Scottish Cabinet Secretary for the Constitution, Europe and External Affairs Mike Russell has outlined an 11-point roadmap to achieving a Scottish Independence Referendum.
According to Russell, the new referendum would be held “in the early part of the new term” should the SNP win a majority at the Scottish Parliament elections in May.
However, there will be significant constitutional challenges to overcome if Westminster does not approve the referendum.
So how will the SNP try to overcome opposition? This is what we know so far.
What are the 11 points?
The roadmap states that the procedures which allow for a referendum are different to those experienced in 2014 - the year of the last Scottish referendum.
Point 2 names the two bills which have already been passed, stating that one “further short bill is required to complete the legislative preparations for a second independence referendum.”
Point 4 states that work on that bill was suspended last March, due to coronavirus. This point also suggests civil servants were tasked with preparing the bill, and other necessary preparations for another referendum.
This is despite Boris Johnson stating previously that he would not approve a second referendum in the near future.
Both the UK and Scottish Parliament must approve a referendum before it can be considered legally binding.
Points 5 and 6 state that the SNP will reveal a draft bill to the people of Scotland before the May elections, setting out how they would hold the referendum.
The SNP will then state in their 2021 Manifesto that should they win more seats than any other party, they will seek to enact the bill and begin the process for another referendum.
Therefore, should Nicola Sturgeon return as First Minister on May 7, the SNP led Scottish Government would then request a Section 30 order (part of the Scotland Act 1998 which allows Holyrood to pass laws normally reserved to Westminster), on the basis that there is no moral or democratic right for a referendum to be denied.
Points 7, 8, 9 and 10 state that the referendum would likely take place after the pandemic, while also stating the SNP believes it should take place soon after the election.
Point 10 also states that if Westminster denies the right to a legal referendum, the Scottish Government would take legal action to “vigorously oppose” Westminster’s decision.
It suggests there are three routes to an independence referendum:
- agree that the Scottish Parliament already has the power to legislate for a referendum
- agree the section 30 order - as happened ahead of the 2014 vote
- take legal action to dispute the legal basis of the referendum
Point 11 states that the SNP would then relaunch their “YES” campaign.
The roadmap was shared with over 1000 SNP members at the SNP’s national assembly, on 24 January.
Can Scotland hold a referendum without Westminster’s consent?
The Court of Session is currently hearing arguments regarding the right of the Scottish Parliament to legally hold a referendum about the future of Scotland in the United Kingdom.
This case has been brought about due to the restrictions currently placed on a referendum.
At present, the UK Government needs to pass a section 30 order to ensure the result of the referendum would be upheld across the UK and abroad.
The court case has been taken on by SNP activist, Martin Keatings, who raised a huge sum of money for legal proceedings through crowdfunding.
The court is debating as to whether Holyrood has the right to legislate for a referendum, if not to directly take Scotland out of the UK.
Nicola Sturgeon favours this route to a referendum, but the new 11-point plan suggests she is no longer willing to take no for an answer.
She has been dismissed by David Cameron’s successive prime ministers, including Teresa May who stated “now is not the time” for a divisive referendum, and Boris Johnson who said he would not support one, using Alex Salmond’s own words - it was “once in a generation”.
Johnson has since said 2045 would be “about the right time” for a second referendum.
Therefore, a section 30 may prove incredibly difficult to obtain, in which case the courts would need to overrule Westminster in order for the referendum to stand up having a viable conclusion.
Will the other Scottish parties vote for it?
It is not expected that the Scottish Conservatives, Lib Dems or Labour will vote in favour of a second referendum.
However, the Sottish Greens are seen to support the SNP in their bid for independence.
Newly appointed Interim leader for the Scottish Labour Party, Jackie Baillie MSP said: "It is inexcusable that at this time of acute crisis the SNP seeks to put its plan for independence above everything else.
“The people of Scotland are being badly let down by an incompetent UK government and a Scottish government that seeks to exploit the current crisis for its own ends."
This was reiterated by Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross, who called the roadmap a “reckless move”.
He added: “Most Scots will wonder why time, energy and resources are going into pursuing an illegal referendum when we are facing far bigger challenges as a country right now than the constitution.”
While Scottish Lib Dem’s leader Willie Rennie, described the SNP’s priorities as “all wrong”.
There has been no comment from Green’s leader Patrick Harvie, regarding the 11-point plan.