Scottish leader seeks ‘legal referendum’

If SNP wins May polls, Sturgeon says she will seek another vote despite Johnson’s opposition

January 24, 2021 10:14 pm | Updated 10:28 pm IST - London

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during the debate at the Scottish Parliament on the trade and co-operation agreement between the UK and the EU (European Union) on December 30, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP)

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon speaks during the debate at the Scottish Parliament on the trade and co-operation agreement between the UK and the EU (European Union) on December 30, 2020 in Edinburgh, Scotland. (Photo by Jeff J Mitchell / POOL / AFP)

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Sunday said she planned to hold a legal referendum on independence from Britain despite Westminster’s opposition, as an opinion poll showed a majority would vote yes.

If her Scottish National Party (SNP) wins a strong showing in regional elections in May, Ms. Sturgeon said she would seek a fresh referendum even though Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said such a vote should only be held once in a generation.

“I want to have a legal referendum, that is what I am going to seek the authority of the Scottish people for in May and if they give me that authority, that’s what I intend to do,” she told the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show .

Mr. Johnson “will flatly refuse the demand,” The Sunday Times quoted senior government sources as saying.

Ms. Sturgeon cited the fact that “the polls now show that a majority of people in Scotland want independence”.

A Sunday Times poll found 50% of Scottish voters wanted another referendum in the next five years and 49% would vote for independence, while 44% would reject it.

A 2014 referendum saw 55% vote “no.”

Victory projected

The Sunday Times quoted a forecast that the SNP will win a “landslide” in May polls for the Scottish parliament, giving Sturgeon a strong basis to call for the vote.

She spoke as the Scottish National Party (SNP) was due to discuss its “roadmap to a referendum” at a policy forum on Sunday.

The SNP says it will request a Section 30 order from the British government allowing the holding of another referendum. If this is refused it intends to push through its own legislation to prepare for a referendum and “vigorously” oppose a legal challenge from London.

“Scotland could hold a preliminary referendum, calling for negotiations on independence,” Alan Trench of University College’s constitutional unit said.

The newspaper poll found 50% of Scottish voters wanted another independence referendum in the next five years, despite the fact only 22% thought an independent country would be better off economically.

“Brexit and the coronavirus crisis... appear to be driving Scottish voters away from England,” the newspaper wrote.

22% thought Johnson had done a good job in tackling the pandemic, versus 61% for Ms. Sturgeon.

The poll also found 53% in Scotland would vote to rejoin the EU.

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