Scottish govt eyes October 2023 referendum

Staff WritersReuters
Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says a referendum will be referred to the UK Supreme Court.
Camera IconScottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon says a referendum will be referred to the UK Supreme Court. Credit: AP

Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced plans for a second referendum to be held on Scottish independence in October next year, vowing to take legal action to ensure a vote if the United Kingdom government tries to block it.

Sturgeon said the Scottish government, which is led by her pro-independence Scottish National Party, would publish a referendum bill later, outlining plans for the secession vote to take place on October 19, 2023.

She also said she would be writing to UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson for permission to hold a consultative referendum but had already set in motion plans to get the legal authority should he block the plans.

"What I am not willing to do, what I will never do, is allow Scottish democracy to be a prisoner of Boris Johnson or any prime minister," Sturgeon told parliamentarians in the devolved Scottish parliament.

Voters in Scotland, which has a population of about 5.5 million, rejected independence in 2014.

But Scotland's semi-autonomous government says the UK's departure from the European Union, which was opposed by a majority of Scots, means the question must be put to a second vote.

Johnson and his ruling Conservative Party, which is in opposition in Scotland, strongly oppose a referendum, saying the issue was settled in 2014 when Scots voted against independence by 55 per cent to 45 per cent.

He has previously refused to issue a "Section 30" order, which gives authority to the Scottish parliament to hold a referendum.

Sturgeon said that the legality of a referendum without such an order from the UK government was contested, and so she had already asked the Lord Advocate, the senior Scottish Law Officer, to refer the question to the UK's Supreme Court.

If the court found the Scottish parliament could not hold an independence referendum without the prime minister's consent, Sturgeon said the SNP would instead contest the next UK election on a platform of whether Scotland should be independent.

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