'I’ve got time on my side' - Nicola Sturgeon ready to play 'waiting game' with No 10 over indyref2
Nicola Sturgeon has said it would be “unthinkable” for the UK Government to block a second independence referendum and warned Boris Johnson that she has time on her side.
The First Minister has said that her intention is to hold indyref2 before the end of 2023 and that she is prepared to fight the UK government in court if necessary.
Earlier this week, Alister Jack, the Secretary of State for Scotland, said Downing Street would only consent to a new vote in 25 years, and only then if polls consistently showed that 60 per cent of Scots supported one.
Speaking to the Financial Times, Sturgeon said: “I can’t look ahead and tell you exactly how this constitutional impasse is going to resolve itself, but it will resolve itself - and it will resolve itself on the side of democracy because actually, the alternative is pretty unthinkable.
“I’ve got democracy on my side … if they think it’s about playing a waiting game, I’ve probably got time on my side as well. You look at the demographics of the support for independence – well, I’m not sure that’s going to get you out of this conundrum.”
She later added: “If you’re saying that there is no legitimate, democratic, constitutional route for Scotland to choose independence, where does that leave us?” she asked. “The union suddenly is no longer what it has always been, a voluntary, consensual union of nations.”
The First Minister said “concrete decisions” around timing could be expected in the new year.
She told the paper: “As we come out of this winter into the spring — with, I hope, a lot more certainty about the Covid situation being a bit more in the rear-view mirror — we start to take more concrete decisions around all of this.”
Speaking to STV during the Tory party conference Jack was asked when his government would agree to a new vote.
He said: “The trigger in my mind, and I look to the situation in Northern Ireland for instance, if 60 per cent of people wanted a referendum and that position was sustained for over 12 months, then I can see there would be a desire for a referendum.
“But [referendums] can’t come every five or six or seven years. The SNP would only have to win once if we just keep asking the question.”
The SNP plan is to again request a Section 30 order from the UK Government to devolve the powers necessary to allow a legally watertight vote. If, as expected, Downing Street reject that request, the Scottish Government and the pro-independence majority in the parliament will then introduce and pass a bill so that the “necessary arrangements for the referendum can be made and implemented.”
That would almost certainly lead to a legal challenge.
There was a taster of that future legal debate yesterday when the Supreme Court ruled that Holyrood had legislated beyond its powers with new children’s rights and local government laws.
Judges knocked down the law because of the imposition of duties on UK ministers and UK parliament legislation. They said that a section of the Scotland Act preserved the unqualified power of the UK parliament to make laws for Scotland.
Adam Tomkins, professor of constitutional law at Glasgow University and a Scottish Tory MSP between 2011 and 2016, said the judgment had “significant implications” for the lawfulness of any future referendum bill.
He added that the ruling “does nothing to harm children’s rights in Scots law but may well prove to torpedo any argument that Holyrood can legislate solo for an indyref2 bill”.
Aileen McHarg, professor of public law and human rights at Durham Law School said the decision “contributes to a sense of devolved autonomy being under attack, and is unlikely to improve UK-devolved relations."