No independence referendum in 2020, confirms Scottish Government

The Scottish Government has ditched plans to hold a referendum on independence this year, it was confirmed today.

The SNP’s constitutional spokesman, Mike Russell, said work on an IndyRef2 had been “paused” because of the coronavirus pandemic gripping Europe.

The Scottish Government had wanted to stage another independence vote in 2020 in the wake of the UK’s departure from the EU.

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A majority of MSPs at Holyrood backed such a plan in January when Nicola Sturgeon said she would demand the UK Government devolve the neccessary powers to stage such a vote - a move swifty rejected by Boris Johnson.

The Scottish Government had previously called for a second referendum on independence to take place in 2020

In a letter to the UK Government published on Wednesday, Mr Russell said: “We have also written to the Electoral Commission to make clear we do not expect it to undertake testing of a referendum question until public health circumstances permit such activity.”

Arguing for negotiations with the EU to also be paused, Mr Russell added: “We would now strongly suggest to the UK Government that the time has come for an equivalent action by you with regard to the Brexit process, and would ask you to institute a pause to EU/UK negotiations for at least six months.

“It would seem impossible for business and others to cope with the enormous challenge of coronavirus while at the same time preparing for a completely new relationship with the EU in nine months time.

“A pause is also necessary given the inevitable lack of parliamentary and public scrutiny of the negotiations and their progress over that period, when all attention and effort will be focused on our collective actions to tackle and defeat the coronavirus.”

Welcoming the decision to postpone IndyRef2 campaigning, Scottish Conservative MSP Murdo Fraser said: “This is very welcome news and will come as a relief to workers and businesses alike.

“Since the scale of this outbreak became clear, it’s been necessary for all governments and political parties to work together.

“This announcement from Mike Russell is very much in keeping with that spirit.

“Now we can really dedicate all our efforts to enduring this crisis, supporting those who will be worst hit, and ensure we can come out the other side looking forward to a bright future.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “I know how much this means to the SNP so it must be difficult to put their ambitions on hold.

“We will have the debate on the merits of keeping our country together at another time, but we must put all these differences aside whilst we beat this threat to our lives and our way of life.

“I echo the Scottish Government’s call for the Brexit process to be delayed too. It would be sensible to put all our energies to working together across Europe and the world.”

A spokesman for the Scottish Greens said: “It is right that the Scottish Government prioritises its resources to deal with the public health crisis that we all face.

“The way we live our lives has changed and will continue to be dramatically impacted over the coming months. Clearly this unprecedented situation will demand all the attention of the Scottish and UK governments, and many important issues from independence to Brexit will not be progressed for the time being.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union, said: “This is a sensible announcement from the Scottish Government.

“At this worrying time, the Scottish and UK governments must work together in the interests of every citizen in the United Kingdom.

“Scotland in Union has already paused all campaigning and would like to thank everyone who is working on the frontline in the NHS and everyone who is volunteering to help in their communities.”

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