Sturgeon’s IndyRef2 plans laughed at by Carole Malone

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Plans to drag Scotland out of the Union have risen back to the top of the agenda since Nicola Sturgeon led the SNP to victory at the Scottish Parliament election in May. On Tuesday, Scotland’s First Minister published her Programme for Government, which details her administration’s priorities for the year. Ms Sturgeon said the programme “reaffirms the Scottish Government’s commitment to an independence referendum”.

The SNP’s “democratic mandate” for another independence referendum – often dubbed Indyref2 – is “beyond question,” she said.

Scots voted against independence in the 2014 referendum.

Ms Sturgeon’s comments were ripped to shreds in Holyrood by Scottish Conservative Party leader Douglas Ross yesterday.

He accused her of getting her “priorities wrong” and argued that the Scottish Government should be focusing on the country’s recovery from the pandemic.

While Mr Ross and his Tory colleagues in Westminster remain firmly against the break-up of the Union, some backers of Scottish independence have warned the SNP that they are actually not acting quickly enough.

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An unearthed letter from 2019 signed by a string of leading cultural and academic figures reveals that many in Scotland are frustrated with what they see as the Scottish Government’s perceived sluggish approach towards Indyref2 .

More than 50 high-profile names, including actor Brian Cox and crime writer Val McDermid, signed their own 12-point “declaration of independence”.

The letter was published ahead of the SNP conference and was designed to ratchet up the pressure on Ms Sturgeon and her party to deliver on Indyref2.

It read: “It is our belief that the best option now open to the Scottish people is for Scotland to become an independent country.

“The alternative is to accept that Scotland’s fate would remain in the hands of others and that the Scottish people would relinquish their right to decide their own destiny.”

The 501-word appeal called for Scotland’s central and local government to be “more accountable to the people and more beneficial to their needs”.

It added: “Profit and economic growth should not be pursued at the expense of the wellbeing of the people.”

Some of Ms Sturgeon’s supporters have been exasperated by the lack of a full plan or the legislation needed for another vote on independence.

The Scottish leader sought to put those fears to bed this week with her Programme for Government, in which she said her administration was now restarting work on a “detailed prospectus” to guide Indyref2.

However, Ms Sturgeon remained vague about the timescale for another public vote.

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She said: “We will do so only when the COVID crisis has passed but our aim, COVID permitting, is that it will be in the first half of this Parliament – before the end of 2023.”

During a fiery debate over the Scottish Government’s plan, Mr Ross suggested that another referendum should be further down Ms Sturgeon’s list of priorities.

He said: “In a statement that is 27 pages long it takes to just the fourth paragraph for Nicola Sturgeon to mention independence, it’s right up there in front of all the other priorities we should have.”

After Ms Sturgeon’s election victory in May, she spoke to Prime Minister Boris Johnson and told him another independence referendum is “a matter of when, not if”.

Mr Johnson, who is firmly against another public vote, this week called for a summit with Ms Sturgeon.

He appealed to her and the other devolved government leaders to come together and focus on the recovery of the UK out of the pandemic.

The Prime Minister said in May that holding indyref2 would be “irresponsible and reckless”.

The SNP National Conference will be held online this weekend with members set to assemble to discuss an independent Scotland and other topics.

In the official conference handbook for 2021, the “prize of independence” is right at the top of the agenda.

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