Nicola Sturgeon clashes with reporter over independence questions

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Nicola Sturgeon was confronted on the legality of addressing the Scottish independence question in the next UK General Election. After the Supreme Court struck down her reference, the SNP leader’s options appear limited as successive Conservative prime ministers have all rejected her requests. According to the Scotland Act, she can only put the question to the Scottish people through a section order 30 from Westminster.

Channel 4’s correspondent Ciaran Jenkins put Nicola Sturgeon to the test through an intense questioning over the legality of such a move.

He started by asking: “First Minister, you have always said that a referendum mist be lawful and legitimate. Do you now level with the Scottish people and accept that a de facto referendum you were proposing would not be lawful because the Supreme Court have ruled on legality and would not be legitimate because the opposing side do not give their consent.”

Ms Sturgeon said: “If you’ve listened to everything I’ve said, a referendum is my preferred option for all the reasons I’ve set out. But if a referendum is blocked, there has to be another way for the Scottish people to have their say, make their voices heard and make that decision. 

“There is a mandate for that. An election cannot in any sense be described as unlawful.”

Mr Jenkins jumped in, noting: “An election that is a referendum could be, First Minister, because you’ve asked the question about the lawfulness and you’ve had your answers. 

“So my question is very simple. Do you accept that a de facto referendum would not be lawful or legitimate?”

Ms Sturgeon fired back: “No, I don’t.

“Asking people a question in an election is entirely lawful and legitimate.”

Mr Jenskin retorted: “Not when it has an outcome which is contrary to the normal outcome of an election. You would be using it as a negotating mandate to negotiate independence.”

The SNP leader said: “The Scottish people will have made their view known on a question. And if the answer to that question is the one I have asked for, then we will take that forward. 

“Is that the best way of resolving this question? No.”

However, the SNP leader acknowledges she was cornered into addressing that question in the next General Election given that Westminster has rejected all her motions. In that case, giving Scottish people a say over their future in the union is legitimate, she said.

She added: “I have always said pre-2014 through 2014, since 2014, a referendum is the best way of asking and answering a constitutional question. But if a referendum is blocked, then there has to be an alternative, because the only alternative to that is Scottish democracy has no way of expressing itself.

“And as I’ve said before, that is not an outcome that I’m prepared to countenance.”

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Nicola Sturgeon has pledged to solely run on the message of independence in the next General Election after the Supreme Court ruled against a second independence referendum, arguing that the advisory vote her Government requested would still have a “practical” and legal effect on the union. 

If the SNP decides to go down that route, Nicola Sturgeon could use a 50+ percent pro-independence majority in Scotland to put pressure on the Prime Minister and demand a section 30 order. However, the closest the SNP has got to 50 percent was in 2019 when the nationalists won 36.9 percent of the votes.

And Westminster would still have the power to reject her request, making a potential election victory void.

Nicola Sturgeon will set up a national executive committee to convene a special party conference in the new year to discuss and agree the details of a proposed de facto referendum. 

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