Nicola Sturgeon addressing Scottish Parliament Photograph:( Reuters )
Sturgeon's Scottish National Party says the UK's divorce from the European Union, following a 2016 referendum, has transformed the debate.
Scottish government on Tuesday announced plans to hold a second independence referendum on October 19, 2023, drawing the battle lines for a legal and political tussle with London, as reported by AFP. Addressing the Edinburgh parliament, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon conceded that her devolved administration may lack the power to call the vote without London's approval.
To ensure legal clarity, it will seek an opinion from the UK Supreme Court before it asks voters: "Should Scotland be an independent country?"
The phrasing of the question was the same as Scottish voters were asked in 2014. Then, they agreed to stay in the United Kingdom, and Prime Minister Boris Johnson's UK government says that settled the matter for a generation. But Sturgeon's Scottish National Party (SNP) says the UK's divorce from the European Union, following a 2016 referendum, has transformed the debate.
Most Scottish voters were opposed to Brexit, and the SNP-led government said that with a majority in the
Edinburgh parliament now in favour of independence, Scots should be consulted again. Sturgeon stressed that the "consultative referendum" would only proceed with the approval of the UK Supreme Court.
A vote in favour of independence would still need approval from both parliaments in Edinburgh and London before Scotland could formally break away. If the UK Supreme Court rules that the Scottish government lacks the power to hold the vote without London's agreement, "it will be the fault of Westminster legislation, not the court", she said.
In that scenario, the SNP would use the UK's next general election due by 2024 as a "de facto referendum" on independence, she added.
"Either way, the people of Scotland will have their say."
Sturgeon's statement came as Queen Elizabeth II made an unexpected appearance at "Holyrood week", an annual series of ceremonial events in the Scottish capital. The 96-year-old monarch has been suffering from difficulties walking and standing since an unscheduled night in the hospital last October that forced her to cancel public engagements.
As head of state, the monarch is politically neutral, but the Daily Telegraph said her visit to Edinburgh "packs an ever-so-polite political punch".
"Without speaking -- and indeed almost without moving in public -- she embarked on just the sort of show of soft diplomacy she has spent 70 years perfecting," the newspaper said.
(with inputs from agencies)
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