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Sturgeon demands powers to hold second referendum

The First Minister has called for the Prime Minister to 'agree and negotiate' the transfer of powers to Holyrood to hold indyref2.

The First Minister has called for the Prime Minister to “agree and negotiate” the transfer of powers to Holyrood to hold an independence referendum.

Laying out the “clear democratic case” for handing over the powers under Section 30 of the Scotland Act, Nicola Sturgeon said she had an “unarguable” mandate for pursuing a fresh independence vote.

She confirmed she will formally request, by letter, Section 30 powers from the UK Government later on Thursday.

The FM accepted that “in the short-term” UK ministers are likely to refuse the request, as Johnson has repeatedly indicated he will do.

But she added that ultimately “democracy must and will prevail”.

In a speech from her official residence of Bute House, Nicola Sturgeon pressed her case in the wake of the SNP’s general election gains in Scotland, where the party won 47 of 59 seats north of the border.

She was speaking ahead of the publication of a new Scottish Government paper, called Scotland’s Right to Choose, outlining a “detailed democratic case” for transferring Section 30 powers.

Sturgeon said the general election result, which saw the SNP enjoy its second best-ever result while the Conservatives in Scotland dropped more than half their seats – while winning a UK-wide Commons majority – showed Scotland had “rejected” Johnson.

She continued: “Scotland made it very clear last week it does not want a Tory government led by Boris Johnson taking us out of the European Union.

“That is the future we face if we do not have the opportunity to consider the alternative of independence.”

Sturgeon insisted: “It is a fundamental democratic principle that decisions on Scotland’s constitutional future should rest with the people who live here.

“As this document lays out, the Scottish Government has a clear democratic mandate to offer people a choice on that future in an independence referendum, and the UK Government has a democratic duty to recognise that.

“Last week’s general election has only strengthened that mandate.”

The First Minister spoke of the UK being a “voluntary association of nations”, however, after Scotland rejected leaving the European Union in the 2016 referendum, she said the last three-and-a-half years had “raised questions about our voice and our democracy and about our future”.

Sturgeon added: “As a nation our future – whatever we choose that to be – must be in the hands of the people who live here.

“We can choose to stay part of the Westminster union or we can choose, as I would, to be independent. But the choice must be ours.

“Today I am publishing the constitutional and democratic case for Scotland having that choice.”

Ahead of the 2014 referendum, then-PM David Cameron agreed a transfer of Section 30 powers to Holyrood in order that Scotland could hold the vote.

That came after the SNP won an unprecedented overall majority in the Scottish Parliament in 2011.

Months of talks between the Scottish and UK Governments resulted in the Edinburgh Agreement – the deal signed by Cameron and former first minister Alex Salmond that allowed the historic 2014 ballot to take place.

Another Section 30 request for an independence referendum was made by Sturgeon in 2017 but it was rejected by Theresa May, who replied: “Now is not the time.”

The FM said any refusal from Downing Street to accommodate her request this time for indyref2 powers would not be the “end of the matter”.

She said her government was “calling for the UK Government to negotiate and agree the transfer of power that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence”.

Sturgeon added her ministers would also publish on Thursday “the draft legislation that would give effect” to a second independence plebiscite.

She conceded she expected the response from Westminster to the Section 30 request would be a “restatement of the UK Government’s opposition”.

But the First Minister continued: “They should be under no illusion that this will be an end of the matter.

“In this context, the question is often posed to me – ‘what will you do if the Prime Minister says no?’

“But the document we are publishing today turns the question on its head.

“It is for the Prime Minister to defend why he believes the UK is not a voluntary union of equal nations. It is for him to set out why he does not believe people in Scotland have the right to self-determination.

“And it is for the Prime Minister to explain why he believes it is acceptable to ignore election after election in Scotland and to override a democratic mandate stronger than the one he claims for his Brexit deal.”

The release of Scotland’s Right to Choose comes as the PM is due to make his Queen’s Speech on Thursday, laying out his legislative agenda.

Meanwhile, the Referendums (Scotland) Bill, is expected to pass at Holyrood on the same day, through which Sturgeon’s government intends to lay the groundwork for a future independence vote.

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