Scottish Election 2021: Nicola Sturgeon will order SNP to vote down Alex Salmond’s Alba motion to begin immediate independence negotiations

Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to order her SNP colleagues to vote down any attempt by Alba MSPs to force the Scottish Government to begin independence negotiations at the start of the next Parliament.

Speaking on BBC Radio Four’s Today Programme, Ms Sturgeon said trying to “bulldoze our way to independence” risked alienating Scottish voters.

Her comments come after Alba Party leader Alex Salmond pledged to push for Scottish Ministers to open a dialogue with the UK Government immediately on a referendum and the possible terms of independence.

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But the First Minister said she believed now was not the time for a fresh ballot.

“I don't believe we should propose a referendum right at this moment,” she told the programme, “we've got to steer the country through the crisis and, of course, we've got to build the majority for independence through patient persuasion.”

In a jab at her former ally and mentor, Ms Sturgeon added: “People who are serious about achieving independence understand that, and I actually think talk of ‘super majorities’ and ‘gaming the system’ and trying to bulldoze our way to independence almost regardless of the state of public opinion risks putting those that we need to persuade of the case for independence off.”

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‘Our recovery can’t wait’

Nicola Sturgeon has vowed to order her SNP colleagues to vote down any attempt by Alba MSPs to force the Scottish Government to begin independence negotiations at the start of the next Parliament.

The First Minister was challenged on whether an independent Scotland would be able of handling the fallout of another pandemic.

Asked how the Scottish Government would recover from the economic crisis without its own currency and powers over quantitative easing measures, Ms Sturgeon replied: “In the [independence] transition period we would set up the infrastructure of a central bank, we would be within Sterling until we did that, and we would have the ability to exercise those functions of an independent country.

Reacting, Mr Salmond said his successor’s comments “crystallised” the differences between Alba and the SNP.

"Alba believes that for Scotland to recover from the coronavirus we need the financial recovery powers that we can only have through independence,” he added.

Reacting, Mr Salmond said his successor’s comments “crystallised” the differences between Alba and the SNP.

"Our economic recovery can’t wait until next year, or the year after, it must be a recovery led by Scotland’s Government right now.

“Scotland can’t afford to leave the economic decisions about how we recover from the Coronavirus in the hands of Westminster.

"Boris Johnson is currently on the ropes as Prime Minister and already it has been suggested that we give him a one hundred day holiday from having to address the democratic will of Scotland.

“Scotland’s independence is Alba’s priority, and next week it shall be up to the people if they wish to cast their votes to show it is also their priority.

"Alba is rising and if we return representation from across Scotland then the people will have spoken and their Parliament must respond to that call.”

Trident and the Northern Ireland protocol

Asked about NATO concerns over the future of Trident in an independent Scotland, Ms Sturgeon insisted that her party would press ahead with unilateral nuclear disarmament “as quickly as possible”.

But she refused to be drawn on what would happen should NATO allies, like the United States, requested additional time to draw up contingency plans for the weapons.

Ms Sturgeon was also quizzed on her widely-criticised suggestion on Wednesday that the Northern Ireland protocol could form a “template” for future Scottish relations with the rest of the UK.

The protocol means Northern Ireland is effectively operating inside the EU’s customs union and single market for goods.

But the rules, which force checks and controls on supplies travelling between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, has contributed to weeks of widespread violence and political unrest in the country.

Labour said the idea of similar rules in Scotland “beggars belief”, while Lib Dems labelled the First Minister “delusional”.

Defending her comments, Ms Sturgeon explained: “What I said is: if there are easings around the protocol, then clearly there would be learnings and lessons for us there.

“We have a situation right now where borders that didn't exist before Brexit have been created for Scottish businesses.

“What we have to do, I think, is decide how we navigate these issues in a way that maximises Scotland's trading potential - not minimise its trading potential.

“If we join the EU, we have to comply with the rules and regulations of that, and we have to work to ensure that the Scotland-England border is not one that hampers the trade between Scotland and England, which is beneficial to both sides.

She added: “The issues with Northern Ireland have come about largely because we have a government that did not prepare in any way for the practicalities of that.”

‘Sturgeon isn’t being straight with voters’

Labour’s Shadow Scotland Secretary, Ian Murray, condemned Ms Sturgeon’s Radio Four performance.

He said: “With economists warning Scotland is headed for a jobs crisis it is reckless beyond imagining for the First Minister to fail to have answers to the most basic questions about separation.

“From the support provided by Quantitative Easing through to the guarantee of the Bank of England as lender of last resort, jobs in Scotland are dependent on the benefit of the Union.

Nicola Sturgeon isn’t being straight with voters, because she knows that independence means turbocharged austerity.

“Scotland deserves better than this.

“Scottish Labour is opposed to independence and a second referendum.

“If you want a country focused on what unites us, not what divides us then use you second vote, on the peach ballot paper, to back Anas Sarwar and Labour’s national recovery plan.”

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