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by Louise Wilson
10 January 2023
Scottish independence: Holyrood urges UK Government to allow referendum

Scottish independence: Holyrood urges UK Government to allow referendum

MSPs have passed a motion urging the UK government to "respect the right of people in Scotland to choose their constitutional future".

It received the support of 70 MSPs, with 54 voting against it.

Constitution secretary Angus Robertson argued that "democracy demands" that a referendum on Scottish independence take place.

But Tory MSP Donald Cameron branded this argument "utterly ludicrous" because the SNP and Greens had "never accepted" the democratic vote of 2014.

Labour's Sarah Boyack said the arguments proved there needed to be a change to the status quo.

The debate, which was slightly delayed after Conservative and Labour attempts to remove it from the agenda, was the first one to take place following the Christmas recess.

It comes after the Supreme Court ruled late last year that the Scottish Parliament did not have the power to call a referendum without the permission of Westminster.

The motion for debate said for the UK to be a “voluntary association of nations” any constituent part must be able to choose to leave it and urged the UK Government to allow a second referendum to take place.

The Scottish Government had planned to hold a referendum in October of this year, but after the court ruling First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said the SNP would instead fight the next UK general election as a “de facto referendum”.

An SNP special conference setting out plans for this is set to take place in Edinburgh on 19 March.

Speaking in the debate on Tuesday afternoon, Robertson said: “People in Scotland were promised [in 2014] that within the UK, we would benefit from the economic strength of the United Kingdom. Instead, we have suffered from years of economic mismanagement, culminating in the disastrous experiment of a failed Tory budget that cost this country billions.”

The Tories said the parliament’s time would have been better spent discussing the NHS, a point referred to in their ultimately rejected amendment.

Constitution spokesperson Donald Cameron said: “This debate is nothing short of shameful. If the passion and energy expended today was concentrated instead on health and education, we would be in a much, much better place… The only thing the SNP wants to talk about is the constitution because it has failed so monumentally elsewhere.”

Labour MSPs also argued the time should have been spent talking about the NHS or education.

But the party also said the constitutional wrangling was a result of a “co-dependent relationship of grudge and grievance” between the SNP and Conservatives.

Constitution spokesperson Sarah Boyack said: “We need to change the status quo. We need to change Scotland. And the best way to do that is not to have an independence referendum."

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