Scottish independence: UK government rejects Sturgeon’s indyref2 demand

Boris Johnson and Nicola Sturgeon Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Boris Johnson has rejected the request from Nicola Sturgeon

The UK government has formally rejected a call from Scotland’s first minister for a second independence referendum.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson said a referendum would “continue the political stagnation Scotland has seen for the past decade”.

And he said First Minister Nicola Sturgeon had previously pledged that the 2014 referendum would be a “once in a generation” vote.

Ms Sturgeon tweeted that the Tories were attempting to “deny democracy”.

And she said the Scottish government would set out its response and “next steps” before the end of the month.

Ms Sturgeon has said she wants to hold a referendum later this year, and made a formal request last month for the UK government to transfer powers to the devolved Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh that would ensure any referendum is legal.

The request came after Ms Sturgeon’s SNP, which forms the Scottish government, won 48 of the 59 seats in Scotland in the UK general election.

In his written response to Ms Sturgeon, the prime minister said he had “carefully considered and noted” her arguments.

But he said: “You and your predecessor (Alex Salmond) made a personal promise that the 2014 independence referendum was a “once in a generation” vote.

“The people of Scotland voted decisively on that promise to keep our United Kingdom together, a result which both the Scottish and UK governments committed to respect in the Edinburgh Agreement.”

Image caption A large pro-independence march was held in Glasgow at the weekend

Mr Johnson said the UK government would “continue to uphold the democratic decision of the Scottish people and the promise you made to them”.

He added: “For that reason, I cannot agree to any request for a transfer of power that would lead to further independence referendums”.

Ms Sturgeon has previously warned that a “flat no” from Mr Johnson to her request would “not be the end of the matter”.

But she has made clear that she will not hold an unofficial referendum similar to the disputed one in Catalonia in 2017, arguing that it would not actually deliver independence as the result would not be recognised by the EU or wider international community.

The prospect of an independence referendum on Nicola Sturgeon’s preferred timetable – the second half of 2020 – now looks very remote.

The first minister is confident that Mr Johnson’s refusal will help make the case for independence in the longer term, but for now her options are limited.

In the first instance, she is planning another vote at Holyrood to underline the backing of MSPs for a new referendum. With the SNP and Greens holding a majority between them, this is sure to pass – but this has happened before, to little avail.

She has not ruled out going to court, but this would hardly accelerate matters – constitutional lawyers have warned that “there are no legal short cuts” around the political battlefield.

So the next clear opportunity to break the deadlock may be the 2021 Holyrood elections. Ms Sturgeon clearly has one eye on that poll already, talking about the Tories being on a “road back to political oblivion”.

Between now and then, another year of constitutional stalemate beckons.

Image copyright UK Government



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