The Scottish Parliament should be able to stage a second independence referendum if there is “clear and sustained” evidence that most Scots want to leave the UK, Nicola Sturgeon has said.
The SNP’s manifesto being launched this week will also see plans unveiled to provide a new “babybox” to all newborn tots in Scotland as part of a Scandinavian-style approach to tackling inequality.
The demand for Holyrood to be allowed to stage a fresh independence vote is likely to prompt a political row as control over constitutional matters is currently reserved to Westminster.
Although there an explicit commitment to a second independence vote, Ms Sturgeon makes it clear she could move on the issue. It leaves the prospect open for another battle over Scotland’s constitutional future, despite previous claims that the 2014 referendum on independence was a “once in a generation” event.
But Ms Sturgeon said today that independence is the “best future” for Scotland.
“We know Scotland will only become independent when a majority of people in Scotland choose that future in a democratic referendum - it will not happen just because the SNP wants it to, or because there is an SNP government,” she said.
“At the same time if there is a clear demand for a referendum no politician has the right to stand in the way of the people of Scotland to choose their own future.
“We believe that the Scottish Parliament should have the right to hold another referendum if there is clear and sustained evidence that independence has become the preferred option of a majority of the Scottish people - or if there is a significant and material change in the circumstances that prevailed in 2014, such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”
The SNP has already set out plans for a Summer campaign to make a fresh case for independence, with the Conservatives since pledging to make the counter UK case.
The baby box plan will see mums given sturdy cardboard boxes with clothes, toys, nappies and a built-in mattress to turn container into cots. They are based on a scheme from Finland and have already been hailed as a potential breakthrough in the fight against cot death. Mums and dads are encouraged to let babies sleep on their backs in the converted boxes in the same room as the parents.
An extra 500 health visitors will also be pledged by the First Minister.
She said: “The baby box is such a simple idea but has been proven to have a real impact, reducing child mortality and helping families at the start of a child’s life.
“By providing every newborn with a baby box we can help child death - and by providing greater support to new families we will also help tackle child poverty and improve the chances of some of our most deprived children.”