ITV News Political Editor Robert Peston explains what lies behind the thinking of Nicola Sturgeon's independence referendum proposal as he reports on how the move could affect the Conservatives
Nicola Sturgeon’s refrain that she will not contemplate breaching the rule of law with an independence referendum was pretty blatant trolling of Boris Johnson, given the multiple allegations he faces of being less than scrupulous in following domestic and international law.
She also put Johnson and the Tory party in a tight corner, by asking the Lord Advocate to petition the Supreme Court in London to determine the legality of a referendum.
If the Supreme Court rules her way, then there will be the mother of all constitutional crises, were Boris Johnson to continue to reject the lawfulness of any vote by the Scottish parliament to hold a poll on October 19, 2023.
And if the Supreme Court rules against her - and there is a reasonable chance it will given the massive pressure on it from the government not to “make policy” - then she says she will fight the next general on one issue alone, that Scotland should be independent.
The general election would be her referendum, she says.
Either way, for the Conservative and Unionist Party - to give the Tories their full name - Sturgeon has turned the Scotland question into the Boris Johnson question.
The point is that Boris Johnson is even less popular in Scotland - where a staggering 83% of adults said they were dissatisfied with him in a recent Ipsos poll - than he is in England.
So as MPs in the Tory party - whose very identity is for the union - continue to agonise about whether to replace Johnson as their leader and PM, they now need to decide not only whether he will lose them their own seats, but also the whole of Scotland to boot.
Here is the statement on the request by Scotland’s Lord Advocate for the Supreme Court to determine whether the Scottish Parliament has the power to legislate for an independence referendum: “UK Government law officers will now consider their response.”
This suggests that the Attorney General Suella Braverman and the Solicitor General Alex Chalk could block the reference to the Supreme Court - of which there was no hint in Nicola Sturgeon’s statement, and feels like yet another brewing constitutional crisis.
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