Sturgeon confronted by Tory Minister on ‘illegal’ plot to hold second independence vote

Sturgeon slammed for independence ‘obsession’ by Alister Jack

The SNP released an 11-point plan last week stating they would hold another vote if a pro-independence majority of MSPs was returned in May’s Holyrood elections, whether a Section 30 order granting it from London was forthcoming or not. The document, put together by Scotland’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell, would effectively dare the UK Government to challenge another referendum in court.

However, Scottish Secretary Alister Jack made clear ministers would be breaking the law if the SNP led administration decided to hold another vote without express permission.

Speaking this morning, Mr Jack said: “I’m afraid the constitution is a reserved matter, it would be an illegal referendum, let’s be clear about that.”

He stressed now was “not the time” for another vote on the constitution in Scotland adding senior figures in the Yes campaign said the vote was “once in a generation”.

He added: “We can’t go into a process of ‘neverendums’ until eventually, they get one that they win, that’s not what responsible government is about.

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“We had a referendum in 2014, we’re now in a global pandemic, we’re going to have double-dip recession the way things are going.

“It’s about recovering our economy as one United Kingdom, pulling together, doing the trade deals we want to do, improving Scotland’s economy and rebuilding it as quickly as we can, and after we’ve saved people’s lives with this vaccine, then saving their livelihoods.”

Mr Jack also praised Boris Johnson’s visit to Scotland to praise the strength of the Union on Thursday branding it “morale-boosting”.

He added to BBC Politics Scotland: “In any battle, the general should go to the front line and hear from those people, those troops – who are fighting, in this case, the virus – exactly the issues they’re facing.

“It’s morale-boosting what he does, he thanked the troops who were rolling out the vaccine centres … it’s important to talk to people, to thank them, to hear what issues they’re facing.”

It comes after opposition parties slated Constitution Secretary Michael Russell who claimed the vote could be held six months after Holyrood passed a referendum bill, which is expected in June.

Mr Russell said: “Best practice suggests that six months should expire between the legislation and the referendum.

“That is because electoral administrators need time to put in systems — but I do hope the new parliament moves without too much delay to that.”

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Dean Lockhart MSP, Scottish Conservative Constitution spokesman, said: “Independence over lives and livelihoods. It’s an absolute disgrace.”

Pamela Nash, chief executive of Scotland in Union and former Labour MP, said: “This is the latest reckless comment from Mr Russell, who is more interested in dividing Scotland than bringing us together as we recover from COVID.

“It is grossly irresponsible to even contemplate another referendum while people are losing their lives and livelihoods.

“And even if we weren’t in the midst of a global pandemic, the SNP has had six years to answer the question what currency a separate Scotland would use and can’t – so the idea it could resolve all the unanswered questions in six months is fanciful.”

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “Yet again we see the SNP’s selfish intent to plunge Scotland into the chaos, uncertainty and division of another referendum.

“Michael Russell also makes the arrogant assumption of the SNP winning a majority at Holyrood in May.”

But in response, SNP Depute Leader Keith Brown claimed the Tories sounded more “rattled by the day”.

The MSP added to this publication: “Trying to block a democratic mandate is an indefensible and untenable position – the bottom line is the Tories are panicking as they run scared of a referendum they fear they will lose.

“It’s not for Alister Jack, or his boss Boris Johnson, to deny the people of Scotland the chance to determine their own future.

“That choice belongs to the people of Scotland, and any Trump-like attempt to deny that would be utterly undemocratic – and would not hold.”

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