Sturgeon promises another independence referendum in Scotland even if London won't allow it

Scotland’s Chief Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, is headed for a showdown with Boris Johnson’s government, and she wants to do it with the law on her side. Faced with Downing Street’s refusal to allow a new independence referendum to be held, the leader of the Scottish National Party (SNP) announced on Tuesday that she will soon go to the Autonomous Legislative Assembly to give more details on how it seeks to circumvent Section 30 of the Scotland Act 1998. It is the section that allows the Westminster Parliament to transfer powers, temporarily or permanently, to the Scottish authorities. It was the formula used by the conservative government of David Cameron to allow the 2014 independence referendum to be held. The result then, after a campaign in which the establishment The British had to put all the meat on the grill in recent weeks to save the unity of the United Kingdom, it was 55% against secession, compared to 45% in favor.

Sturgeon, winner of the last regional elections in May 2021, campaigned on the basis of an electoral program that promised a new consultation. One seat away from the absolute majority, the parliamentary agreement with the Greens, also in favor of putting the issue of independence to a vote again, gave the new government the necessary mandate to launch a new campaign. With or without Johnson’s permission.

“The Scottish Parliament has an unquestionably democratic mandate, and we intend to honor it,” said Sturgeon. “However, for a referendum to take place, offer confidence and achieve its goals, it must be legal. Only those parties that oppose independence would benefit from possible doubts about the legality of the consultation.

The nationalist policy, which has been able to consolidate an image of seriousness and responsibility, as opposed to that of Johnson, during the management of the pandemic, insistently uses political arguments to prove itself right before the possible clash with London. He offers his hand to Downing Street to negotiate a new consultation, with the precedent of the one already held in 2014; and at the same time, accuses the British Prime Minister of not respecting the rules of democracy and the rule of law. “And that means that if we are to defend democracy in Scotland, we must build a new way to do it. If necessary, without resorting to Section 30. But we must do it in a way that is legal, “said Sturgeon.

The strategy of the SNP will focus, as they have previously suggested, on preparing all the necessary legal arguments so that justice -everything indicates that it will be the Supreme Court- has the last word, and decides whether the Autonomous Assembly has the power to convene a referendum. The constitutional law of a country like the United Kingdom, without a written Constitution, is based on the precedents and the interpretations of the courts, where the Scottish Government believes it has a basis to defend its bet.

In fact, it is striking that the response of the Johnson Executive, aware that any threat of rupture of the territorial integrity would anger the toughest wing of the Conservative Party, is always in political terms and in terms of opportunity. Never with legal arguments. “This is not the time to talk about another referendum,” a Downing Street spokesman said on Tuesday. “We are confident that what the people of Scotland want and expect from both governments is that they work together and focus on issues that are of concern to their families and neighborhoods, such as the cost of living crisis, or war. in Europe [Ucrania]”, indicates the Government.

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Brexit again

Brexit has been the spark that has caused the new campaign in favor of another independence referendum. In 2014, advocates of territorial unity struck fear into voters’ bodies by threatening that secession would mean Scotland leaving the EU. Two years later, despite a vote against by more than 60% in the region, a majority in the United Kingdom decided to leave the community institutions. The feeling of cheating, accompanied by the broad and generalized rejection that the figure of Johnson provokes there, gave wings to the campaign, despite the nationalist promise that the 2014 result would last at least a generation.

“We are facing a prime minister who does not respect democracy, the law or any of the rules that underpin democracies in most countries,” Sturgeon denounced, 24 hours after the British government published a law that unilaterally alters the commitments reached with Brussels in the Northern Ireland Protocol.

Scotland's Chief Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh on Tuesday.
Scotland’s Chief Minister Nicola Sturgeon in Edinburgh on Tuesday.RUSSELL CHEYNE (AFP)

The nationalist leader has presented this Tuesday one of the first documents with which she wants to take the initiative before the citizens in the economic, political or social explanations about what a new attempt to achieve independence would mean. “Today we are more prepared than in 2014 ″, she has said.

The average of recent polls suggests a practical tie between supporters and opponents of independence, but with a slightly more hostile environment towards the Johnson Conservative government, the battle for the 20% of undecided could prove key in a consultation that Sturgeon plans to carry out at the end of 2023.

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