Nicola Sturgeon has claimed there would have been an independence referendum last year had the pandemic not struck, as she sought to dispel criticism from inside the nationalist movement that she has cooled on holding a breakaway vote.
The First Minister said questions of her commitment to a separate Scotland were ‘daft’ and that Indyref2 should be held no later than the end of 2023.
She said it was entirely plausible that Boris Johnson would have bowed to calls to permit a second referendum last year if Covid had not been all-consuming.
Nicola Sturgeon with Alisa Innes, the daughter of SNP Renfrewshire North and West candidate Natalie Don as they campaign ahead of the upcoming Scottish Parliament elections today
Speaking to Clyde 2 Radio, she said: ‘I think there possibly, probably, would have been.
‘Now we would have had to demonstrate the support that I then think would have broken down that Westminster opposition but yes, it’s hypothetical, I can’t prove what would have happened in different circumstances.’
Her SNP is on course to win the most seats in next month’s Holyrood elections – but recent polling projects the party will fall short of an overall majority.
MSPs elected for the Greens and Alex Salmond’s new Alba Party could tip the parliamentary arithmetic in favour of independence, which Ms Sturgeon has suggested would be a mandate to demand Mr Johnson allows a vote.
But Ms Sturgeon’s reelection campaign has largely focused on her handling of the pandemic rather than full-throated calls for independence.
By contrast Mr Salmond has been uncompromising in his demands for launching independence negotiations with Westminster almost immediately
By contrast Mr Salmond has been uncompromising in his demands for launching independence negotiations with Westminster almost immediately.
The former first minister, whose campaign is a headache for his one-time ally Ms Sturgeon, said Alba is the only manifesto ‘taking Scottish independence seriously’.
Ms Sturgeon responded: ‘I don’t agree with the approach he’s taking to try to win independence, because I think you’ve got to build support, you’ve got to get a majority, have a process where people can vote for it.
‘All this talk of trying to bulldoze our way there, almost in spite of or regardless of public opinion, I think risks putting the undecideds off as opposed to what we really need to do to win independence, which is to bring undecideds towards us.’