The SNP today vowed to hold another Scottish independence referendum if it wins a majority at May’s election and says Boris Johnson will have to take legal action to stop it.
Nicola Sturgeon’s party unveiled an 11-point roadmap to independence, including a Catalonia-style wildcat vote that would effectively force a drastic response from the Prime Minister to stop it and save the UK.
The plans emerged as a series of opinion polls confirmed fears that Scots were on course to vote to break away, and all four corners of the UK expect Scotland to become independent within ten years.
A Panelbase poll for The Sunday Times reported that independence campaigners would win by 52 per cent to 48 per cent.
Other similar surveys found that 49 per cent would support independence, compared to 44 per cent who wouldn’t, while half of Scotland voters said they’d support holding a referendum in the next five years, compared to 43 per cent who wouldn’t.
A Hollyrood seat forecast also projected the SNP extending their majority to 70 seats – seven more than the party had in 2016 – with the Conservatives and Labour each losing six and five respectively.
Ms Sturgeon would consider such a victory to represent a mandate for a second referendum.
But last night, opponents branded the SNP plans ‘reckless’ and ‘crass’ at a time when thousands of lives are being lost to Covid.
The SNP will tell Boris Johnson he will need to take legal action if he wants to stop a second Scottish independence vote as it revealed its ‘roadmap to a referendum’. The Scottish Government’s Constitution Secretary Mike Russell (pictured left with First Minister of Scotland Nicola Sturgeon) will present the 11-point document to the party’s policy forum on Sunday
Michael Gove, who has discussed the case for the Union with former Labour PM Gordon Brown, chaired a meeting of cabinet ministers last week to discuss the need to prevent such a move, according to reports.
The proposals are to be discussed at a virtual SNP National Assembly today.
They state that if a pro-independence majority of SNP and Scots Green MSPs is elected in Scottish elections in May, the First Minister would demand that Boris Johnson agree to a Section 30 order that paves the way to a second independence referendum.
A Section 30 order – part of the Scotland Act 1998 which allows Holyrood to pass laws normally reserved to Westminster – was granted by the UK Government ahead of the 2014 independence referendum.
The Prime Minister has pledged to refuse such a request and hold the SNP to its promise of a referendum ‘once in a generation’.
For the first time, the SNP says it will then hold an ‘illegal’ referendum, forcing Mr Johnson to make it legal or take the Scottish Government to court to stop it.
But UK Government sources said it would be more likely to ignore a referendum.
One added: ‘Most Scots would be appalled that at this point in the pandemic, when all efforts should be on vaccinating and dealing with economic recovery, the SNP would again be focused on a referendum. It would not be legitimate. It would be meaningless unless both sides engaged with it.’
Douglas Ross, Scottish Tory leader, said: ‘Most Scots will wonder why time, energy and resources are going into pursuing an illegal referendum when we are facing far bigger challenges.’
Jackie Baillie, interim Scots Labour leader, said: ‘It is inexcusable that at this time of acute crisis the SNP seeks to put its plan for independence above everything else.’
But Michael Russell, Constitution Secretary in Ms Sturgeon’s government, said: ‘People in Scotland have the right to decide their future – not Boris Johnson.’
The roadmap states any attempt by the UK Government to challenge the legality of the referendum in the courts will be ‘vigorously opposed’.
A recent poll by Savanta ComRes has found 57 per cent of Scots back independence while 43 per cent back staying part of the UK
Mr Johnson has repeatedly stated his opposition to a second independence referendum.
As the roadmap document was published on Saturday, Mr Russell said: ‘I firmly believe that Scotland’s referendum must be beyond legal challenge to ensure legitimacy and acceptance at home and abroad.
‘This is the surest way by far to becoming an independent country.
‘The referendum should be held after the pandemic, at a time to be decided by the democratically elected Scottish Parliament. The SNP believes that should be in the early part of the new term.’
He continued: ‘Today I am setting out how I believe that right can be secured, and I welcome the discussion that will take place around this idea and others.
‘But what is absolutely not for discussion is the fact that if Scotland votes for a legal referendum on May 6 this year, that is what it will get.
‘The SNP Scottish Government will deliver such a referendum if re-elected and the proposals I am putting forward make that very clear.’
Around 1,000 party members are expected to take part in the SNP’s national assembly tomorrow, a policy forum chaired by deputy leader Keith Brown.
The survey suggests the SNP is on course for a crushing victory at Holyrood elections in May
Boris Johnson has repeatedly stated his opposition to a second independence referendum
Opposition parties accused the SNP of putting the push for independence ahead of the coronavirus pandemic.
Scottish Labour interim leader Jackie Baillie said: ‘Scotland is deep in turmoil with thousands facing a cost of living crisis and thousands more people being lost to the virus.
‘It is inexcusable that at this time of acute crisis the SNP seeks to put its plan for independence above everything else.
‘The people of Scotland are being badly let down by an incompetent UK Government and a Scottish Government that seeks to exploit the current crisis for its own ends.
‘To turn your back on those most in need by banging the drum for another independence referendum is an act of political hubris and is truly revealing of the Scottish Government’s true priorities.’
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross tweeted: ‘When 100% of our focus should be on recovering from the pandemic, the SNP are charging ahead with plans for another referendum.
‘We won’t let them get their way.’
Responding to the SNP’s document, the UK Government said the issue of Scottish independence had been settled ‘decisively’ in 2014.
A spokeswoman said: ‘People in Scotland want to see politicians across the UK working in partnership to focus on defeating coronavirus.
‘That remains the top priority of the UK Government, which has supported jobs and businesses across all four nations throughout the pandemic.
‘The Government is supporting the devolved administrations in their vaccination programmes, with the British Armed Forces helping to establish 80 new Covid-19 vaccine centres in Scotland.
‘The question of Scottish independence was settled decisively in 2014, when Scotland voted to remain part of the UK.
‘Now more than ever, we should be pulling together to strengthen our United Kingdom, instead of trying to separate it.’