Sturgeon vows to hold second Scottish independence referendum before 2021 elections

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon vowed to hold another Scottish independence referendum before Holyrood's elections in May 2021.

In a 30-minute statement on Wednesday, the SNP leader said Brexit had changed the landscape of British politics and has paved the way to hold another vote, just years after Scots voted to remain as part of the UK.

But why now, and what did she say?

Are we heading for another vote? Credit: PA
  • Why is Scotland’s First Minister calling for a second Independence Referendum?

The “ongoing Brexit confusion” is said to be the deciding factor for Ms Sturgeon’s speech at Holyrood.

She addressed MSPs at, what a spokesperson has called, “the first available opportunity” since the EU granted a six-month extension to the Article 50 process.

She told Holyrood: "Brexit and all that flows from Brexit will affect the ability of Scottish governments now and well into the future to do the day job.

"To support businesses, combat poverty, fund the NHS and public services and tackle the defining challenges of our time."

It is not the first time Ms Sturgeon has set her sights on a second referendum.

The SNP won a vote in March 2017 to seek permission to hold another independence vote between late 2018 and early 2019.

To date, there has been no formal response from the UK Government but Theresa May has opposed the move on several occasions.

Despite this, Ms Sturgeon told ITV News in October 2018, she would pursue a second referendum regardless of whatever Brexit deal is secured.

Now the dust of the Brexit delay has settled, the First Minister is taking her chance.

Nicola Sturgeon will address the Scottish Parliament. Credit: PA
  • Has this not already been decided?

In the 2014 Independence Referendum, the majority of Scots said they wanted to remain in the United Kingdom.

Some 55% voted to stay in the UK, but that was before the 2016 referendum on whether the UK should remain a member of the EU.

In the EU referendum, 62% of Scotland voted Remain, meaning public opinion on independence might have changed now that the UK is leaving the EU.

Scots voted 55% to remain part of the UK in 2014. Credit: PA
  • What did Ms Sturgeon say in today’s speech?

During her speech to MSPs, the SNP leader spoke about the impact Brexit would have on not only Scotland, but the rest of the UK.

She urged Mrs May to revoke Article 50 if No Deal remained the only viable option for Britain.

She also took aim at the "toxic" culture around politics which she claims led to Leave winning the referendum.

In a statement at the Scottish Parliament, the First Minister said: "This chaos is not an inevitable consequence of the vote to leave the EU.

"It is down to a toxic combination of dishonesty and incompetence."

She also claimed devolution was at risk of going backwards, due to Brexit.

"It is my judgment now, that for the first time in 20 years, there is a risk of devolution going backwards," she told MSPs.

Sturgeon also vowed to hold a vote on independence vote during the lifetime of the current Scottish parliament.

This would mean a vote before May 6, 2021, when the next Scottish elections will be held.

Better Together supporters celebrate after the Scottish referendum results were announced. Credit: PA
  • What kind of reception has Ms Strugeon recieved?

Ms Sturgeon’s spokesperson has said that her Cabinet colleagues were “happy” with the details of her plans and there was “positive feedback”.

But it is not a sentiment shared by everyone.

Pamela Nash, the Chief Executive of Scotland in Union, said the First Minister should drop plans for a second referendum.

“We know the SNP only cares about creating more division, but the majority of people in Scotland want the government to get back to the day job and fix the crises in our schools and hospitals," she said.

A similar view is held by the Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie, who added: “She must tell Parliament that she has learnt the lesson of Brexit, that breaking up long-term economic partnerships is damaging and divisive and that she does not want to inflict that on Scotland with independence.”

Meanwhile, Scottish Labour leader, Richard Leonard said there is no evidence that the people of Scotland want another independence referendum.

“This debate is a distraction from the real and serious problems Scotland faces – a low pay economy, exhausted public services and one in four children living in poverty," Mr Leonard said.

“The mess of Brexit throws into sharp relief the challenges of leaving a political and economic union.

"The answer to the challenges of the UK leaving the EU is not, and never will be, Scotland leaving the UK.”

Further afield, the appetite appears to be little too.

When asked for the Prime Minister’s response to calls for a second independence referendum, her official spokesperson said: “You know the Prime Minister’s position on that and it has not changed.

“First and foremost, let’s wait and see what the First Minister says.”