NICOLA Sturgeon has said she will push forward legislation to allow Holyrood to hold a second independence referendum if there is a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament after next month’s election – and if Boris Johnson continues to fail accept a new vote.
The prime minister said she wanted people to be able to vote again on whether the country should become independent and said she wanted this to happen at the very start of the new parliament – once the country will be out of the pandemic.
Last month, ministers released a bill setting out the issue and timing of a new independence referendum after the decision was promised in the Agenda for Government.
Opinion polls put the SNP on track to win a majority on May 6 with an Opinium survey, released yesterday, revealing the party would win 71 seats – a majority of 13 – with the pro-independence Greens securing six MPs . The poll suggested Alex Salmond’s new Alba party would not win a seat, although a poll last weekend suggested it could win six seats.
READ MORE: Nicola Sturgeon hits back at Alex Salmond, saying she was slow to independence
During a briefing with reporters yesterday, Sturgeon was asked if she would lobby legislation to hold a Holyrood-backed referendum if the prime minister refused to agree. Johnson has repeatedly said he will decline, suggesting there should be 40 years between the two referendums.
The Prime Minister said it would, even though she believed Johnson would agree to a new vote and such talks were taking place between the Tories and in Whitehall.
She said, “We established that. We would get the bill passed to Holyrood and if Boris Johnson wanted to stop that he would presumably have to try to challenge it legally, in which case we would vigorously defend our position.
“But it would be an absurd position for a prime minister to face a democratic majority. If that happens, time will tell. But I don’t think that’s going to be the position we’re in.
“I strongly suspect, based on some of what I’m hearing that’s being discussed in the depths of the Conservative Party and Whitehall right now, is that they know an independence referendum is in. come.
“And they’re already evolving on how they would shape the question or attempt to shape the questions and the frankness and everything in between. I don’t think that’s the situation we’re going to get into, but first and foremost, I have to win the mandate and that’s what I’m focusing on right now.
During the question and answer session, the Prime Minister was asked about the 2023 timeline for the referendum and whether she foresees that 2026 will see the first elections to an independent Scottish parliament.
The National asked her, referring to her statement last week that independence was key to recovering from the pandemic, if she was in favor of early voting.
“My preference would be to have the referendum and to offer the Scottish people a choice in the first half of parliament, a period which runs, as we mentioned earlier, until the end of 2023”, he said. she answered.
“Whether as to whether this can really happen and, if so, where in that time frame a referendum would actually happen depends on the situation with Covid.
“I think the independence and decision-making that this gives to the Scottish Parliament is important in ensuring that we get the right kind of recovery.
“But right now we are still in the acute phase of a pandemic, people are still living under very severe restrictions and as long as this continues, not least because people could not campaign properly.
“We find the restrictions on this campaign quite difficult, so for a whole host of reasons we need to get out of the Covid crisis and then bring that choice to the people of Scotland. So my preference is in the first half of parliament, but of course it is the demands and realities of Covid that must guide this decision. ”
She was asked if she would be prepared to wait until after 2023 if the pandemic and recovery demanded it.
The Prime Minister replied: “If in the middle of parliament we were still grappling with a global pandemic, then I don’t think it would be appropriate to hold a referendum at this point.
“But if we come out of the crisis, then the reason I fixed the first half of parliament – what you’re right is a period that lasts until the end of 2023, is because I think when we start resolving whether decisions are made where the power lies is critical to the kind of turnaround we have. ”
On whether 2026 could see the first elections to an independent Scottish Parliament, she replied: ‘It would definitely, yes, be the timing preference, but as I said before there are questions judgment that will determine if this is precisely the timeframe on which we operate. ”
She said while understanding “the desire on the part of ardent supporters of independence to think that there is a quicker or easier way that she had a” duty “to be” honest with people “.
She added: “We can only be independent when the majority of the Scottish people want it and vote for it in a legitimate process, which will be accepted here at home and internationally.”
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