Nicola Sturgeon has warned she is “determined” a second independence referendum will be held in the next two years and that the “will of the Scottish Parliament” is respected.
The First Minister even said she would “consider her options” when asked about the prospect of the Scottish Parliament staging its own independence vote after Theresa May yesterday rejected the request for a Section 30 order allowing a legal referendum by Spring 2019.
SNP delegates are gathering in Aberdeen today for the party’s conference, still reeling from Mrs May’s shock intervention.
Ms Sturgeon described the move as “winding the clock back to the bad old days of Margaret Thatcher” and suggested the Tories were scared of a Yes vote in a referendum.
The Scottish Parliament is to vote on the staging of a second referendum next week, with the minority SNP Government’s proposal likely to be passed with the support of the Greens.
Asked last night about the prospect of Holyrood “going it alone” and staging a referendum without UK Government approval, Ms Sturgeon told the BBC’s Reporting Scotland: “I’m not going into that right now, because I think it’s important to allow the Scottish Parliament to have its say.” But she added: “I will consider my options and what I should do if we get into the position where, the Scottish Parliament having voted, we have a Conservative Prime Minister saying she will defy the will of the Scottish Parliament.”
Power over the constitution is reserved to Westminster and Mrs May’s refusal to back a Section 30 order – which was in place before the 2014 referendum – means a legally binding vote cannot now be held. The SNP leader’s keynote address at the SNP conference tomorrow afternoon will now be eagerly anticipated, with supporters keen to hear how she will respond.
Ms Sturgeon added: “I’m determined that we will have one on my timescale, but I’m determined that we will do that because the will of the Scottish Parliament will be respected.”
The First Minister claimed Mrs May’s position was “not sustainable” and could help bolster support for independence.
“You know history may look back on today and see it as the day the fate of the Union was sealed,” she added.
“It also probably tells us that the Tories fear the verdict of the Scottish people.”
Former first minister Alex Salmond warned of a backlash against the Prime Minister’s intervention. He said: “This miscalculation, this finger wagging at Scotland, this Theresa May laying down the law, thou shalt do this, thou shan’t do that. It’s not going to work.
“It’s going to backfire spectacularly and I think Theresa May will rue the day when she edged towards telling the Scottish people what they can and can’t do in expressing their nationhood.”
Patrick Harvie, leader of the Greens, added: “I think Theresa May will be taking a huge risk, not only with the credibility of her Government, but also with trust of the Scottish people if she refuses to acknowledge that we have a right in Scotland to have a say about our future.”