The First Minister has been urged to stand by her own “Sturgeon Test” on holding a second independence referendum as she prepares to address MSPs on her plans for a second vote on leaving the UK.
But supporters of the Yes movement will see this as a sign that pro-Union parties in Scotland are “running scared of independence” and the looming backlash over their handling of Brexit.
MSPs return to Holyrood this week after the Easter recess and the SNP leader has pledged she will update them on her plans for a second referendum in light of the recent 31 October Brexit extension. She will also be addressing the SNP Spring Conference next weekend at Edinburgh International Conference Centre.
Leading figures in the independence movement, such as Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie, are keen to forge ahead, but the First Minister has urged caution as polls show no movement towards Yes.
The Tories are now pointing to the SNP’s Holyrood manifesto launch in April 2016 when Sturgeon said that she would not bring forward a referendum before a majority of Scots wanted it.
“For three years since, she’s tried to use Brexit to demonstrate support for independence and another referendum,” said Tory deputy leader Jackson Carlaw. “Yet even the SNP’s own polls show she has comprehensively failed.
“Even by her own logic, the First Minister has not earned the right to hold another referendum. Let’s therefore hope that this week the First Minister stands by her own words, and doesn’t cave in to her activists ahead of SNP conference.
“Nicola Sturgeon should uphold the Sturgeon Test. Scotland doesn’t want yet more referendums – we want to move on and focus on the things that matter: improving our schools, making our streets safer and growing high quality jobs in Scotland.”
A stand-off currently exists between the Scottish Government and Westminster over a second referendum. Power over the constitution lies with the UK government and Prime Minister Theresa May has so far rejected Sturgeon’s demands insisting, ‘Now is not the time.’
A poll by the pro-independence Progress Scotland organisation earlier this month concluded that support for independence had fallen to below 40 per cent.
But SNP deputy leader Keith Brown, who has been tasked with preparing the case for a second independence campaign, said Brexit turmoil has seen a backlash against the pro-Union parties in Scotland.
“Since 2016, across Westminster, the SNP have often been the only adults in the room, the only party focused on offering a serious sensible way forward out of the Brexit mess,” he said.
“The Scottish Tories have completely sold out Scotland’s interests over Brexit and are happy to let Westminster do whatever they want to Scotland.
“Meanwhile, Labour are quietly signing up to deliver a Tory Brexit – against the wishes of the people of Scotland – and without putting the issue back to the people. Labour and the Tories no longer have a positive vision to offer the people of Scotland. They are running scared of any debate over Scotland’s future.
Sturgeon’s comments at the manifesto launch came before the Brexit vote later that year which saw a majority of Scots vote to remain in the EU as the UK voted to leave. She insists this represented a “material change” in circumstances which opened the door for another vote.
The pro-independence majority at the Scottish Parliament, combining SNP and Green MSPs, has also voted in favour of a second referendum being held.