SNP to hold de facto UK referendum regardless of court case

LONDON (AP) – The leader of the Scottish government said Sunday she will continue her campaign to get Scotland out of the United Kingdom even if she loses a Supreme Court case seeking permission to call a new independence referendum.

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

Sturgeon, who leads the Scottish National Party (SNP), said that if her Edinburgh-based government lost the court case, it would make the UK’s next national election a de facto referendum on ending the three-century union of Scotland with England.

He did not elaborate on how this would work. A vote without UK government approval would not be legally binding.

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

“It should be a last resort,” he said. “I don’t want to be in that position. I want to hold a legal referendum.”

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

Scottish voters rejected independence by a margin of 55% to 45% in a 2014 referendum, billed 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 reconsider the case for independence.

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

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

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

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

“There is no point in speculating on the outcome of a court hearing, but if it is yes, we have plans ready to move forward with legislation,” he said.

Polls show Scotland almost evenly split on independence. Labor politician Alistair Darling, a former UK Chancellor of the Exchequer and a Scot, said polls also showed a majority of Scots did not want a referendum soon.

“This country is falling apart. And that uncertainty hurts our growth prospects and our prosperity,” Darling said.

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