The SNP has announced plans to introduce a bill that would allow Scotland to hold a second vote on independence.
The party is pushing for the Scottish Parliament to hold its own referendum, with a bill that would allow it to do so without the UK government’s approval. It says this will “unlock Westminster’s denial of democracy.”
This would be achieved by amending the Scotland Act 1998, which details what Holyrood can and cannot legislate on. Included in this is "the Union of the Kingdoms of Scotland and England" and "the Parliament of the United Kingdom".
It comes after the Supreme Court ruled last month that the Scottish Parliament cannot hold a second referendum without the approval of Westminster. However, key figures in the SNP pledged to continue their fight for independence.
Stephen Flynn, who has taken over from Ian Blackford as SNP leader at Westminster, claimed Scottish people "have already voted for a referendum and now is the time for one". He added: “That is a democratic reality that politicians at Westminster must wake up to.”
Explaining the plans, he said: “We will use our Opposition Day to put forward the Scotland Act 1998 (Amendment) Bill and seek to take control of Parliament’s order paper to unlock Westminster’s denial of democracy. The mechanism, which will seek to amend the Scotland Act 1998, will allow the Scottish Parliament to legislate for a referendum and reject any attempts by Westminster to impose a roadblock on Scotland’s democratic journey to independence.”
It comes as public opinion polls on the topic have suggested that Scottish voters support independence, with the latest, reported by The Times, finding that 47% would favour independence in comparison to 42% who would support staying in the union. Flynn described it as “the fourth poll in a row” that has shown the majority of Scotland support the country’s independence.
However, the move for a new bill will likely be vehemently opposed by the UK government and MPs, which means the chance of success is slim. A government spokesperson commented: “People in Scotland want both their governments to be concentrating on the issues that matter most to them – like growing our economy, getting people the help they need with their energy bills, and supporting our NHS.
“As the Prime Minister has been clear on, we will continue to work constructively with the Scottish Government to tackle our shared challenges.”
In a similar vein, some ministers from the Scottish Government have been accused of “vanity” independence spending, with critics saying they should be prioritising the cost-of-living crisis in the upcoming budget statement.
Liz Smith, finance and economy spokeswoman for the Scottish Tories, urged the SNP to stop its “independence obsession”. She commented: “[The SNP] should immediately divert its vanity spending on a referendum that the courts have ruled out and abandon reckless plans for a costly, centralised National Care Service that everyone else can see is a bad idea.”
After the Supreme Court ruling, Scotland’s First Minister and SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon said the next general election will act as a “de facto referendum” - with more than 50% of the vote for pro-independence parties needed for a mandate. She too has faced criticism however, with some warning that this would have no legal validity.
A YouGov survey also suggested voters were unsure about her plan, as some 52% said they do not think a pro-independence vote majority would constitute a mandate for a referendum.