Stur­geon: No wild­cat Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum

The Scotsman - - FRONT PAGE - By GINA DAVID­SON

Ni­cola Stur­geon has fired a warn­ing shot across the bows of party mem­bers who are push­ing for an in­de­pen­dence “Plan B”, warn­ing there are no “short­cuts” to a sep­a­rate Scot­tish state as it would not be re­garded as le­git­i­mate on the in­ter­na­tional stage.

Just days be­fore her party’s au­tumn con­fer­ence, the First Min­is­ter has re­it­er­ated that a le­gal ref­er­en­dum, sim­i­lar to that car­ried out in 2014, was the only way to in­de­pen­dence. She moved to dis­miss claims that the SNP win­ning a ma­jor­ity of Scot­tish seats in a gen­eral elec­tion would be enough for in­de­pen­dence to be de­clared.

SNP rebels are push­ing for a fresh de­bate at the party’s three day con­fer­ence in Aberdeen about pos­si­ble “al­ter­na­tive routes” to in­de­pen­dence. MP An­gus Macneil and se­nior coun­cil­lor Chris Mce­leny have been try­ing to raise the is­sue of a Plan B should Boris John­son, or any fu­ture Prime Min­is­ter, refuse to grant a Sec­tion 30 Or­der to al­low the Scot­tish Gov­ern­ment to hold a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum.

They be­lieve that to counter such an event, the SNP should adopt a po­si­tion that a proin­de­pen­dence ma­jor­ity elected at the next elec­tion would act as a di­rect man­date to en­ter straight into in­de­pen­dence ne­go­ti­a­tions with the UK gov­ern­ment.

Their at­tempts to have it dis­cussed at the party con­fer­ence have failed, but it is be­lieved that Mr Mce­leny will use a tech­ni­cal pro­ce­dure to

op­pose the con­fer­ence agenda on Sun­day un­less it al­lows for a de­bate on “Plan B”.

The move has al­ready been con­demned by vet­eran SNP MP Pete Wishart, who de­clared it a “child­ish stunt”.

Yes­ter­day Ms Stur­geon again stressed that a ref­er­en­dum, backed by the UK gov­ern­ment, was the only le­git­i­mate route to in­de­pen­dence.

“I’ve cam­paigned for in­de­pen­dence all my life, and if there was an easy or short­cut route I would have taken it by now,” she said.

“We have to demon­strate ma­jor­ity support for in­de­pen­dence in a process that is le­gal and le­git­i­mate – and cru­cially not just do­mes­ti­cally in the UK, but in­ter­na­tion­ally and in Eu­rope in par­tic­u­lar will be ac­cepted, and that is the right way to go.”

She added: “A gen­eral elec­tion does give the SNP the op­por­tu­nity to al­low peo­ple to demon­strate their support for in­de­pen­dence and a ref­er­en­dum

“The SNP could, and has, won a ma­jor­ity of seats in a West­min­ster ref­er­en­dum on a mi­nor­ity of votes. No mat­ter if I wanted to try and ar­gue we wanted to be­come in­de­pen­dent on that ba­sis, no­body in Eu­rope would listen to me in terms of the le­git­i­macy of that.

“The way to win in­de­pen­dence, and I am ab­so­lutely con­fi­dent we will sooner than later, is to clearly demon­strate a ma­jor­ity in Scot­land want it and I think we’re closer to that than ever be­fore.”

Ms Stur­geon has re­peat­edly said she wants to hold a sec­ond ref­er­en­dum on in­de­pen­dence next year - but the move has been ruled out by the UK gov­ern­ment.

But there is mount­ing pres­sure from some SNP ac­tivists and MPS, as well as oth­ers in the wider in­de­pen­dence move­ment, to adopt a “Plan B” if con­sent for a ref­er­en­dum is not granted.

There have been calls for an un­of­fi­cial in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum to be held, sim­i­lar to the dis­puted one in Cat­alo­nia in 2017.

The stance of Macneil and Mce­leny, that win­ning a ma­jor­ity of Scot­tish seats at West­min­ster should be enough for in­de­pen­dence ne­go­ti­a­tions to be­gin, was once the SNP’S of­fi­cial pol­icy.

Mce­leny and Macneil sub­mit­ted a pro­posal in July to party bosses for the de­bate but it was turned down by the SNP con­fer­ence com­mit­tee which said such a pol­icy change was “too sig­nif­i­cant” for a sin­gle con­fer­ence de­bate and would re­quire broader con­sul­ta­tion with the mem­ber­ship.

0 Ni­cola Stur­geon says it has to be a ref­er­en­dum

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