General Election 2019: Right to hold independence referendum to dominate Scots election push

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Nationalist demands for a second referendum on independence will be at the heart of the coming election campaign.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford insisted that Scotland’s right to “determine its own future” will drive the party’s election push as MSPs last night backed a December election.

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford insisted that Scotland's right to 'determine its own future' will drive the party's election. Picture: John Devlin

SNP Westminster Leader Ian Blackford insisted that Scotland's right to 'determine its own future' will drive the party's election. Picture: John Devlin

The UK government has so far refused to grant the section 30 order that would give Holyrood the power to hold a second referendum on leaving the UK.

But with polls suggesting the SNP are poised to build on the 35 seats – out of 59 – they hold in Scotland, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon will argue this strengthens the case for another vote on independence.

Mr Blackford told MPs in the Commons yesterday that the SNP welcomes the opportunity of an election.

“We will reflect on everything that’s happened since 2017 when 13 Scottish ­Conservatives were temporarily elected to this house,” he said.

“Because every step of the way they voted against Scotland’s interests, they have given no consideration to the fact that every single local authority area in Scotland voted to Remain.”

Mr Blackford said that during the 2014 independence referendum, Scots were told that a vote to remain in the UK would secure the country’s place in Europe.

He said: “Remember that we were told this was going to be a union of equals, that Scotland was going to be respected. What has happened?

“Scotland in the EU referendum voted by 62 per cent to remain in Europe.

“Our government, our parliament has sought to give voice to that.

“We’ve published document after document, Scotland’s place in Europe, where we have sought a compromise with the UK government.

“And at every step of the way, whether it was the previous PM or this one, we’ve been ignored. I’ve repeatedly made the point and I make no apology for making it here again today, we on these benches are simply not prepared to sit back and allow Scotland to be taken out of the European Union against its will.

“So on that basis, Mr Speaker, I welcome the opportunity of an election because, make no mistake, the election that’s coming is going to be the right of Scotland to determine its own future.”

Ms Sturgeon is seeking to hold a second referendum on independence next year and legislation is currently going through the Scottish Parliament that would allow this to happen.

But power over the con­stitution in the UK is reserved to Westminster and Prime Minister Boris Johnson, like his predecessor Theresa May, has insisted he will not grant this.

The Labour leadership has hinted that it could be ready to back a second referendum on independence in exchange for SNP support to help prop up a Labour administration in a hung Parliament, although Jeremy Corbyn insisted this may not happen in the early years of a government headed by him.

Ms Sturgeon this month warned the Labour leader not to even bother “picking up the phone” seeking her co-operation to form a government unless he was ready to grant a section 30 order.

Together with the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, Labour will use the campaign to highlight their opposition to independence. Polls have suggested the Tories, who took 13 seats in Scotland in the 2017 general election, could lose most of those seats this time round.

With Brexit still unpopular in Scotland the SNP will be hoping to make gains when voters go to the polls.