Second attempt at independence? Scottish Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants her compatriots to vote again next autumn on whether Scotland should become an independent state. “The time has come to put Scotland on the right track. The time for independence has come,” Sturgeon announced Tuesday at the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh. A corresponding referendum should take place on October 19, 2023.
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In the first referendum of this kind in 2014, a majority of Scots (55 percent) voted to remain in the UK. However, that was before Brexit, which the northernmost part of the UK had rejected with a clear majority (62 percent). The supporters of independence therefore hope that the situation will change if there is another vote.
The question should be the same as last time: “Should Scotland be an independent country?” What sounds like Brexit 2.0 for some would be the fulfillment of a long-awaited dream for others.
Sturgeon has a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament with her Scottish National Party (SNP) and the Greens. She wants to lead her part of the country with almost 5.5 million inhabitants back to the European Union as an independent country after Brexit.
Sturgeon said Boris Johnson’s Conservative British government tore Scotland out of the Union against its will and plunged it into a deep crisis with the rest of Britain. Cost of living crisis, labor shortages and the threat of a trade war with the EU – “our country deserves better.”
British government refuses approval
In order to pass a law to hold the referendum in the regional parliament, the approval of the government in London must first be obtained. But she refuses. Sturgeon therefore wants to override London if necessary. “I will not allow Scottish democracy to be held hostage by Boris Johnson,” said the 51-year-old.
She wrote to the British Prime Minister and called on him to negotiate a referendum with her. Otherwise, the referendum law should be passed anyway. Their reasoning: The approval of the British government is not absolutely necessary under constitutional law, since it is only a matter of a consultative referendum – Scotland does not automatically become independent as a result, it is only a question of determining the will of the people.
Johnson told journalists on the flight to the NATO summit in Madrid that he would review Sturgeon’s demands and respond appropriately. But it is not the right time to talk about independence, it said from Downing Street.
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A Scottish legal expert considers the envisaged timetable to be unsustainable. “A lot is unpredictable. This is not a smooth process,” said lawyer Nick McKerrell from Glasgow Caledonian University of the German Press Agency shortly before the announcement. McKerrell said the law would first have to be passed through the Scottish Parliament. The following legal disputes could drag on for months. “I don’t think the time is realistic,” said the expert.
Sturgeon acknowledged that the road to independence will not be easy. However, she wants to forestall possible lawsuits: she herself called the Supreme Court – the highest court in the United Kingdom – to clarify whether her plans were legal.
And even if the judges should come to the conclusion that a referendum would be illegal, Sturgeon still has a plan B: “If the law says it can’t be done, the next general election will become a de facto referendum.” Your party will then will campaign solely on the independence issue, she announced.
British election guru John Curtice of the University of Strathclyde sees Sturgeon’s move as the start of a new phase in the independence campaign. Only now that Great Britain has left the EU and the pandemic is no longer dominating the news agenda so much does the Scottish government have a chance to advance its goal. “She will hold a referendum” – despite the rocky road that lies ahead of her, Curtice said in a dpa interview. “She won’t give up.” (dpa)