U.K. Can’t Veto Scottish Independence Vote, Nicola Sturgeon Says

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called on voters to unite behind her party and strengthen her mandate for an independence referendum that the British government is refusing to sanction.

Addressing her Scottish National Party’s conference, Sturgeon said breaking away from the rest of the U.K. was the only way to ensure the country could dictate its own future after the coronavirus pandemic and economic decline exposed cracks in the British system.

She accused Prime Minister Boris Johnson of undermining the power Scotland already has by pursuing a Brexit settlement her administration opposes. The Scottish Parliamentary election next May is an opportunity to set in motion the path to autonomy, Sturgeon said.

“I will seek your authority -- no one else’s -- for a legal independence referendum to be held in the early part of the new Parliament,” Sturgeon said on Monday. “That inalienable right of self determination cannot, and will not, be subject to a Westminster veto.”

Brexit, Covid-19 and their economic consequences have dominated British politics this year, but the argument over Scotland’s future looks set to feature more prominently in 2021. There’s now clear majority support for independence and the SNP has a strong lead in the polls.

The problem for Sturgeon is that it’s London rather than Edinburgh that has the power to call an independence vote, and Johnson has refused. Some in the SNP have said Scotland doesn’t need approval for a legal vote and are pressuring Sturgeon to push ahead regardless.

Sturgeon played up Scotland’s action as the economy sinks, saying that health workers were paid more and unveiling a one-time extra lump sum for them during the pandemic. She also said her government was increasing funding for apprenticeships to get more people into work.

“Are we prepared for our Scottish Parliament to be undermined and dragged down by Westminster?” Sturgeon said. “Or will we decide to make our Scottish Parliament independent?”

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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