Monday, 20 July 2015

The Next Step on the High Road

SNP 'laying groundwork' for second referendum

Nicola Sturgeon with the actor Alan Cumming during last year's referendum
Nicola Sturgeon with the actor Alan Cumming during last year's referendum
Picture: Rex Features

A Nationalist MP asks the Government if it would allow another vote if parties that support a second referendum win a majority in May's Scottish Parliament election.

The SNP is laying the groundwork for a second referendum less than a year after Scots rejected independence, it has been claimed after a Nationalist MP asked the UK Government if it would allow another vote.
Margaret Ferrier, the Rutherglen and Hamilton West MP, tabled two parliamentary questions asking about the Government’s response if a party that wants a second referendum wins a majority in next May’s Holyrood election.
She asked David Mundell, the Scottish Secretary, what the implications of such a result would be for staging a rerun of last September’s vote and whether his civil servants have drawn up any contingency plans.
Her intervention came only days after an opinion poll put support for the SNP at an astonishing 60 per cent in the constituency vote for the Holyrood election, 40 points ahead of Labour. This level of support would be enough to give the Nationalists another majority.
It is widely expected that Nicola Sturgeon will include in her 2016 election manifesto a pledge for another referendum if there is a “material change” in circumstances, but David Cameron would have to agree to another vote being staged as constitutional matters are reserved to Westminster.
He has argued that the issue has been settled and cited promises by Ms Sturgeon and Alex Salmond that last year’s vote would settle the issue for a generation and possibly a lifetime. Mr Mundell is due to answer the questions on Friday.
However, the SNP believes that a precedent was set at the 2011 Holyrood election that a referendum must be permitted if a party promises one in a manifesto then wins a majority.
The Prime Minister used a legislative instrument called a Section 30 Order to give Holyrood the legal powers to decide the timing and franchise of last year’s vote, along with the wording of the question on the ballot paper.
John Lamont, the Scottish Conservative Chief Whip, said: “The SNP is going to have to accept that, less than a year ago, the Scottish people spoke decisively on this matter.
“People invested a lot of time and energy in last year’s vote, and they don’t want to be put through another two-year campaign on this matter. Instead of endlessly agitating for independence, the SNP MPs should do the job their constituents sent them to Westminster to carry out.”
A dejected-looking Alex Salmond on the night of last year's referendum
The Tories pointed to an article by another Nationalist MP, George Kerevan, in which he predicted the SNP’s autumn conference will “fizz with the question of putting a mandate for independence into the 2016 manifesto.”
Ms Sturgeon has insisted she has no immediate plans for a second vote but has faced pressure to clarify the circumstances that would meet her “material change” test.
The only concrete example she has given would be Scotland leaving the EU following Mr Cameron’s in-out referendum on Europe despite a majority of voters north of the Border wanting to stay.
However, Stewart Hosie, the SNP’s deputy leader, has suggested another referendum would be justified if the UK Government refused to devolve more powers on top of those agreed by a cross-party commission formed after last year’s referendum.
An SNP spokesman said: “The timing of any future referendum is entirely a matter for the people of Scotland to decide – the people, not politicians, are in charge at every stage of the process.
“The First Minister has made clear we are not planning another referendum, but equally has made it clear that it is not in the gift of any politician and party to rule it out indefinitely.”

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