SNP manifesto: A vote for SNP will give Nicola Sturgeon 'permission' for indyref2

Nicola Sturgeon has said that a “simple majority” of pro-independence MSPs in the Holyrood election would give her “permission” to hold a second independence referendum.

Launching her party manifesto, the First Minister said her intention was that a second vote would be held in 2023, if the Covid crisis is over, and if Scots vote yes the next Scottish Parliament elections “would be for the first independent government”.

Ms Sturgeon said there was “no moral or democratic justification” for Boris Johnson to block a referendum, with the manifesto stating that if the Prime Minister continues to refuse a section 30 order, the SNP would pass a Referendum Bill at Holyrood and fight the UK Government in the courts.

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The drive for independence was announced as she laid out £6 billion of new public spending, although she rejected a claim she could only make such commitments because Scotland was part of the UK. “I believe passionately that with the powers of independence we can do so much more for Scotland,” she said.

Nicola Sturgeon launches her party's manifesto from a conservatory at her home in Glasgow.Nicola Sturgeon launches her party's manifesto from a conservatory at her home in Glasgow.
Nicola Sturgeon launches her party's manifesto from a conservatory at her home in Glasgow.

“I look around Europe and I see independent countries, of similar size to us, that are among the wealthiest, fairest and happiest in the world. If Denmark and Norway and Ireland can do it, then with all our resources and talent, why not Scotland?”

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She said if Scotland returned a majority of MSPs who stood on a commitment to a second independence referendum, that it was “wrong and unsustainable for any politician to stand in the way of democracy”.

“You can see and hear from what is emerging from Whitehall and Downing Street right now that the Tories know they cannot stand in the way of a referendum the people vote for,” she said.

“That’s why we hear increasingly now, not about their intention to block it, but to fix the franchise and determine the timing.”

She added: “I believe in independence with every fibre of my being, but no matter how much I want it or people in the SNP want it, we don’t bring it any closer by talking to ourselves about who wants it most. We only bring it closer by persuading more people to vote for it, to build a majority – which the polls suggest now we are very close to.”

She said there was a “standing request" with Boris Johnson for a section 30 order, but that if a majority of pro-independence MSPs were returned in May “this is not about requesting anything from Boris Johnson other than demanding that he respects Scottish democracy”.

In a swipe at former first minister and Alba Party leader Alex Salmond, Ms Sturgeon said there needed to be a “legitimate process which will deliver independence that is recognised here at home and across the globe”.

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She added: “There’s no alternative. Those who talk about street protest and appealing to international opinion, yes it has a part to play, but none of that is an alternative to doing the hard work of building a majority. I’m for doing that hard work because I’m serious about delivering independence.”

Stressing again that any referendum would need to wait until the Covid crisis was over, Ms Sturgeon added: “On day one of the new Parliament, if I’m still First Minister, the civil servants and entirety of government will be focused on leading the country through the pandemic.

“The SNP, distinct from government, has established an independence unit doing work around the independence case, but I put independence planning on hold in government when the pandemic struck.”

Asked about her timetable for an independent Scotland to rejoin the European Union, and if a further referendum on that would be needed, Ms Sturgeon said that was not her policy.

“Obviously we would seek to discuss that with the EU should people vote yes,” she said.

"I’m not going to put a number of years on that, but there are many voices within the EU who do not think this would be a lengthy period for Scotland.

"We are not an accession country in the same way as countries seeking to join for the first time would be. We’re a country which has been in the EU for decades and complied with all the rules and regulations of membership.

“One of the reasons I thought a second EU referendum could be justified was because the implementation of the Brexit vote was a disaster, because people were asked to vote without knowing what Brexit meant – I don't intend that to be the case with independence.

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"Just as in 2014, people had a detailed prospectus on which to base their vote. That’s my intention in a future independence referendum too.”

She rejected the suggestion that Scots may have changed their minds on the EU, pointing to opinion polls, and added: “I can’t foresee the future. When we come to have that independence referendum we will set out that prospectus then do I foresee public opinion in Scotland changing on that? I don't. A stand-alone vote is not my policy.”

Responding to Ms Strugeon’s comments, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “The SNP manifesto confirms that Scotland has a choice of two futures – referendum or recovery.

Nicola Sturgeon has said it herself – when Scotland is still in the recovery phase, she wants another referendum. This is a manifesto to create a new crisis at the earliest opportunity, when we’re going to be tackling the health and economic crisis for years to come.

“If they get a majority, the SNP will put a referendum roadblock in front of Scotland’s recovery.”

On the SNP manifesto, Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said: “We are still waiting on the SNP delivering promises they made in 2007. They have a one-track mind for independence that prevents them getting anything else done. It will be even worse if the SNP get a majority. It’s time to try something new.”

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