Westminster taking wrecking ball to idea UK is voluntary partnership – Sturgeon

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Westminster is “taking a wrecking ball” to the idea of the United Kingdom as a voluntary partnership of nations, Nicola Sturgeon said.

Scotland’s First Minister said the Conservative Government is trying to deny the “democratic right” of people in Scotland to choose their future.

On Tuesday, Ms Sturgeon will outline her plans to hold a second referendum on Scotland’s future in the UK to the Scottish Parliament.

She said the case for a referendum is “now as much a Scottish democracy movement as a Scottish independence movement”.

The First Minister said she intends the vote to be held in October 2023, though there are significant barriers in the way, with the Westminster Government unlikely to approve the plans.

Ms Sturgeon said: “Westminster is taking a wrecking ball to the idea of the United Kingdom as a voluntary partnership of nations.

“A Tory government with just six MPs from Scotland, supported on this issue by Labour, is seeking to deny the democratic right of the people of Scotland to choose their own future.

“In doing so, they are demonstrating beyond doubt that, in place of a voluntary partnership, they believe the UK is instead defined by Westminster control.

“The case for a referendum is therefore now as much a Scottish democracy movement as a Scottish independence movement.”

A section 30 order – a clause in the Scotland Act which would grant a legal referendum – is required, but the UK Government has repeatedly rejected requests for one.

Ms Sturgeon said even previous Tory leaders, from Margaret Thatcher to Theresa May, said they believed the UK is based on the consent of the people who live in its constituent nations.

She said: “It is time for (Prime Minister) Boris Johnson and (Labour leader Sir) Keir Starmer to respect, not rubbish, the wishes of the people of Scotland and their democratically elected government, and to respect the pledge their parties signed after the 2014 referendum, promising that nothing prevents Scotland becoming an independent country in the future should the people of Scotland so choose.

“For 70% of the time since 1979, Scotland has been governed by a Tory government we didn’t elect. Enough is enough.

“It’s time to restore basic democracy in Scotland to ensure people get the governments they vote for, and through independence to build a proper partnership of equals between Scotland and our friends in the rest of the United Kingdom.”

A UK Government spokesman said: “Now is not the time to be talking about another referendum.

“People across Scotland rightly want and expect to see both of their governments working together with a relentless focus on the issues that matter to them, their families and communities.

“That means tackling the cost of living, protecting our long-term energy security, leading the international response against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing our economy so that everyone has access to the opportunities, skills and jobs for the future.”

Shadow Scottish secretary Ian Murray said: “This is a transparent attempt to whip up division and distract from the chaos engulfing the SNP.

“Nicola Sturgeon is in no position to lecture anyone about listening to the people of Scotland, as she ignores the cost-of-living crisis hanging over people’s lives and ploughs ahead with a costly, unwanted and damaging referendum.

“The reality is the Tories and the SNP are working hand in hand to tear communities apart in a bid to distract from their own failures.”

Environment Secretary George Eustice also dismissed the call from Ms Sturgeon, rejecting any suggestion Mrs Thatcher would have acceded to demands for another independence poll.

“I don’t think that’s right and I don’t think we should have a second referendum,” he told Sky News.

“We had a referendum not long ago, just in 2014. It gave a clear result, and I think the really important thing is there’s bigger issues that we need to work on.

“We’ve got all of these global pressures as we’re coming out of the pandemic. That’s what we should be focused on. There’s too much else going on in the world at the moment to be having another referendum.”