Nicola Sturgeon reveals new independence plan and says ‘the people’s will must prevail’

NICOLA Sturgeon will today insist “the people’s will must prevail” as she sets out her long-awaited route map to independence.

However the Herald understands the First Minister will not introduce a Holyrood Bill today for a second referendum on the Yes/No lines of 2014, potentially leaving her supporters disappointed.

A source close to the process said there would be ultimately a Bill, but it would be based on a novel option.

However a second source told the Herald there would not be a Bill of any kind published today, meaning there will cannot be legislation published until September, after Holyroood’s summer recess.

The Times also reported today that there would be not be any Bill until after the summer recess, leaving a very tight timetable for Ms Sturgeon to hit her goal of holding a vote in October 2023.

With the SNP and Greens having a combined majority at Holyrood since last year’s election, Ms Sturgeon last night said that democracy demanded that the UK Government stop blocking Indyref2 and cooperate on the staging of a new vote.

But she offered no hint of how she could force London to change tack, while her statement referred to offering voters a “choice” rather than a “referendum”.

The opposition parties said she should stop wasting the country’s time and money and focus on the more urgent problems in health, education and other struggling public services.

The Scotland in Union group revealed 20 civil servants were now working on a new prospectus at a salary cost of up to £1.2million, up from 11 in the New Year.

Director Alastair Cameron said: “This revelation demonstrates a totally unacceptable waste of taxpayers’ money by the SNP.

“The First Minister should stop pandering to hardline nationalists and squandering public money on a hypothetical, unwanted referendum.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “The people of Scotland have elected a Parliament committed to giving them a choice on independence, and so that democratic will must be respected.

“In Scotland, it is the people who are and have always been sovereign – and it is the people’s will which must prevail.

“That may be an inconvenient truth for our political opponents, but it is a simple and unavoidable truth nonetheless.

“Continued attempts to block that democratic will only weaken the UK Government’s standing, here and internationally.

“Bluntly, the UK Government is in no position to lecture any other country about the need to respect democratic norms if it is intent on trying to thwart democracy at home.

“And, because we live in a democracy where election results still matter, continued efforts to thwart the will of the people must – and will – fail.”

She went on: “The UK is either a partnership of consent or it is not a partnership worthy of the name. Westminster rule over Scotland cannot be based on anything other than a consented, voluntary partnership.

“It is time to give people the democratic choice they have voted for, and then with independence to build a more prosperous, fairer country in a true partnership of equals between Scotland and our friends in the rest of the UK.”

Boris Johnson has refused since 2020 to lend Holyrood the power it needs to hold a legally watertight second vote, arguing the No result of 2014 was a “once in a generation” event.

Ms Sturgeon has said she wants to re-run the “gold standard” process of eight years ago, with extra powers transferred to Holyrood under a so-called Section 30 order.

However, publishing the first instalment of a new independence prospectus earlier this month, she admitted she may have to proceed without a Section 30 order because of the PM’s refusal to “be a democrat”.

Ms Sturgeon has said she could put an Indyref2 Bill through Holyrood and dare the UK Government to challenge it at the UK Supreme Courtwhere it could be ruled incompetent.

Alternatively, she could try to avoid a court challenge by staging a nationwide consultation that fell short of a full-blown referendum, in the hope of pushing the UK Government into opening independence negotiations.

But the UK Government could refuse to engage with the exercise, invalidating it in the eyes of the international community who would need to recognise Scottish independence.

Building Ms Sturgeon up for a fall, Alba party leader Alex Salmond said the Yes movement needed “total clarity from the First Minister on Scotland’s route to independence”.

He said: “Ten years ago I established a route to independence through the Edinburgh Agreement and the mechanism of a section 30 from Westminster.

“If that is still the route then it needs to be affirmed and then spelt out how the Johnson Government can be bent to the will of the Scottish people.

“If another route is to be pursued then we need it explained how this can be done within the promised timescale of a referendum in 2023.

“That ‘no ifs no buts’ commitment for October next year galvanised the Yes movement. We have to hear now how it is to be delivered and Scotland’s Claim of Right respected.”

Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater said: “Both the Scottish Green Party and the SNP committed, in our respective election manifestos, to holding a referendum in this parliamentary session. Our parties won more votes and more seats than the three unionist parties. The mandate to hold a referendum is crystal clear. The people will have their say. The people of Scotland are sovereign, they alone get to decide how they are governed.

“It is my belief that with independence we will build a fairer and greener Scotland. A Scotland that rejects the hostile environmentrejects climate catastrophe, and embraces an outward looking approach to global affairs. I believe that when the people are given that choice next year, that’s what they will vote for.”

Tory MSP Donald Cameron MSP said: “The First Minister’s obsessive push for another divisive independence referendum is the height of self-indulgence and irresponsibility.

“In the last week before summer recess, people want to see the SNP Government focus on the issues that really matter to them, rather than wasting time and energy on a pretend poll.

“Right now, ministers should be prioritising the global cost-of-living crisis, fixing our NHS and rebuilding our economy from the pandemic.

“It is disgraceful that Nicola Sturgeon would put all that on the backburner to push for another unwanted – possibly even illegal – referendum.

“Poll after poll has shown the public don’t want the distraction of another constitutional debate right now, as that would only reopen old sores and distract ministers from what really matters to voters. “Nicola Sturgeon must get back to her day job, stop pandering to her party – and start listening to Scotland.”

Scottish Labour Leader Anas Sarwar said “The SNP are trying to drag Scotland back to the politics of the past instead of dealing with the challenges of the present. It is no surprise that Nicola Sturgeon is ramping up her efforts to sow division and strife when we see the chaos in her party and the failures of her government.

“She says to listen to the people of Scotland – but she refuses to herself, forging ahead with an unwanted referendum and ignoring people’s desperate cries for help with the cost of living crisis.

“Right now people across Scotland are struggling to put food on the table as bills spiral; one in eight Scots is stuck on a waiting list as our NHS buckles under pressure, and public transport is in chaos.

“Instead of dealing with these issues, we have two governments feeding off one another and trying to tear communities apart for political gain – but you cannot play politics while people’s lives and livelihoods are in the balance.

“The next electoral contest in Scotland will be a general election. This is our chance for change and Scottish Labour is ready to kick the Tories out of power and elect a Labour Government.

“Only Labour can boot Boris Johnson out of government, bring our country together and focus on the people’s priorities. Join us and lets build that future together.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton added: “Nicola Sturgeon’s desire to break up the UK is out of touch, obsessive and desperate.

“She is neglecting everyone who is worried about paying the bills or the sharp spike in Covid infections. It’s a kick in the teeth for health staff, the hundreds of thousands of people on NHS waiting lists and anyone who believed the First Minister when she said education was the top priority.

“Breaking up the UK is not the solution to these problems. Her obsession with breaking up the UK is a big part of the problem.”

Responding to reports that 20 civil servants are working on Nicola Sturgeon’s independence proposals, at a cost of up to £1.2 million, Mr Cole-Hamilton added:

“This money and these civil servants could be used to tackle the cost-of-living emergency, cut Covid rates or reduce waiting times. At the hands of the SNP, they are being used for the very opposite.

“The SNP are frittering away money on a reckless fantasy to divide the UK.”

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