliament if elections were held today - five more than in the last vote in 2019.

But, at the same time, just 26 percent of Scottish people believed Scotland would gain independence in the next five years - covering the period to the next election, which is due in 2023 or 2024.

Meanwhile, 37 percent believed it would not happen for at least five years, while a further 27 percent felt it would not happen "at any point in the next few decades".

And Sturgeon's comparison of Scotland to other EU nations, such as Denmark or Ireland, did not account for the fact the EU might not let an independent Scotland join the union, not least due to a Spanish veto, based on fears of creating a precedent for Catalan secession.

Bad timing?

For its part, the UK government also took aim at Sturgeon's remarks at a press briefing in London even as she was still finishing her speech.

"Our view ... is that now is simply not the time to be dealing with this. The public are looking to governments and leaders across the UK to focus on dealing with this ongoing pandemic," a government spokesman said.

"Scottish people have been clear they want to see the UK government and devolved governments working together to defeat the pandemic, that's our priority," the spokesman added, noting that Westminster had set aside £1.1bn in health and social care funding for Scotland by 2025.

The Scottish Conservative and Labour parties were even more outspoken.

"Only the most fanatical SNP supporters will buy Nicola Sturgeon's wild conspiracy theory that the UK is trying to make Scotland poorer. Instead of focusing on the NHS crisis and protecting jobs, Nicola Sturgeon has invented her own nationalist 'Project Fear'," Scottish Conservative MP Donald Cameron said.

Sturgeon's speech was the "same old rhetoric, slogans, and platitudes," Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar also said.

"Nicola Sturgeon's spin does nothing to tackle the levels of child poverty on our streets, the numbers waiting for treatment in our hospitals, and the depth of the economic crisis facing Scotland," he added.

The SNP now plans to table a bill for a second independence vote in the Scottish parliament.

But if the British government blocks this, the legality of the referendum project would have to be decided in court.

The first referendum, in 2014, saw 55 percent of Scottish people vote to stay in the UK.

Opinion

How May election could see an independent Scotland by 2023

Between June 2020 and February 2021, 22 consecutive opinion polls indicated majorities in favour of Scottish independence. That kind of sustained support for statehood is unprecedented in modern Scottish history.

Scottish independence ignites Brexit debate

Scottish leader Nicola Sturgeon will start the process for an independence vote next week, while British prime minister Theresa May insists that Scotland will have to follow the UK out of the EU and the single market.

MEPs boycott trip after Israeli snub

Last-minute Israeli blacklistings and red lines have prompted MEPs to call off an official trip, posing the question if Israel can belittle the EU Parliament with impunity.

Opinion

What Europe still needs to do to save its bees

On World Bee Day, it is essential to pay homage to a variety of pollinating insects crucial for our food security. A number of EU projects contribute to their sustained survival.

Podcast

Ultraconservatives in Putin's shadow

Vladimir Putin's Ukraine war has threatened to be a public relations disaster for hard-right gatherings like the Conservative Political Action Conference — now meeting in Budapest and featuring Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, who remains highly-cordial with the Kremlin.

News in Brief

  1. UK to send 'hundreds' of migrants to Rwanda each year
  2. Norwegian knife attacks were domestic dispute
  3. Sweden hits back at Turkey's 'disinformation' in Nato bid
  4. Germany's Schröder gives up one of two Russia jobs
  5. G7 countries pledge €18bn in financial aid for Ukraine
  6. Italian unions strike in protest over military aid for Ukraine
  7. Russia cuts gas supply to Finland
  8. Half of Gazprom's clients have opened rouble accounts

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic delegation visits Nordic Bridges in Canada
  2. Nordic Council of MinistersClear to proceed - green shipping corridors in the Nordic Region
  3. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic ministers agree on international climate commitments
  4. UNESDA - SOFT DRINKS EUROPEEfficient waste collection schemes, closed-loop recycling and access to recycled content are crucial to transition to a circular economy in Europe
  5. UiPathNo digital future for the EU without Intelligent Automation? Online briefing Link

Latest News

  1. Missing guns amid rising far-right hate in EU
  2. MEPs boycott trip after Israeli snub
  3. What Europe still needs to do to save its bees
  4. Remembering Falcone: How Italy almost became a narco-state
  5. Economic worries and Hungary on the spot Next WEEK
  6. MEPs urge sanctioning the likes of ex-chancellor Schröder
  7. MEPs call for a more forceful EU response to Kremlin gas cut
  8. Catalan leader slams Pegasus use: 'Perhaps I'm still spied on'

Join EUobserver

Support quality EU news

Join us