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SNP in bid to break Indyref deadlock by preparing grounds for confrontation with London

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson are set for a political confrontation later this year

The Scottish National Party (SNP) has tried to break a year-long deadlock over a new Scottish independence referendum by proposing an action plan just ahead of parliamentary elections scheduled for May.

To make the maximum impact ahead of May’s election for the Scottish Parliament (Holyrood), the SNP has set out an 11-point plan which it has styled as a “roadmap to a referendum”.

The upshot of the plan is the SNP’s insistence it will hold a “legal referendum” once the Covid-19 pandemic has subsided, but only if May’s election delivers a pro-independence majority at Holyrood.

The plan also envisages vigorous opposition to an expected legal challenge from the British government.

A clear-eyed plan

The “roadmap to a referendum” document is expected to be presented to the SNP’s national assembly (roughly comprised of 1,000 members) on Sunday (January 24), by the Scottish government’s constitution secretary, Mike Russell.

The document states that if the SNP secure a majority in May’s parliamentary election, the Scottish government will request from the UK government a section 30 order, which is part of the Scotland Act 1998 allowing the Scottish Parliament to ratify laws, a function normally reserved to Westminster.

Crucially, the document states: “there could be no moral or democratic justification for denying that request”, before adding that any opposition by the UK government would be “unsustainable both at home and abroad”.

This position was reinforced by the constitution secretary Russell who made the following statement just ahead of the roadmap’s presentation to the SNP national assembly: “But what is absolutely not for discussion is the fact that if Scotland votes for a legal referendum on 6 May this year, that is what it will get".

British opposition 

Predictably, the UK government has adopted a dismissive attitude to the SNP’s latest initiative.

A Downing Street spokesperson said: “The question of Scottish independence was settled decisively in [the Scottish independence referendum] in 2014, when Scotland voted to remain part of the UK”. 

The British government, in tandem with the broader political establishment, has even accused the SNP of prioritizing the quest for independence at the expense of fighting the coronavirus pandemic.

But this smear campaign conveniently ignores the fact that Scotland’s First Minister (and SNP leader), Nicola Sturgeon, has been at the forefront of leading the fight against the pandemic on the British Isles.

While the SNP’s latest initiative to break the deadlock over the vexed issue of Scottish independence will likely fail to satisfy the SNP grassroots, in addition to the broader Scottish independence movement, it does at least prepare the grounds for a limited confrontation with London later this year.

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