Scotland Restarts Drive for Independence Vote After Pandemic
(Bloomberg) -- Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon reasserted her aim to hold an independence referendum and said her government is restarting work on plans for breaking away from the rest of the U.K.
In a speech outlining her program for government, the leader of the Scottish National Party said a vote would be held by the end of 2023, that is in the first half of the current parliament as long as the coronavirus pandemic allows.
Scottish voters need to be given the choice whether the legislature in London or the one in Edinburgh should be in control of shaping the nation’s economy and society as the U.K. emerges from the pandemic, she said. “These are questions which cannot be avoided, nor postponed until the die is already cast,” she said. “So we intend to offer that choice.”
After her SNP prevailed in May elections, Sturgeon has promised to push ahead with an independence vote even though the U.K. government has said it won’t grant the legal permission to hold one. The party has also teamed up with the pro-independence Green Party to reinforce its majority in the semi-autonomous Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish government is now resuming work on a “detailed prospectus” to inform the electorate, she said. The SNP this week posted a survey to households asking for opinions on independence.
Scotland could potentially hold another referendum if support for a new vote rises consistently to at least 60% in the polls, a British minister said last week. Secretary of State for Scotland Alister Jack told political news website Politico that backing for holding a vote would have to be sustained at that level “over a reasonably long period.”
While support for independence rose above 50% for much of the pandemic, more recent polls have shown a relatively even split.
Among other plans, Sturgeon’s administration will trial four-day weeks for more workers backed by a 10 million-pound ($13.8 million) fund, increase spending on social care and take the country’s railway service back into public ownership.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross accused Sturgeon of prioritizing her push for independence over leading the country out of the pandemic. He said another referendum was “front and center” of her program rather than the recovery and creating jobs.
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