THE SNP has vowed to hold its own second independence referendum and told Boris Johnson he’ll need to legal action to stop it.
With the party set to retain control of the Scottish government after May’s elections, it has outlined plans for holding a vote after the PM refused to grant one.
Backers of the Yes campaign during the 2014 Scottish independence campaignCredit: Getty Images – Getty
It comes as new polls show Scots want independence and Northern Ireland voters are demanding a united Ireland.
Mike Russell, the Scottish Government’s Constitution Secretary, will present the 11-point document to the SNP’s policy forum on Sunday.
It says a “legal referendum” will be held after the pandemic if there is a pro-independence majority following May’s election.
The roadmap for the Catalonia-style wildcat vote states any attempt by the UK Government to challenge the legality of the referendum in the courts will be “vigorously opposed”
A Section 30 order – part of the Scotland Act 1998 which allows Holyrood to pass laws normally reserved to Westminster – was granted by the UK Government ahead of the 2014 independence referendum.
NINTCHDBPICT000631557636Credit: FRASER BREMNER
Mr Russell says the UK Government could either agree that Holyrood already has the power to hold a second referendum or agree to a Section 30 order – something he said would put the question of legality “beyond any doubt”.
“I firmly believe that Scotland’s referendum must be beyond legal challenge to ensure legitimacy and acceptance at home and abroad,” he said.
“This is the surest way by far to becoming an independent country. “The referendum should be held after the pandemic, at a time to be decided by the democratically elected Scottish Parliament.”
Catalonia’s unofficial independence referendum in October 2017 led to violent clashes with police and imposition of direct rule from Madrid.
It was considered Spain’s biggest political crisis since the three decades rule of military dictator General Francisco Franco came to an end when he died in 1975.
Scotland’s opposition parties were quick to denounce the SNP’s plans.
Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie said: “Scotland is deep in turmoil with thousands facing a cost of living crisis and thousands more people being lost to the virus.
“It is inexcusable that at this time of acute crisis the SNP seeks to put its plan for independence above everything else.
Boris Johnson has said no to another vote until 2055Credit: AFP or licensors
“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.
“To turn your back on those most in need by banging the drum for another independence referendum is an act of political hubris and is truly revealing of the Scottish Government’s true priorities.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross tweeted: “When 100% of our focus should be on recovering from the pandemic, the SNP are charging ahead with plans for another referendum.
“We won’t let them get their way.”
There is growing concern in Government about the rise of support for independence, which had been boosted by its handling of the Covid pandemic and Brexit.
That has led to growing calls for a re-run of the 2014 independence referendum that the ‘No’ side won 55per cent to 45 per cent.
He said referendums are “not particularly jolly” – and said the time between votes on Europe in 1975 and 2016 was “a good sort of gap”.
The SNP’s plans come amid fresh signs the Union is being threatened from many sides.
Mike Russell said any attempt by the UK government to challenge the legality of a referendum will be ‘vigorously opposed’Credit: Getty Images – Getty
A new poll conducted by Panelbase shows Scotland would vote for independence by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
Momentum is also growing in Northern Ireland for joining the Republic of Ireland.
Some 51 per cent of voters in the province want a referendum about uniting with the south within the next five years compared to 44 per cent who are opposed, a LucidTalk poll has found.
The survey shows Unionists hold only a slender lead over those who want a united Ireland now – 47 per cent to 42 per cent – but 11 per cent are undecided, the Sunday Times reports.
Polls also that voters in England, Northern Ireland, Wales and Scotland expect Scots to vote for independent within the next 10 years.
Nicola Sturgeon and the SNP are set for a majority in the Scottish Parliament elections
Alan Trench of University College London’s constitution unit said because constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster it is “crystal clear” the Scotland can only hold a vote if the UK gives consent.
It would, however, be lawful for the nationalists to hold a referendum seeking negotiations on independence without directly calling for it.
“That’s not so much a consultative referendum as a preliminary one, and it would imply a second referendum on leaving the Union on the agreed terms at a later date.
“The second referendum would need a section 30 order, or be called under Westminster legislation.”
Amid the growing fears about the Union cabinet ministers, chaired by Michael Gove, met last week to discuss plans for a campaign to build the case for the Union.
Gove has also compared plans with Gordon Brown, the former Labour prime minister, who played a key role on the ‘No’ campaign.