Scots must be permitted to have “the democratic choice they have voted for” in a second vote on independence, Nicola Sturgeon has insisted.
The Scottish First Minister and SNP leader spoke out ahead of delivering a “route map” statement, setting out how she believes a referendum could be held if Westminster continues to block her plans.
The 2014 referendum, which saw voters north of the border opt to stay in the UK by 55% to 45%, took place after then prime minister David Cameron agreed a section 30 order.
But since then Conservative prime ministers have flatly rejected any suggestion that there should be another vote.
Ms Sturgeon however is insistent that the SNP’s victory in the 2021 Holyrood elections gives her a mandate for another referendum, and has said she wants this to take place before the end of 2023.
While her party failed to win overall control in the Scottish Parliament last year, the election of a record number of Scottish Green MSPs mean that there is a majority in Holyrood for a fresh vote on the issue.
Her critics claim she is “obsessed” with holding a second referendum when the Scottish Government should be focused on matters such as tackling the cost-of-living crisis.
Ms Sturgeon however said: “The people of Scotland have elected a Parliament committed to giving them a choice on independence, and so that democratic will must be respected.”
Speaking ahead of her statement to Holyrood, the First Minister added: “In Scotland, it is the people who are and have always been sovereign – and it is the people’s will which must prevail.
“That may be an inconvenient truth for our political opponents, but it is a simple and unavoidable truth nonetheless.”
She argued that continued attempts to “block that democratic will only weaken the UK Government’s standing, here and internationally”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “Bluntly, the UK Government is in no position to lecture any other country about the need to respect democratic norms if it is intent on trying to thwart democracy at home.
“And, because we live in a democracy where election results still matter, continued efforts to thwart the will of the people must, and will, fail.
“The UK is either a partnership of consent or it is not a partnership worthy of the name.
“Westminster rule over Scotland cannot be based on anything other than a consented, voluntary partnership.
“It is time to give people the democratic choice they have voted for, and then with independence to build a more prosperous, fairer country in a true partnership of equals between Scotland and our friends in the rest of the UK.”
Donald Cameron, the Scottish Conservative spokesman for the constitution, claimed however: “The First Minister’s obsessive push for another divisive independence referendum is the height of self-indulgence and irresponsibility.”
Nicola Sturgeon's obsessive push for another divisive independence referendum is the height of self-indulgence and irresponsibility.
She should start listening to Scotland and get back to the day job. pic.twitter.com/YudtXiVZec
— Scottish Conservatives (@ScotTories) June 27, 2022
Mr Cameron argued: “In the last week before summer recess, people want to see the SNP Government focus on the issues that really matter to them, rather than wasting time and energy on a pretend poll.
“Right now, ministers should be prioritising the global cost-of-living crisis, fixing our NHS and rebuilding our economy from the pandemic.
“It is disgraceful that Nicola Sturgeon would put all that on the backburner to push for another unwanted, possibly even illegal, referendum.”
Scottish Labour leader Anas Sarwar meanwhile accused the First Minister to “trying to drag Scotland back to the politics of the past instead of dealing with the challenges of the present”.
He said Ms Sturgeon was forging ahead with an unwanted referendum and ignoring people’s desperate cries for help with the cost-of-living crisis”.
Mr Sarwar said: “Right now people across Scotland are struggling to put food on the table as bills spiral; one in eight Scots is stuck on a waiting list as our NHS buckles under pressure, and public transport is in chaos.
“Instead of dealing with these issues, we have two governments feeding off one another and trying to tear communities apart for political gain.”
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton was also critical of the First Minister, saying: “Nicola Sturgeon’s desire to break up the UK is out of touch, obsessive and desperate.”
He added: “Nicola Sturgeon is neglecting everyone who is worried about paying the bills or the sharp spike in Covid infections.
“It’s a kick in the teeth for health staff, the hundreds of thousands of people on NHS waiting lists and anyone who believed the First Minister when she said education was the top priority.
“Breaking up the UK is not the solution to these problems.
“Her obsession with breaking up the UK is a big part of the problem.”
Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater, however, argued having another referendum was “fundamentally about democracy”.
Ms Slater said: “Both the Scottish Green Party and the SNP committed, in our respective election manifestos, to holding a referendum in this parliamentary session.
“Our parties won more votes and more seats than the three unionist parties.
“The mandate to hold a referendum is crystal clear.
“The people will have their say.”
The Green, who is now a junior minister in the Scottish Government after the two parties signed a power-sharing agreement, added: “That mandate is fundamentally about democracy.
“The people of Scotland are sovereign, they alone get to decide how they are governed.”