Sturgeon urges ‘coming together’ over right to hold indyref2

The First Minister said there is 'growing cross-party recognition' the question of a second vote should not be decided at Westminster.

Holyrood: Nicola Sturgeon updates MSPs after general election.
Holyrood: Nicola Sturgeon updates MSPs after general election.

The First Minister has urged a “coming together” of parties in the Scottish Parliament in support of the right to hold a second independence referendum.

Addressing MSPs, Nicola Sturgeon said there is “growing cross-party recognition” that the question of a referendum “must be decided by the people” after the general election result in Scotland.

The SNP enjoyed its best result at a Westminster election since 2015, taking 47 of 59 seats in Scotland and 45% of the vote.

The Scottish Conservatives, who built their election campaign on a pledge to oppose a fresh independence referendum, went from 13 seats down to six.

Over the last few days, senior figures in Scottish Labour have said another referendum should be allowed to take place, including Cosla president Alison Evison.

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In a ministerial statement on Tuesday, the FM said her government would publish this week a “detailed democratic case” for the transfer of Section 30 powers to hold a referendum from Westminster to Holyrood that would put such a vote “beyond legal challenge”.

She said facilitating the referendum is a “matter of urgency”, with her desired time for a vote by the end of 2020 – while the UK is expected to be in a standstill transition arrangement with the EU before Brexit fully takes hold in 2021.

With the Conservatives under Boris Johnson winning a large majority UK-wide on his pledge to complete Brexit, the SNP leader said Scotland faces a “watershed moment” as she called on MSPs “to protect the values that the people of Scotland voted for”.

Sturgeon claimed the election result proved “a fundamental point”: “The kind of future desired by most people in Scotland is very clearly different to that favoured by much of the rest of the UK.”

She added: “We must have the right to consider the alternative of independence.”

The First Minister went on: “There are already some signs that those who previously opposed an independence referendum are, when faced with the democratic reality of Thursday’s result, now re-thinking that position.

“There is a growing, cross-party recognition that election mandates should be honoured, that there has been a material change of circumstances and that the question of independence must be decided by the people and not by politicians.

“Given the nature of what we are facing in terms of UK governance, this is now a matter of some urgency – which is why this Government wants people to have a choice next year.”

The First Minister said there was similar unity in Scotland before the establishment of the Scottish Parliament.

She said: “Back in the early 1990s, when Scotland was also facing the prospect of a fourth Tory Government with no mandate here, there was a coming together of political parties, communities and civic Scotland.

“That resulted in the establishment of this parliament. It has achieved much.

“But a new, Brexit-focused Tory Government presents risks that few would have predicted at the dawn of devolution.

“So I hope in the coming days and weeks we will see a similar coming together around the idea of Scotland’s right to choose a better future.”

A constitutional convention was established in the 1990s that eventually led to devolution, however, the SNP refused to participate due to the fact it would not consider independence as an option.

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Scottish Conservative leader Jackson Carlaw told MSPs: “What this election has confirmed beyond doubt or debate is that the whole of the United Kingdom together will be leaving the European Union at the end of next month.

“The campaign to stop it happening has failed, our departure is going ahead and the result of the 2016 UK referendum will be respected.”

He added: “Brexit is no longer a what-if, it is a political reality for us all.

“The whole of the UK together will now enter the period of transition and leave on the basis of the future trading arrangements with our EU partners negotiated next year.”

Sturgeon hit back that it is a “democratic disgrace” that Scotland is being taken out of EU after it backed Remain by 62% in 2016 – and endorsed the SNP at every election since.

She said it was a “ridiculous position” for Carlaw to suggest his party’s manifesto should be implemented in Scotland when they lost votes and seats north of the border.

Scottish Labour leader Richard Leonard called for Holyrood to conduct a “campaign of resistance” to protect Scotland from Boris Johnson’s government.

Leonard said Labour would “work on a cross-basis basis to resist the attacks that Boris Johnson will wage on the people”.

He asked Sturgeon to “use all the powers of this parliament” to help the country do so, in areas like the fight against child poverty, mitigating benefits policies and protecting the environment.

Leonard said: “I am happy to join her in George Square but will she use the powers of this Parliament?”

Sturgeon replied: “Yes, I will.

“I spent a considerable part of my statement talking about the ways in which we need to redouble our efforts to use the powers of this Parliament – which the Scottish Government has always done – to protect Scotland from an increasingly right-wing Conservative government.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Patrick Harvie said his pro-independence party is “more than ready” to campaign and win the referendum but added that the Scottish Government’s “more urgent task” is protecting Scotland from the “brutal” Conservatives.

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie offered his congratulations to the First Minister but questioned whether SNP votes on December 12 were truly an endorsement for a second referendum rather than the Nationalists’ anti-Brexit message.