The key to the vote for independence, whatever the court says

By JILL LAWLESS – Associated Press

LONDON (AP) — The Scottish Prime Minister said Sunday she would continue her campaign to remove Scotland from the United Kingdom, even if she loses a Supreme Court case seeking permission to call a new referendum on the ‘independence.

Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon wants to hold a referendum in October 2023, but the British Conservative government in London has said no. Britain’s highest court is due to hear arguments from Tuesday on whether the semi-autonomous Scottish administration could stage an independence vote without the consent of the government in London.

Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party, has said that if her Edinburgh-based government loses the case she will make Britain’s next national election a de facto plebiscite on ending Scotland’s three-century-old union with England.

She didn’t give details on how it would work. A vote held without UK government approval would not be legally binding.

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Sturgeon said that if the courts block a referendum, “we put our case to the people in an election or we give up Scottish democracy”.

“It should be a last resort,” she said. “I don’t want to be in this position. I want to have a legal referendum.

Scotland and England have been politically united since 1707. Scotland has had its own parliament and government since 1999 and develops its own policies on public health, education and other matters. The UK-wide government in London controls matters such as defense and fiscal policy.

Scottish voters rejected independence by a margin of 55% to 45% in a 2014 referendum that was touted as a once-in-a-generation choice. Sturgeon’s government argues that Britain’s departure from the European Union and the coronavirus pandemic have upended politics and the economy and that it is time to revisit the case for independence.

British voters narrowly approved Brexit in a 2016 referendum, but those in Scotland voted strongly to stay in the EU.

Sturgeon’s party leads a pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament, along with the Scottish Green Party, and she argues that this support has created an “indisputable democratic mandate” for a new independence vote.

Sturgeon promised to produce documents in the coming weeks outlining the economic basis for independence and answering questions such as the currency the country would use after a split.

She said her goal of holding a referendum in a year was realistic.

“There is no point in speculating on the outcome of a hearing, but if it were to be yes, we have the plans ready to legislate,” she said.

Polls suggest Scotland is about evenly split on independence. Labor Party politician Alistair Darling, a former UK Treasury chief, said polls also show a majority of Scots do not want a referendum anytime soon.

“This country is tearing itself apart. And that uncertainty is hurting our growth prospects and our well-being,” Darling said.

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