First Minister’s Press Conference and Announcement
As the Houses of Commons and Lords prepare for the “ping-pong” of in the final stages of the European Union (Notification of Withdrawal) Bill, the Scottish Government First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, issued the following Statement. The text of her speech at the Press Conference in Bute House setting out her plan for a referendum in face of a hard Brexit is here.
Scotland must have choice over future
March 13, 2017
First Minister sets out her plan for a referendum in the face of a hard Brexit
The people of Scotland must be offered a choice between a hard Brexit and becoming an independent country, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said, as she confirmed plans to seek parliamentary approval to begin discussions with the UK Government on the details of a Section 30 order to enable an independence referendum to take place.
In a speech ahead of the UK Government triggering the UK’s formal process to exit from the European Union, the First Minister said that, despite Scotland voting by 62% to 38% to remain in Europe, the UK Government ‘has not moved even an inch in pursuit of compromise and agreement’ since the Brexit vote.
In addition, the First Minister said the UK Government had ruled out membership of the European Single Market ‘with no prior consultation’ and warned of real economic damage caused by the UK leaving the single market.
Outlining how the democratic mandate for holding another referendum is ‘beyond doubt’, Ms Sturgeon said that the UK Government must stand by the position it took in 2014 that an independence referendum should be, in their words, ‘made in Scotland, by the people of Scotland.’
The First Minister added that there must be clarity on the implications of Brexit for Scotland – and clarity about independence – before the choice is put to the country. She therefore proposed that a referendum take place between the autumn of 2018 and the spring of 2019, when the shape of the UK’s Brexit deal will become clear.
The First Minister said:
Scotland stands at a hugely important crossroads. On the eve of Article 50 being triggered, not only is there no UK wide agreement on the way ahead – the UK Government has not moved even an inch in pursuit of compromise and agreement.”
“All of our efforts at compromise have been met with a brick wall of intransigence.
“UK membership of the single market was ruled out with no prior consultation with the Scottish Government or with the other devolved administrations, leaving us facing not just Brexit, but a hard Brexit.
“And far from any prospect of significant new powers for the Scottish Parliament, the UK Government is becoming ever more assertive in its intention to muscle in on the powers we already have. The language of partnership has gone, completely.
“I will continue to stand up for Scotland’s interests during the process of Brexit negotiations. But I will take the steps necessary now to make sure that Scotland will have a choice at the end of this process – a choice of whether to follow the UK to a hard Brexit, or to become an independent country able to secure a real partnership of equals with the rest of the UK and our own relationship with Europe.”
The First Minister added:
The Scottish Government’s mandate for offering this choice is beyond doubt. So next week I will seek the approval of the Scottish Parliament to open discussions with the UK Government on the details of a Section 30 order – the procedure that will enable the Scottish Parliament to legislate for an independence referendum.”
“The UK Government was clear in 2014 that an independence referendum should be, in their words, ‘made in Scotland, by the people of Scotland’ – that is a principle that should be respected today. The detailed arrangements for a referendum – including its timing – should be for the Scottish Parliament to decide.
“It is important that Scotland is able to exercise the right to choose our own future at a time when the options are clearer than they are now, but before it is too late to decide on our own path. By the time a choice comes to be made, there must be greater clarity about Brexit and its implications for us.
“It is just as important that there is clarity about the implications of independence. And there will be.
“We will be frank about the challenges we face and clear about the opportunities independence will give us to secure our relationship with Europe, build a stronger and more sustainable economy and create a fairer society.
“If I ruled out a referendum, I would be deciding – completely unilaterally – that Scotland will follow the UK to a hard Brexit come-what-may, no matter how damaging to our economy and our society it turns out to be.
“That should not be the decision of just one politician – not even the First Minister. It will be decided by the people of Scotland. It will be Scotland’s choice.”
Read the background to the announcement here
My understanding is that while Mrs Sturgeon can request a referendum it is only Westminster that can grant it.
The likelihood of Mrs May and all the Tory MPs in Westminster agreeing to Mrs Sturgeon’s request is – I would assume – absolutely unlikely.
Therefore, Mrs Sturgeon and the Scot Nats will be expending considerable time and energy on a cause that leads absolutely nowhere.
Mrs Sturgeon and the Scot Nats must be fully aware of the situation so it has to be concluded that they are not seriously requesting a referendum but seek something else.
Partly, I imagine it is to keep their own party followers happy but it may also have something to do with the local elections due in Scotland on Thursday 4th May 2017.
Opposition parties there should be asking why Mrs Sturgeon/the Scot Nats are wasting time on such a fruitless quest when there are many more here-and-now contemporary problems facing the people of Scotland, such as declining education standards?
The constitutional lawyers clearly saw this coming, and an early post has been Stephen Tierney: A Second Independence Referendum in Scotland: The Legal Issues. Stephen Tierney is Professor of Constitutional Theory and Director of the Edinburgh Centre for Constitutional Law; Legal Adviser to the House of Lords Select Committee on the Constitution; and Co-Editor of the UK Constitutional Law Blog.
For a political, rather than a legal opinion, the BBC explores a number of views in Scottish independence: Nicola Sturgeon to seek second referendum.
I have left the following comment on Stephen Tierney’s blog:-
What if the Westminster Parliament does not say “Yes” and does not say “No”, i.e. defers the matter indefinitely or until the UK has left the EU?
Any Westminster MP can move a motion to that effect.
I would also question whether or not the Scottish Parliament is truly representative of the will of the people of Scotland on this issue.
I do not think current opinion polls support any such conclusion.
Indeed, is this possibly not just a cheap stunt by Mrs Sturgeon to reflate her falling support among Scottish voters – if current opinion polls are anything to go by?
It will be interesting to see what – if any – response my submission evokes.