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Nicola Sturgeon clashes with Michael Gove on Scottish independence referendum

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)
The clash between Tory ideologue Michael Gove (L) and Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (R) is the opening round of a new phase of protracted and bitter political conflict between the Scottish nationalists and the ruling Tories in London

Scotland’s First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has indirectly clashed with Cabinet Office Minister, Michael Gove, over the issue of a Scottish independence referendum.

The indirect exchange comes on the heels of the Scottish parliamentary election in which the Scottish National Party (SNP) prevailed.

Referendum Bill

Speaking on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday (May 09), the First Minister and SNP leader was questioned whether she would introduce a Referendum Bill in Holyrood as early as spring 2022 based on predictions that the UK will have recovered from the Covid-19 pandemic and its economic fallout.  

Sturgeon replied: “That would certainly work for that timescale of within the first half of the parliamentary term”.

The First Minister appeared confident that the government in London would not legally challenge a Scottish Independence Referendum Bill ratified by Holyrood.

"The UK government knows that if we ever get into a situation where this is being determined in the courts then actually what the UK government is arguing is that there is no democratic route for Scotland to have independence”, Sturgeon argued.

"The implications of that would be very grave indeed. If the argument of the unionist side is that Scotland is trapped it strikes me that that is one of the strongest arguments for independence", the SNP leader quipped.

Tory obfuscation

Meanwhile, appearing on the same program, Cabinet Office Minister and Tory ideologue Gove once again used the pandemic to distract from the pressing issue of a Scottish independence referendum.

"Whatever parties we come from, the priority at the moment is not court cases, it's not independence legislation - it is recovery from the pandemic", Gove told the BBC’s Marr.

But when asked if Scotland was ever allowed to leave the UK, Gove said: "Of course it is, through a legal referendum which would allow people to make that choice".

However, in keeping with his ideological position on the issue, Gove maintained that the SNP’s “failure” to win an outright majority at Holyrood demonstrated that the Scottish people are not “agitating” for a referendum.

Marr failed to correct Gove on the technical details, as although the SNP – which won 64 seats – fell one seat short of an outright majority, the other pro-independence party, the Scottish Greens, won eight seats, thereby producing a clear pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament.

London panics

The indirect spat between Sturgeon and Gove comes amid feverish activity in Whitehall to derail the momentum for a Scottish independence referendum in the light of the SNP’s latest electoral victory.

Earlier on Saturday the Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, proposed a leadership summit with the heads of the UK’s devolved administrations, in part to take the winds outs of the SNP’s sails.  



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