Sturgeon moves for new referendum powers

Nicola Sturgeon

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday called on the UK Government “to negotiate and agree the transfer of power that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.”

Sturgeon said there was now an “unarguable” mandate for a new vote on Scottish independence after the SNP won 48 of Scotland’s 59 seats in last week’s UK general election.

The move came as the Scottish Parliament passed legislation that could help pave the way to a new referendum.

The Referendums (Scotland) Bill passed on Thursday afternoon with the support of the SNP and Scottish Greens, although the Conservatives, Labour and the Lib Dems voted against it. 

Although the legislation lays down general rules for a referendum, a separate bill would be required for a new independence vote.

The Scottish Government said a new document called “Scotland’s Right to Choose: Putting Scotland’s Future in Scotland’s Hands” lays out a detailed case for how and why Scotland should be able to have the choice of independence in a referendum.

The document includes a call on the UK Government to “enter discussions about the Scottish Government’s mandate for giving the people of Scotland a choice, and to agree legislation with the Scottish Government that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.”

Launching the document at Bute House in Edinburgh, Sturgeon said: “It is a fundamental democratic principle that decisions on Scotland’s constitutional future should rest with the people who live here.

“As this document lays out, the Scottish Government has a clear democratic mandate to offer people a choice on that future in an independence referendum, and the UK Government has a democratic duty to recognise that.

“Last week’s General Election has only strengthened that mandate.

“Today, I am publishing the constitutional and democratic case for Scotland having that choice.

“It is rooted in the principle of self-determination, in the material change of circumstances since the 2014 exercise of that right, and in the democratic mandate that exists for offering the choice afresh.

“In a voluntary association of nations such as the UK, it cannot be in the interest of any part for our right to choose our own future to be conditional, or time limited or a one-off.

“Nor is it right for it to be over-ridden by a Prime Minister, or indeed a First Minister.

“It is a fundamental right of self-determination. The ability for Scotland to exercise that right now matters because the alternative is a future we have rejected.

“The mandate we have to offer the Scottish people a choice over their future is, by any normal standard of democracy, unarguable.”

The First Minister added: “We are therefore today calling for the UK Government to negotiate and agree the transfer of power that would put beyond doubt the Scottish Parliament’s right to legislate for a referendum on independence.

“Together with the constitutional and democratic case for that transfer of power, we are also publishing the draft legislation that would give effect to it.

“Of course, I anticipate that in the short term we will simply hear a restatement of the UK Government’s opposition. But they should be under no illusion that this will be an end of the matter.

“In this context, the question is often posed to me – what will you do if the Prime Minister says no?

“But the document we are publishing today turns the question on its head.

“It is for the Prime Minister to defend why he believes the UK is not a voluntary union of equal nations. It is for him to set out why he does not believe people in Scotland have the right to self-determination.

“And it is for the Prime Minister to explain why he believes it is acceptable to ignore election after election in Scotland and to over-ride a democratic mandate stronger than the one he claims for his Brexit deal.

“We live in a democracy, and ultimately democracy must and will prevail.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.