Nicola Sturgeon aims for 2021 independence vote amid Covid-19 pandemic

Edinburgh: The First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon Monday again urged for a Scottish independence referendum while hinting at adopting legal route in case London tried to block it

Setting up a confrontation with the UK government, Sturgeon said she hoped to hold a referendum as early as next year. The UK government has persistently stuck to its stance that the time has passed after the Scottish people voted in favour of remaining a part of the union in 2014.

Sturgeon during her Scottish National Party (SNP) virtual conference speech said, “We are seeing across the Atlantic, what happens to those who try to hold back the tide of democracy. They get swept away.”

Sturgeon maintained that she would initiate a campaign in the May 2021 Scottish Parliament election to hold a vote on independence in the early part of the new parliament. The early part of the new parliament would run from 2021 to 2025.

In her remarks, while talking to BBC radio, Sturgeon said that the British government must permit any referendum. She also declined to reject the possibility of approaching the court should the prime minister prevent another vote.

In 2014 independence referendum which was billed as a once-in-a-generation moment, Scotland had voted to remain a part of the UK with a margin of 55%-44%.

The UK government has steadily overruled the option of a second vote. Jamie Davis, the spokesman of UK’s Prime Minister Boris Johnson, on Monday reaffirmed that the people of Scotland had a vote on this and they had decided to remain part of the UK.

However, Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party-led government in Edinburgh believes that the Brexit had altered the political circumstances to hold an ‘indyref2’ as Scotland was being taken out of the European Union against its wish.

In the 2016 referendum, a slight majority of 52% of UK voters had opted to leave the European Union. However, a majority comprising 68% Scottish had voted to remain a part of the bloc.

According to DW, recent opinion polls had concluded that there was a surge of support for independence from the UK, with Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic boosting support for Scotland going it alone.

UK’s premier Boris Johnson’s unpopularity in Scotland has long been understood by No 10. However, the pandemic — and specifically comparisons how well Johnson and Sturgeon respectively performed — seems to have spurred Scottish National Support.

A poll concluded that 84% of swing voters believe that the UK government handled the pandemic badly while 74% of voters say that the Scottish government handled the situation well.

According to a new analysis of public opinion on a fresh referendum, Johnson’s leadership is the major factor behind surge of support by Scottish people for independence,

JL Partners, the firm led by Theresa May’s former pollster James Johnson, conducted a survey and found that the UK government’s management of pandemic and a wish to decide the matter once and for all were among the most persuasive arguments for independence. 

79% of swing voters expressed a sentiment that Johnson was not the leader. This argument was the most persuasive, unlike other arguments.

The UK government is steadfast in its stance that the matter had been settled in 2014 when a former Prime Minister Theresa May faced demands for a second referendum but she declined while insisting “now is not the time”. 

According to May’s pollster James Johnson, the stance was backed by No. 10’s polling of Scottish opinion at the time. James Johnson added that now the picture had dramatically changed.

In September, the poll 1016 Scottish voters gave independence a 56 to 44% lead and this excluded those who said they did not now. The polls were exclusively shared with POLITICO, whose latest Poll of Polls suggested the lead for independence at 50 to 42% with 8% undecided.

The study also observed that the UK government’s rejection to holding another independence referendum would prove unpopular should First Minister Sturgeon’s Scottish National Party win a majority in next May’s Scottish parliament elections, with 53% of swing voters surveyed last month saying the UK government would be wrong to deny a new referendum in that scenario.

The polling suggests, “Should a second referendum be held, the choice of spokespeople for the unionist campaign will be crucial”.  The role of opposition Labour party, which had been in favour of union with the bloc, would be key.

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