Nicola Sturgeon to warn Westminster democracy 'must prevail' over indyref2

Nicola Sturgeon is set to warn Westminster that democracy “must prevail” over a second independence referendum.

The First Minister is expected to call for the will of Scotland to be listened to in her speech at SNP conference on Monday.

Her calls follow Humza Yousaf claiming the UK Government was prepared to "sell out" the NHS to strike Brexit trade deals.

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The First Minister is expected to say: “My approach to government and to politics will be, as far as possible, co-operation not confrontation.

Nicola Sturgeon is expected to call for the will of Scotland to be listened to in her speech at SNP conference on Monday.

“The experience of the pandemic and the challenges we face as a result reinforces my view that this is the right approach.

“So it is in that spirit of co-operation that 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.

“But, this much is clear. Democracy must - and will - prevail.

“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.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at her home in Glasgow preparing her speech she will give to the SNP National Conference virtually on Monday

“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.

“As an independent country, co-operation between Scotland and our friends across the rest of the UK will continue, but it will be on a better basis: Scotland will be an equal partner.”

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Sunday saw Scotland’s Health Secretary accuse the UK Government of not respecting devolution and saying they would try to interfere with the Scottish NHS.

Referencing the UK Internal Market Act brought forward in the aftermath of Brexit, Mr Yousaf said the UK Government was “trying to make it easier to do trade deals that could include how the NHS operates”.

He said: “The Tories say they can be trusted to protect our NHS in any trade deals – no, they cannot. They have so spectacularly damaged the economy with Brexit, they’ll agree to just about anything to get a deal.

“Just this week it emerged that so desperate were they to do a trade deal with Australia that they jettisoned vital environmental protections. Do you really believe they won’t sell out the NHS at the first chance they get?

“It was former Tory prime minister John Major who said of Boris Johnson and his cronies that ‘the NHS is about as safe with them as a pet hamster would be with a hungry python’. I think he’s understating it.”

Mr Yousaf continued: “If we are truly going to protect our NHS from the worst intentions of a Tory government desperate to do trade deals, then there is only one solution – we need independence.

“We need independence to ensure that never again can the actions of a Tory government – that we did not vote for – jeopardise our NHS.

“That’s why we will give Scotland the choice of independence.

“Do you want to protect our precious NHS for the future with independence, or do you want to just hope and cross our fingers that the Tories won’t throw our health service into a trade deal at the first chance they get?

“I choose an independent future where our NHS is protected and invested in. And it’s a future I think the people of Scotland will choose too.”

Responding to the speech, the Scottish Conservative health and social care spokeswoman Annie Wells said: “Anyone in Scotland’s NHS who looked for leadership from Humza Yousaf today will have been sorely disappointed — but not surprised.

“The SNP health secretary had a platform to address his plans for fixing health and social care, as we see record ambulance waiting times, A&Es bursting at the seams, and GPs that can’t see patients.

“Cancers, heart problems and other major illnesses are going undiagnosed and the SNP are presiding over the worst drug deaths crisis in Europe.

“Humza Yousaf and the nationalist coalition of chaos have no interest in the NHS recovery from Covid."

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union accused the First Minister of “running out of ideas”.

She said: “This is Groundhog Day yet again at SNP conference, with nationalist politicians only interested in talking about the constitution.

“If Nicola Sturgeon was serious about believing in co-operation, she would focus on making devolution work and using Holyrood’s powers to build a recovery for everyone.

“Instead, she is blindsided by her obsession with breaking up our country.

“Scotland deserves better than a government that prioritises division ahead of devolution.”

Lib Dem MP Alistair Carmichael claimed Ms Sturgeon appeared “wilfully blind to the fact that it will be years before we have finished dealing with the fallout from the COVID pandemic.”

He added: "I think that in her heart of hearts she knows that but she lacks the political courage to tell the zealots in her own party and her coalition partners in the Greens that a referendum on this timescale is the working definition of recklessness.”

A Government spokesperson insisted they were focused on responding the pandemic.

They said: “As we’ve said many times before, Ministers and officials across all UK Government departments are focused on tackling the Covid-19 pandemic and supporting the economic recovery through our plan for jobs.

“Scottish people have been clear that they want to see the UK Government and the devolved Scottish Government working together to defeat this pandemic.

“That is our priority and that is why we have just set out our plans for further investment in healthcare across the UK, providing an additional £1.1 billion to Scotland by 2024/25.”

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