Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has said she will push ahead with plans to hold a “legal” referendum on independence from Britain if her party secures a majority in polls later this year, despite London’s opposition.
Scotland voted against independence by 55 percent to 45 percent in a 2014 referendum. But a majority of Scots also backed staying in the European Union in the subsequent 2016 Brexit vote, stoking demands by Scottish nationalists for a new independence vote after the United Kingdom as a whole voted to leave the bloc.
Sturgeon said on Sunday she would seek a fresh referendum if her Scottish National Party (SNP) wins a strong showing in Scottish parliamentary elections in May – even though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said such a vote should only be held once in a generation.
“I want to have a legal referendum, that is what I am going to seek the authority of the Scottish people for in May and if they give me that authority, that’s what I intend to do,” she told BBC television.
“He’s frightened of democracy,” Sturgeon said, referring to Johnson.
“If the SNP win the Scottish election in a few months’ time on a proposition of giving the people that choice, what democrat could rightly stand in the way of that?” she said, adding that “the polls now show that a majority of people in Scotland want independence“.
‘Johnson to refuse demand’
Johnson says the SNP presented the 2014 referendum as a “once in a generation” event and cannot now insist on another.
The prime minister “will flatly refuse the demand”, The Sunday Times newspaper quoted senior government sources as saying.
A Sunday Times poll found 50 percent of Scottish voters wanted another referendum in the next five years and 49 percent would vote for independence, while 44 percent would reject it.
Sturgeon’s party says EU membership was presented in 2014 as a key argument for Scotland to remain in the UK, only for Scots to be dragged out of the bloc against their will.
The Sunday Times quoted a forecast that the SNP will win a “landslide” in May’s polls, giving Sturgeon a strong basis to call for the vote.
She spoke as the SNP was due to discuss its “road map to a referendum” at a policy forum on Sunday.
The SNP says it will request a Section 30 order from the British government allowing the holding of another referendum.
If this is refused it intends to push through its own legislation to prepare for a referendum and “vigorously” oppose a legal challenge from London.