The new government of the Scottish National Party and the Green Party, despite opposition from the UK government, promised to hold an independence referendum by the end of 2023.
As of the end of August, Scotland has a new local government. It operates under what is called a paralytic agreement. This means that the cooperation of both of its constituent parties takes place in the areas covered by the agreement, and not on the basis of a single government cabinet.
Thanks to the support of the Greens, the SNP will form a majority government led by the first minister and leader of the Scottish National Party Nicola Sturgeon.
On Tuesday (September 7) she presented her government’s plan for the next year. It reveals details of the implementation of electoral promises made in the SNP’s May Manifesto during the Scottish Parliament election campaign and in the parity agreement signed with the Greens this summer.
The issue of the referendum is high on the agenda
In her speech on Tuesday, Sturgeon stressed that a key point on the government’s agenda was a referendum on Scottish independence later in the term.
“Our goal, if the epidemiological situation allows, is to hold a referendum on independence in the first half of the term of this government, by the end of 2023,” she declared. “As we emerge from the pandemic, we are faced with many choices that determine how our economy and society will develop in the coming decades.”
“Which Parliament, London or Edinburgh, should hold this election, and on what terms?” asked Sturgeon. She stressed that “these are questions that cannot be escaped or postponed.”
Sturgeon declared that the referendum should be preceded by a media campaign, so that every voter had the right to make a measured and informed decision to remain or leave the 300-year union with England. As part of this initiative, ‘Detailed Guides’ will be produced.
In the last independence referendum held in 2014, 55 per cent of Scots voted to remain in the UK’s structures. 45 percent opposed.
Earlier, work on the referendum was temporarily suspended due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, last month there was a landmark cooperation agreement between the Scottish National Party and the Scottish Green Party, which gives pro-independence people a majority in the Scottish Parliament and thus strengthens the government’s mandate in negotiations with London.
The future of the referendum is uncertain
However, whether Scotland will soon be able to hold a referendum on independence is still highly questionable. The UK Parliament in London, which has greater powers, must authorize it.
Prime Minister of Great Britain Boris Johnson He has already ruled out such a possibility and another conservative politician in his government, Michael Gove, has openly admitted that he “does not see” favorable conditions for a vote on this issue before the general election in 2024.
The Scots themselves are very divided on this issue. The Guardian reported that in the vast majority of recent polls, support for independence was less than 50%.
Movement members Scotland in the Union, who is fighting to stay in Scotland within the United Kingdom, says most residents do not want another referendum to polarize public opinion in the near future.
“The government must now focus on uniting society, not dividing it, and making sure that the economy recovers quickly after the pandemic, so that no one is left behind,” said one of the movement’s representatives.
Opposition representatives in the Scottish Parliament speak in the same vein, as the current government’s priority should be first and foremost the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic and its consequences.
However, Sturgeon hopes to increase support for independence, as the majority of Scots (62%) voted to remain in the European Union in the 2016 referendum on Britain’s exit from the European Union. Moreover, the effective management of the epidemic contributed to the already enormous popularity of the politician in the country.
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