28 November 2019 15:20
Media playback is unsupported on your device Media caption Nicola Sturgeon says a second independence referendum will need a transfer of power from Westminster Nicola Sturgeon has said she wants to hold a second referendum on Scottish independence by 2021 if the country is taken out of the EU. But the prime minister's official spokesman said: "As we have been repeatedly clear, Scotland has already had an independence referendum in 2014 and voted decisively to remain in the United Kingdom. "That is why I consider that a choice between Brexit and a future for Scotland as an independent European nation should be offered in the lifetime of this parliament. Ms Sturgeon believes she has a mandate to hold a second independence referendum as a result of the SNP's victory in the 2016 Holyrood elections - with the party's manifesto stating a vote should take place if there was a "material change of circumstances" such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against its will. The first minister extended an invitation to other parties, including those opposed to independence, to come forward for their own proposals for Scotland's constitutional future.
Nicola Sturgeon knows that the Westminster government will almost certainly refuse to allow another referendum within the next two years - so she needs to find a way to keep the constitutional argument alive while there is little prospect of an imminent vote. The SNP know that by proposing another referendum they will be accused by those who do not support independence of introducing a divisive political issue at the worst possible time. So the first minister is challenging other parties who do not support Scottish independence to come forward with their own ideas for constitutional change, promising that the SNP will engage fully and in good faith. Scotland rejected independence by 55% to 45% in the 2014 referendum - with opinion polls suggesting support for independence remains largely unchanged five years later. Ms Sturgeon initially called for a second referendum after the Brexit vote in 2016, but put her plans on hold after the SNP lost 21 seats in the general election the following year.
Launching her European election campaign, the Scottish National party leader said voters needed to treat both Labour and the Conservatives as pro-Brexit parties, despite Corbyn's attempt to "face both ways" on Europe. Describing the vote on 23 May as the most important European election in Scotland's history, Sturgeon also reiterated her call for a fresh referendum on Scottish independence before 2021, regardless of whether Brexit happens. Her opponents claim Sturgeon is using Brexit as a pretext to fight for independence but she said this was a "golden opportunity" for Scottish voters to assert themselves at a UK and European level. In England, Scotland and Wales, voters can choose to vote for one party or individual. The latest opinion polls suggest the SNP will attract hundreds of thousands of pro-EU voters, chiefly at Labour's expense, and is set to win at least three or possibly four of Scotland's six European parliament seats.
The latest YouGov poll in Scotland, for the Times, put the SNP at 40%, Labour down at 14% and the Tories at 10%. The 2014 European election result suggests one pro-leave party has a good chance of taking a seat, at the expense of the Tories. YouGov puts the newly founded Brexit party, led by Nigel Farage, at 13%, ahead of the Tories even though it has only just begun campaigning in Scotland. Unlike in England, the Lib Dems are being squeezed out by the SNP and the new pro-remain Change UK party, with which it level pegging with each sharing 6% of the vote, according to YouGov. Ruth Davidson, the Scottish Tory leader, is putting huge emphasis on Sturgeon's quest for independence in a bid to differentiate the Tories from other pro-Brexit parties in the European elections. An independent Scotland would have a seat "at the top table", instead of being ignored by ministers in London, she said. Feeling powerless to stop or influence the Brexit process that Scottish voters rejected by 62 per cent is turbo-charging the call for a second independence referendum. The party is also adopting new thinking about the independence case which will be made when that referendum occurs, including the question of a Scottish currency. Understanding the views of open-minded and undecided voters on independence is the core purpose of 'Progress Scotland', the polling and research organisation I launched earlier this year. While the European question and Brexit is now rated the biggest single issue in determining voters' views in a future independence referendum, it is only one point ahead and within the margin of error of 'the future of the economy'. While the economic case for Scottish independence and the currency question will dominate the headlines from the SNP spring conference, it is Brexit and a new independence referendum that dominates that wider news agenda and political debate. 'If the UK leaves the EU without a deal, I would be more likely to vote for independence in a future referendum' – Agree: 56 per cent; Disagree: 15 per cent. 'If Scotland became an independent country, it should be a full member of the European Union' – Agree: 66 per cent; Disagree: 16 per cent. The question of timing of another referendum is an absolutely key consideration for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon and all SNP members. Scotland will become an independent country – 63 per cent Agree; 37 per cent Disagree. There will be another referendum on Scottish independence in the next five years – Likely: 59 per cent; Unlikely: 32 per cent. There should be another referendum on Scottish independence – 61 per cent Agree; 39 per cent Disagree. A General Election poll has put the Conservatives behind the Brexit Party According to the poll Labour would win the election by taking 27 percent of the vote, allowing them to form a minority government. He added: "If the Conservative leadership contenders are not careful, there will be no party for them to lead." If the Brexit Express poll were applied across the country the SNP would gain 20 seats, taking them to 55, whilst the Liberal Democrats would pick up another 16. However Change-UK, the anti-Brexit party formed by former Labour and Conservative MPs, would not retain any seats. Labour would take 316 seats, 137 more than the Tories, allowing them to form a minority government if supported by either the Liberal Democrats or SNP. Brexit Party supporters ahead of the European Parliament election The pollsters probably sampled too few Scottish voters to be accurate and several other opinion-changing electoral tests are likely before another general election – including English local elections and the probable European poll, both of which could see a shift from the main parties to Ukip or Nigel Farage's new Brexit party. So, the prospect of a Labour/SNP pact is a real one, and may further deter Nicola Sturgeon from backing any unofficial poll when she makes her long-awaited announcement on a second independence referendum on 23 April. The recent Leith by-election result showed the SNP and Greens picking up votes – which suggests the Euro elections will be a proxy Brexit referendum re-run with only the independence-supporting parties and the squeezed Lib Dems aligning convincingly with the popular Remain option. A second independence vote may seem to have taken a back seat to Brexit.