EDINBURGH — Scotland’s Nicola Sturgeon said Monday that “independence works,” as she urged London to co-operate with her government’s demands for a second referendum on Scottish independence.
The Scottish National Party-led Scottish government ordered officials to restart work on a “detailed prospectus” making the case for independence earlier this month. Now joined by fellow pro-independence party the Scottish Greens in government, the SNP have said a new referendum should take place by 2023.
Boris Johnson’s U.K. government have so far indicated they won’t grant a new referendum as Scotland voted to stay in the U.K. in 2014, though Scottish Secretary Alister Jack recently told POLITICO another referendum could be held if 60 percent of Scots wanted one.
At the SNP’s annual fall conference, the Scottish first minister used her keynote closing speech to set out her arguments for both independence and the referendum needed to achieve it, while trying to set Scotland’s government apart from what she described as a Westminster “Tory government happy for its Brexit obsession to damage our economy.”
Sturgeon argued that other European countries similar in size to Scotland have prospered as independent nations.
“For countries of Scotland’s size, independence works,” Sturgeon said. “It works for Denmark, for Ireland, for Austria, for Norway, for Finland — and for so many others beside. These are disparate countries with different resources and economies, but independence works for all of them.”
The SNP passed a motion at a conference calling for a draft referendum bill to be presented at the Scottish Parliament, which, if passed, would see the Scottish government legislate for a referendum. If Westminster blocks this, the issue is likely to be settled in a court which would decide whether the Scottish government has the power to hold a legally binding referendum without U.K. consent.
“It is in that spirit of co-operation that I hope the Scottish and U.K. governments can reach agreement — as we did in 2014 — to allow the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland to be heard and respected,” Sturgeon said.
“But, this much is clear. Democracy must — and will — prevail,” she added, signaling the SNP’s willingness to take independence to the courts if necessary. Pro-union politicians are quietly confident any legal challenge is likely to be settled in their favor.
Even before Sturgeon had finished speaking Monday, Johnson’s official spokesman had dismissed her call for “co-operation” between the governments on a second referendum.
“Our view, as set out, is that now is simply not the time to be dealing with this,” the spokesman said.