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Referendum call

Sturgeon not ruling out legal test for indy poll

Nicola Sturgeon at SNP spring conference, EICC

Nicola Sturgeon: may take issue to court (pic: Terry Murden)

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said today she would consider testing a “consultative” referendum in court if the UK government continues to frustrate calls for a second vote on independence.

Ms Sturgeon, outlining the options for a re-run of the 2014 poll, said she was offering “hope” and warned against “shortcuts and cleve wheezes” to overcome Westminster’s resistance.

Despite accusing Prime Minister Boris Johnson of “goading” Scotland by his dismissal of votes in the Scottish parliament, she insisted that securing Westminster’s backing for a new referendum remained her preferred choice.

“What we in the independence movement must not do is allow a sense of frustration – understandable though it is – to take us down dead ends or weaken our sense of purpose,” she said.

“And we must not let the Tories turn a positive, persuasive and invigorating discussion about the best future for our country, into an arid and bitter argument about process and procedure.

“And this isn’t caution talking. It’s realism.

“For me to pretend that there are shortcuts or clever wheezes that can magically overcome the obstacles we face would be to do the independence cause a disservice.”

She added: “To achieve independence, a referendum, whenever it happens – whether it is this year as I want, or after the next Scottish election – must be legal and legitimate. That is a simple fact.

“It must demonstrate clearly that there is majority support for independence. 

“And its legality must be beyond doubt. Otherwise the outcome, even if successful, would not be recognised by other countries.

“And the best way to achieve that, even though it may not be ideal, is to reach agreement with UK Government on a transfer of power to the Scottish Parliament, just as we did for 2014.”

Ms Sturgeon said it has been suggested that in the absence of such an agreement, it might be legal for the Scottish Parliament to hold a consultative referendum – to establish the opinion of the Scottish people even though agreement would still be required to implement a pro independence outcome.

“The issue of whether the specific constitutional reservation in the Scotland Act puts any form of independence referendum outside the powers of the Scottish Parliament – or instead leaves open scope for a non-binding consultative vote – has never been tested in court,” she said.

“That means it cannot be said definitively that it would not be legal, but equally it cannot be described as being beyond legal doubt. 

“If a proposal for a referendum on that basis was brought forward it would be challenged in court.

“If a court ruled that it was legal, it wouldn’t be a “wildcat referendum” as our opponents like to brand it – it would be within the remit of the Scottish Parliament.

“Now, should the UK Government continue to deny Scotland’s right to choose, we may reach the point where it is necessary for this issue to be tested.

“I am not ruling that out. But I also have to be frank. The outcome would be uncertain. There would be no guarantees.

“It could move us forward – but equally it could set us back.

“So my judgement at this stage is that we should use our energies differently.”

Ms Sturgeon said she will invite Scotland’s elected representatives – MSPs, MPs, the MEPs elected last year and council leaders – to come together to endorse a modern Claim of Right for Scotland through a new Constitutional Convention. 

This would declare that it is for the Scottish Parliament to decide whether and when there should be an independence choice and build support for that principle amongst civic Scotland.

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