Scotland plans to hold a new independence referendum in October 2023

Scotland plans to hold a new independence referendum in October 2023

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Scotland’s first minister, Nicola Sturgeon, has set a “consultative referendum” on independence for October 19, 2023. The Scottish chief executive said the consultation will have to be “legal and constitutional” and promised legal action if the government British tries to block it. From Downing Street they affirmed that “this is not the time” to talk about the subject.

Scotland returns to debate on its possible independence. The Prime Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, presented this Tuesday a bill that traces the roadmap towards a new referendum, to be held on October 19, 2023.

The head of the regional Executive – leader of the Scottish National Party, in favor of independence – explained that it will be a “consultative referendum”, which will be “legal and constitutional” to guarantee that the results are in line with the recognition of the international community.

Under the current legal framework, contemplated in the Scotland Act of 1998, any plan for independence must be approved by the British Government, since constitutional matters exceed the powers of the Scottish Parliament. For this, Sturgeon clarified that “a positive result would not end the United Kingdom.”

Thus, the question will have a consultative nature, as happened in the first referendum of 2014 and with Brexit in 2016.

However, for Sturgeon, this initiative responds to the “clear and democratic mandate” received by Parliament, which has a pro-independence majority. The aim is “to offer Scotland that option”, although “the British Government refuses to respect Scottish democracy”.

In this sense, the nationalist leader announced that, by means of a letter, she will request permission from British Prime Minister Boris Johnson to carry out the vote, although she also anticipated that she has launched plans to obtain legal approval if London tries to block it.

“The issue of independence cannot be suppressed. It must be resolved democratically. And that must be through a process that is above reproach and builds trust,” Sturgeon said.

Brexit revived the independence window in Scotland

In 2014, the first referendum concluded with the victory of support for remaining in the United Kingdom, with 55% of the votes. However, the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union (or Brexit), which was opposed by the majority of Scots, opened the door to rethink the issue.

With the majority in the 2021 elections, the pro-independence parties feel strengthened and Sturgeon, even under pressure from her colleagues, promised to hold a vote at the end of 2023.

According to a survey by Ipsos Mori, public opinion is practically divided 50-50, while only 32% of those consulted support the holding of the referendum in 2023. That number rises to half when it is proposed that the consultation be held before to conclude the legislature.

For London, “this is not the time to talk” about Scottish independence

In a quick response to Sturgeon’s announcement, a British government spokesman assured that “this is not the time to talk about a referendum”, although he added that the position against Scottish independence “remains unchanged” in the central Executive.

Downing Street promised to study “carefully the details”, but questioned Sturgeon’s announcement: “The priority of both our Government and the Scottish Government should be to work together, without diverting attention, on the issues that we know are of concern throughout the country” .

Prime Minister Boris Johnson and the ruling Conservative Party, an opposition party in Scotland, strongly reject Scottish independence, an issue they consider settled with the 2014 referendum.

Prior to this new initiative by Sturgeon, Johnson has refused to give the Scottish Parliament authority to hold a consultation.

Anticipating London’s refusal, the Chief Minister of Scotland considered it “inevitable” that the issue be resolved in court and, therefore, asked the Scottish Attorney General, Dorothy Bain, to address the Supreme Court to “be clear about what sooner rather than later” about which parts would be outside its remit.

From the highest court they indicated that “we cannot confirm when the case will be heard”, since they are waiting for the file to be sent to the president of the judicial body, who will determine the issues to be addressed.

Sturgeon stated that he will accept whatever the court decides. If the ruling maintains the legal impossibility of holding the referendum, Scotland’s chief minister announced that she will use the next general election, scheduled for 2025, as a plebiscite on independence.

With Reuters and EFE

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