The Daily Telegraph

Sturgeon attacks efforts to ‘gerrymande­r’ new referendum

- By Daniel Sanderson

NICOLA STURGEON has said any attempts by Liz Truss to “gerrymande­r” the rules of a future Scottish independen­ce referendum would be a “sign of fundamenta­l weakness” in the case for the Union.

The First Minister claimed a suggestion that more than half of the Scottish electorate would have to vote for independen­ce for the country to leave the UK, rather than a majority of those turning up to vote, would amount to “changing the basic rules of democracy”.

The Sunday Times reported that ministeria­l allies of Ms Truss, who is likely to become the next prime minister, want to introduce a referendum act which would set out the road map to a new referendum and independen­ce.

It is claimed that a new vote, which Ms Sturgeon wants to hold next year, would only be considered by the UK Government if there was evidence that 60 per cent of the voters wanted one over more than a year.

If a referendum did take place, independen­ce would have to be endorsed by a majority of the whole electorate, meaning “Yes” could win more than half of votes cast but Scotland would still remain in the UK. It follows Ms Truss saying repeatedly during the campaign for the Tory leadership that she would not allow a new independen­ce referendum to take place.

“It is not a sign of strength on the part of Liz Truss to talk about blocking a referendum, or as some reports today suggest, gerrymande­ring the rules for the referendum,” Ms Sturgeon told Sky News. “That is a sign of fundamenta­l weakness and her lack of confidence in her case for the Union.

“It is the changing of the basic rules of democracy that we have all abided by, for our entire lifetimes and long before that. Can you imagine the furore, the literal foaming at the mouth, that we would have had from the Conservati­ve Party if anybody had suggested that for the Brexit referendum?”

She added: “Just because you fear losing a democratic contest is not an excuse, or doesn’t make it acceptable, to try to rewrite the rules of democracy.”

Ms Sturgeon’s senior law officer, the Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, has asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether Holyrood would have the power to hold a referendum without UK Government permission. However, even Ms Bain has said she does not have confidence that a unilateral referendum would be within Holyrood’s powers and experts believe Ms Sturgeon’s prospects of success in court are vanishingl­y slim.

In 2014, 55 per cent of Scots voted to remain within the Union, with a turnout of 85 per cent.

A senior government ally of Ms Truss said: “The SNP said after the 2014 referendum that they would not seek another one until polls consistent­ly showed more than 60 per cent of the public would vote to leave the UK.”

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