Late 2018 could be best time for new Scottish referendum, says Sturgeon

11 March, 2017, 00:24 | Author: Garry Little
  • Jim Sillars right campaigning alongside Nicola Sturgeon and Alex Salmond during the independence referendum campaign in 2014

Asked on an LBC phone-in programme what would happen if Nicola Sturgeon were forced to resign after losing a second independence referendum, Mr Salmond replied: "Firstly Nicola Sturgeon, I believe, will hold an independence referendum and win it, and will be the first first minister of an independent Scotland".

The Scottish Government has argued that special status - some form of European Union association - for Scotland after Brexit remains a compromise solution that could avert a second poll.

The SNP's economic spokesman Stewart Hosie this week appeared to declare support for the idea of an autumn 2018 referendum, telling the BBC that it would "make sense" to hold another Scotland-wide vote in this window.

May issued a direct challenge to Sturgeon in a speech last week to the Scottish Tories when she rejected the first minister's demands for a special deal for Scotland giving enhanced access to the single market, and suggested there would only be a limited transfer of European Union powers to Holyrood.

The SNP is also concerned that the United Kingdom government will embark on a "power grab" after Brexit by taking control of policies that are vital to Scotland - like fisheries and agriculture - rather than devolving control of these policies to the Scottish government.

More than half of Scots (52%) feel Sturgeon is doing "a good job in representing Scotland's interests" in the Brexit process.

Under the UK's constitutional conventions, an independence vote would have to be approved by May's government which on Thursday (Friday NZT) repeated it saw no need for a second ballot.

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Sturgeon argues the overwhelming support for the Remain ticket demands a debate and vote on independence especially given Sturgeon's conviction a "hard Brexit" would damage the Scottish economy.

However, Number 10 is likely to try to delay a referendum on independence until after UK's formal withdrawal, so the Government does not have to fight two campaigns at the same time.

"Nicola Sturgeon could provide much needed clarity on Scotland's future by ruling out another independence referendum altogether".

In a BBC interview, she said she would take things forward at "the pace that I think is right for the country".

At Westminster and Holyrood in recent months there's been a building sense that Nicola Sturgeon has made up her mind to call a vote.

Prime Minister Theresa May has so far declined to be drawn on whether her government would allow a second referendum. I suggested that Sturgeon's sense of urgency might be explained by opinion polls showing her "tanking" approval rating.

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