First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Monday set out her plans for a new referendum on Scottish independence, arguing Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic had put Scotland on a different course from the rest of the United Kingdom.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) leader blasted UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for imposing his “Brexit obsession” on the UK during the coronavirus pandemic, which is leading to food and labour shortages.
And she said the economic hit on individuals and businesses from the UK’s departure from the European Union, which most Scots opposed, had been made worse by hardline immigration policies hitting the workforce.
But she told the SNP’s annual conference that Johnson and his Conservative government in London would “use all that damage that they have inflicted to argue for yet more control”, to argue against Scotland going its own way.
“By making us poorer, they’ll say we can’t afford to be independent. By cutting our trade with the EU, they will say we are too dependent on the rest of the UK,” she said.
“Frankly it is not up to a Westminster government which has just six MPs in Scotland to decide our future without the consent of the people who live here,” she added.
Instead, she said Scots faced a choice between “a Westminster Tory government rejected by the people of Scotland and taking us in the wrong direction” and having their own government in its own right.
Sturgeon has been calling for another referendum to be held by the end of 2023 when the coronavirus pandemic is over, but the move has to be sanctioned by the UK government.
So far, Johnson has refused to do so, arguing the last vote in 2014, which saw Scots back remaining part of the UK by 55 percent to 45 percent, was a once-in-a-generation event.
Sturgeon admitted her relations with Johnson were prickly but vowed to push her case for a legally binding referendum in a spirit of “cooperation not confrontation”.
“It’s in that spirit of cooperation that we in the Scottish and UK government can reach an agreement, as we did in 2014, allow the democratic wishes of the people of Scotland to be heard and respected,” she said.
“Democracy must, and democracy will prevail.”
The SNP in May won elections to the Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, which has devolved powers to set policy in areas such as health, education, transport and the environment.
But they fell short of a majority, and last week signed a landmark power-sharing deal with the Scottish Green Party, giving them a pro-independence majority in Holyrood.