‘Not the time!’ Unionists slam Sturgeon over ‘disgraceful’ plan to hold IndyRef2 in 2023

Indyref2: Nicola Sturgeon announces date of referendum

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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon yesterday confirmed she will look to hold a second Scottish independence referendum on October 23 next year. The poll would come less than a decade after Scots decisively opted to stay in the 315-year-old Union by 55 percent to 45 percent. Despite describing the 2014 referendum as a “once in a lifetime opportunity” for separatists, Ms Sturgeon told MSPs: “The UK and Scottish Government should be sitting down together, responsibly agreeing a process, including a Section 30 order, that allows the Scottish people to decide.”

The First Minister, who even claimed she “will never allow Scottish democracy to be a prisoner of Boris Johnson or any Prime Minister”, went on to announce she has penned a letter informing Mr Johnson that the Lord Advocate has referred the independence question to the Supreme Court.

Ms Sturgeon also revealed the Scottish National Party (SNP) will contest the next general election on an explicitly IndyRef2 platform if the Supreme Court decides Holyrood does not have the power to hold an independence referendum.

Speaking earlier on the final day of the G7 summit, Mr Johnson said the Government would “see what she [Nicola Sturgeon] has to say”.

The Prime Minister added: “I think the important point to make is that we think the number one priority for the country is the economic pressures, the spikes in the cost of energy.”

However, Mr Johnson’s Government rejection of Mr Sturgeon’s request comes as it appeared to hint it could give Holyrood a go-ahead in the future.

A Government spokesperson told Express.co.uk: “We are clear that now is not the time to be talking about another independence referendum.

“People across Scotland want to see both of their governments working together on the issues that matter to them.

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“That includes tackling the cost of living, ensuring energy security, leading the international response against Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and growing our economy.

“That remains our priority.”

Unionists of all stripes have come out to condemn Ms Sturgeon’s plan.

Robin Millar, chairman of a group of over 80 backbenchers in the Conservative Union Research Unit (CURU), has warned Ms Sturgeon’s “divisive” plan is a “distraction” from many of the issues facing Scots.

Speaking to Express.co.uk, Abercowny’s Tory MP said: “The First Minister once again is promising supporters that there is just one more hill to climb, that a referendum and independence are surely within reach.

“But the UK Government has made clear that another referendum is a reserved matter and will not be consented.

“Any referendum – wildcat or ‘de facto’ – will be divisive, disruptive and a distraction from addressing the priority of poor public services in Scotland.

“Spending £20million of taxpayers’ money on a referendum is a grave disservice to all those in Scotland struggling with inflation, ill health, education and public transport.”

Scotland in Union chief executive Pamela Nash also voiced concern about the First Minister’s proposal.

She said: “Nicola Sturgeon is acting against the will of the people of Scotland.

“Poll after poll shows that the vast majority of us do not want a second referendum.

“The First Minister’s announcement is a disgraceful waste of resources and public money.”

When asked by Express.co.uk about Ms Sturgeon’s plan to make the next general election a de facto independence referendum, the ex-Labour MP added: “The next general election should be fought on the issues which really matter to people, such as education, jobs and the NHS, and it must also be remembered that voters choose parties on a whole range of topics.

“The people of Scotland don’t want another referendum and any attempt to turn the next general election into a contest all about breaking up the UK would be doing a disservice to our politics.”

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Recent opinion polls suggest a narrow majority of Scots would vote to stay in the UK.

A survey conducted by IPSOS MORI gave Unionists a narrow one-point lead over the ‘Yes’ campaign.

However, with the pro-UK vote split between the Conservative Party, Labour and Liberal Democrats, the SNP is expected to romp to its fourth consecutive general election victory in Scotland.

The Liberal Democrats and Labour have been accused of having a progressive non-aggression pact in England in a bid to oust Mr Johnson from Downing Street.

But a spokesperson from Sir Ed Davey’s party rejected any suggestion a pact was in place after the Tories suffered a double-whammy of by-election defeats in Tiverton & Honiton and Wakefield last week.

The spokesperson also dismissed the claim a pro-UK pact could topple Ms Sturgeon’s pro-independence campaign in Scotland.

They said: “There are no pacts and there can be no pacts because the Conservative Party are part of the problem.

“Boris Johnson is the best recruiting sergeant the nationalists could ask for.

“The best way to kill support for independence is to replace this Boris Johnson Government.”

However, the Liberal Democrats’ leader north of the border opted to take aim at Ms Sturgeon when he addressed MSPs in Holyrood yesterday.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, who was first elected as the MSP for Edinburgh Western in 2016, said: “Frankly I can think of better uses of our time and I am not alone.

“I’m sure that those waiting for cancer care, in the longest queue on record, can think of better uses of our time.

“Those children suffering long Covid, left disappointed after they waited to meet the First Minister in the cold outside parliament this afternoon can think of better uses of our time.

“The Island ferry passengers; the Ukrainians stuck in hotels; those victims of violent and sexual crime left waiting for justice, can all think of better uses of our time.”

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