Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has launched a campaign for a second independence referendum, unveiling what she said was a “refreshed” case for the country to break away from the rest of the United Kingdom.
Sturgeon, who heads the devolved government and leads the Scottish National Party (SNP), said on Tuesday that it is the right time to revisit the question, eight years after a majority of Scots voted in favour of remaining aligned with England, Wales and Northern Ireland.
“After everything that has happened – Brexit, COVID, [British Prime Minister] Boris Johnson – it is time to set out a different and better vision,” she told a press conference in Edinburgh as she released the first in a series of official papers laying out the arguments for independence.
The paper – titled Independence in the Modern World – Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland? – argues that Scotland is similarly sized to several other European countries that are outpacing the UK both economically and in terms of societal wellbeing.
“Scotland under Westminster control is being held back,” Sturgeon said, citing a moniker for the UK’s centralised government in London.
“With independence, we too would have the levers and the autonomy that these countries take for granted to help fulfil their potential,” she said.
Many independent European nations are more successful than the UK.
So why not Scotland?
— Scottish Government (@scotgov) June 14, 2022
Johnson and his Conservative Party, which is in opposition in Scotland, strongly oppose a second referendum, arguing the issue was settled in 2014 when Scots voted against independence by 55 percent to 45 percent.
But pro-independence parties won a majority in the Scottish Parliament in an election held last year, which Sturgeon said gave her an “indisputable democratic mandate” to push ahead with plans for a rerun of the vote.
Sturgeon is a scathing critic of Johnson and the UK’s departure from the European Union – a move opposed by a majority of voters in Scotland – and has said she wants a new referendum to be held before the end of 2023 even though Johnson has repeatedly ruled out granting approval for any such poll.
“If we are to uphold democracy here in Scotland, we must forge a way forward … However, we must do so in a lawful manner,” Sturgeon said.
She added work was under way on how to proceed, given the UK government contests that the Scottish Parliament has the power to grant such a vote.
“I do plan to give a significant update to parliament very soon indeed,” she said.
Johnson, for his part, said that his government’s position had not changed and that he wanted to focus on recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic and tackling the cost of living crisis.
“The decision was taken by the Scottish people only a few years ago,” he told reporters on Tuesday.
“I think we should respect that, and we should also focus on what I think the whole of the UK – Scotland, England, everybody – wants us to look at, which is the economic position we’re in.”