Nicola Sturgeon argues that Scotland faces a “starker than ever” democratic deficit as she launches a new paper.
Nicola Sturgeon has claimed that Scotland faces a “starker than ever” democratic deficit as she launched the latest in a series of papers setting out the case for independence.
The first minister said whoever replaces Boris Johnson will have no democratic endorsement from Scotland.
And she argued that independence is the only way to “strengthen and embed” democracy in Scotland.
Ms Sturgeon wants to hold a referendum on 19 October 2023.
Mr Johnson rejected her call last week, shortly before being forced to announce he would be standing down as prime minister once a successor is chosen.
He has repeatedly said that now is not the time for another vote on independence, and that the result of the last referendum in 2014 – when voters backed remaining in the UK by 55% to 45% – should be respected.
None of the candidates in the race to replace Mr Johnson have so far given any indication that they are likely to take a different approach once they are in No 10.
When she unveiled the second in the Scottish government’s Building a New Scotland series of papers on Thursday morning, Ms Sturgeon predicted that the UK government would “shift even further to the right” regardless of who the next prime minister is and could lead to a “race to the bottom” on issues such as tax, cuts to public services, support for families and Brexit.
She said this showed that Scotland needs the “real and permanent alternative” of independence.
The first minister added: “This discussion could not be more timely or urgent – the democratic deficit Scotland faces is not a recent phenomenon, but the evidence of it now is starker than ever.
“A prime minister with no democratic endorsement from Scotland is about to be replaced by yet another prime minister that Scotland hasn’t voted for – and wouldn’t vote for even if we were given the chance.
“All Scotland ever hears from UK politicians these days is democracy denial. They trade opinions on how many years it should be before Westminster might ‘allow’ us to make a democratic choice about our own future.”
She also accused Labour of “teaming up with the Tories to frustrate the will of the Scottish people”.
And she claimed that “parties and policies that we reject are to be forced upon us – but the democratic right to choose an alternative is to be denied to us”.
The first paper in the series was published last month. It was described as a “scene setter” on the case for independence, with subsequent papers to look at areas including currency, tax and spend, defence, social security and pensions, EU membership and trade.
Mr Sturgeon has already asked the Supreme Court to rule on whether Holyrood has the powers to hold a referendum if the UK government continues to refuse to give the formal consent that was put in place ahead of the last referendum in 2014.
The Scottish government’s top law officer, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, has already said she “does not have the necessary degree of confidence” that it does.
And the UK government has urged judges to throw out the case, arguing that there is not yet any legislation for them to rule on and that it is clear that issues relating to the constitution are reserved to Westminster.
‘De facto referendum’
If the Scottish government wins the case, Ms Sturgeon intends to quickly introduce and pass a referendum bill at Holyrood that would allow a vote to happen in October of next year.
But if the Supreme Court ruling goes against her, she has said she will use the next election as a “de facto referendum” and attempt to use the result to trigger independence negotiations.
Both the Conservatives and Labour have dismissed this plan – arguing that people will be voting on a myriad of different issues in an election, and not just on independence.
And they have said that Ms Sturgeon should be focusing on issues such as the cost of living crisis, health and education rather than another referendum.
Scottish Conservative constitution spokesman Donald Cameron accused the first minister of being “once again focused on the wrong priority at the worst possible time”.
He added: “In the week that Scotland’s NHS recorded the worst A&E waiting times on record, people will be outraged to see Nicola Sturgeon continuing to campaign for an independence referendum next year.
“The vast majority of Scots don’t want a divisive second referendum next year, yet it seems that the SNP are only too happy to ignore democracy when it doesn’t go their way.”
According to polling expert Prof Sir John Curtice, recent polls have – on average – put support for independence at 48%, with 52% against, once “don’t know” votes are excluded.