Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Tuesday began her latest drive for independence from the United Kingdom, publishing the first of a series of papers pushing for a new referendum.
Scotland voted to remain part of the three-centuries-old union with England in a landmark vote in 2014.
But Sturgeon and her ruling Scottish National Party (SNP) say there is an “indisputable mandate” for another referendum, particularly in the light of the UK’s departure from the European Union.
The papers “will make a fresh case” for Scotland, which voted against Brexit, to become “an independent country better able to chart our own course”, Sturgeon told reporters in Edinburgh.
“At this critical juncture, we face a fundamental question — Do we stay tied to a UK economic model that constrains us to relatively poor economic and social outcomes, which are likely to get worse not better outside the European Union?
“Or do we instead lift our eyes with hope and optimism and take inspiration from comparable countries across Europe?”
Under the terms of the Scotland Act 1998, the UK government in London has to first agree to the devolved parliament in Edinburgh holding a referendum.
But UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson has repeatedly refused Sturgeon’s demands to approve another vote.
Sturgeon, however, said “we must forge a way forward” without consent from London since the Scottish people last year voted in a regional parliament with a “decisive majority” in favour of independence and the right to choose.
“The Scottish Parliament therefore has an indisputable democratic mandate and we intend to honour that referendum,” she said, adding that the referendum must be held “in a lawful manner”.
– ‘Massive damage’ –
The Scottish leader said papers published over the coming months would address issues including currency, public finances, EU membership and trade, defence and security.
“It really isn’t difficult to list the many ways in which Westminster (UK parliamentary) governance is currently failing Scotland and holding us back,” she said.
“We have a prime minister with no democratic authority in Scotland and no moral authority anywhere in the UK.
“Brexit has ripped us out of the EU and the single market against our will, with massive damage to trade, living standards and public services.”
Tuesday’s paper looks at 10 comparable European countries including Belgium, Ireland, the Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.
“The evidence is overwhelming that these countries … over time performed better than the UK,” explained Sturgeon.
“All of these countries are wealthier, fairer and more productive than the UK. And all of these countries — all of them — are independent.
“Grasping that prize will not be without challenge. So in the months ahead, we will set out in detail how we can make the transition to independence … so that this precious prize, the opportunity of a better country, can be won,” she added.