Sturgeon 'navigating' way to independence referendum and claims PM has little respect for democracy

Nicola Sturgeon has claimed Boris Johnson is "not interested in democracy" and promised to "navigate a way forward" that allows the Scottish Parliament to hold a legal second referendum on independence.

Ahead of tomorrow's launch of the first of a series of policy papers making her SNP government's case for Scotland to leave the United Kingdom, the First Minister has told Representing Border her "door remains open" for talks with the Prime Minister.

In an interview with Ms Sturgeon I asked her what would happen if Boris Johnson says 'no' to granting the powers to Holyrood to hold a referendum.

The First Minister told me: "I'm dealing with the reality that we have a Prime Minister who doesn't respect democracy. I have to navigate a way forward that delivers a lawful process, because I do, unlike Boris Johnson, respect the rule of law.

"We know that the competence of the Scottish Parliament without a Section 30 Order is contested, so that's what we are navigating. That work is well under way."

Before the 2014 referendum the then Prime Minister, David Cameron, agreed with the then First Minister, Alex Salmond, what was known as a 'Section 30 order" under which the power to hold a referendum was passed from Westminster to Holyrood.

The UK government has consistently said that there should not be a new referendum. It argues that the 2014 referendum decided the matter. The SNP dispute this, arguing they have a mandate from Scottish voters after winning the last Scottish Parliament election.

Some legal experts have said it would be difficult for Holyrood to hold the legal referendum Ms Sturgeon is committed to as the powers over the constitution are reserved to Westminster under an Act of Parliament.

The SNP has always disputed this and have cited other legal experts who say it would be possible for the Scottish Parliament to hold a legal vote on leaving the UK.

Tomorrow's policy paper, launched with Green's co-leader and government minister, Patrick Harvie, will "detail how neighbouring European countries comparable to Scotland use their full powers of independence to tailor policies to their own specific circumstances and in doing so achieve better economic and social outcomes than the UK".

Responding to the launch tomorrow the Scottish Conservative's constitution spokesperson Donald Cameron said: Nicola Sturgeon is wilfully ignoring Scotland’s priorities to push ahead with plans for a second divisive independence referendum in 2023.

 “The vast majority of Scottish people don’t want the distraction of another referendum next year. They want the government 100% focused on our recovery from the pandemic, the global cost-of-living crisis, supporting our NHS and protecting jobs.  "Yet Nicola Sturgeon is recklessly pressing ahead with her obsession anyway. This is nothing short of shameful when the country is facing so many momentous challenges."

He added: “The distraction and disruption of another bitter referendum debate is the last thing Scotland needs right now. “Nicola Sturgeon should be fully focused on helping people through this difficult period, not diverting government resources and vast sums of public money towards the SNP's obsession. "The Scottish people want to see an SNP Government focused on key tasks such as building ferries, not on breaking up the UK."

Labour Constitution spokesperson Sarah Boyack said: “This is an appalling waste of time, energy and money when our public services are being cut to the bone.

“Far from making us wealthier, happier and fairer, the SNP and the Greens are putting our future at risk with plans that would make Brexit look like a walk in the park.

“Instead of scrambling to patch over the countless glaring holes in their plans, they should be focused on delivering for Scotland now.”