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Scottish independence: opposition parties attack indyref2 as a distraction

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is seeking to build momentum towards her ambition of holding a second referendum in 2023. Officially beginning the campaign (indyref2), the SNP leader looked to paint a picture of a new Scotland that is “wealthier and fairer, more resilient and better placed to help people”.

She insisted there is an “indisputable mandate” for a second independence referendum, unveiling the first in a series of new papers “making the case afresh for Scotland becoming an independent country”. She added: “Had we known in 2014 everything we know now about the path the UK would have taken then, I’ve got no doubt Scotland would have voted yes back then.”

Scotland’s first referendum took place on 18 September 2014 when 55 per cent of voters said, “No” to independence and 45 per cent said “Yes”.

A New Campaign for Independence

Ms Sturgeon is to set out the first of papers in the Scottish Government’s Building a New Scotland series at Bute House in Edinburgh on 14 June 2022. The first document, entitled ‘Wealthier, Happier, Fairer: Why Not Scotland?’, is looking to draw comparisons between Scotland and the UK to other European countries, as well as investigate why the Government believes that the country would benefit from independence.

According to Ms Sturgeon, subsequent papers will look at a variety of areas including currency, tax and spend, defence, social security and pensions as well as EU membership and trade. She said: “The conclusion very clearly is that Scotland could be doing much better as an independent country… Nobody right now can look at the UK – the mess it’s in currently and its prospects for the UK outside of the European Union surely and conclude anything other than that Scotland can do better as an independent country.”

Is indyref2 a distraction?

In response to the indyref2, British politician of the Scottish Conservative Party Donald Cameron said most people did not want the “distraction” of another vote next year. Rather, he said that the public wanted the Government to focus 100% of their efforts on Covid recovery, the surging cost of living, and supporting the health sector.

Asked whether now was the appropriate time to hold another referendum, Ms Sturgeon said “Independence is not abstract, it’s not separate from all these big challenges that we face.” Instead, she stated, “It’s exactly about how we best equip ourselves to navigate those challenges, so we don’t have our budget set by Westminster, but we are in charge of these decisions ourselves.”

“So many of these challenges, if not caused by then are absolutely exacerbated by the fact we are not independent. So yes, this is the time,” she said.

The second referendum follows the Government’s plans to cut tens of thousands of jobs in the public sector and a warning from a think tank that Scotland will face a substantial £3.5bn gap between spending and income.

Sarah Boyack against independence
Sarah Boyack, Scottish Labour & Cooperative MSP for Lothian is against independence

Commenting on the debate for independence, Sarah Boyack, Scottish Labour & Cooperative MSP for Lothian, said the government’s attention was “still on their constitutional obsession.” She noted it was an “appalling waste of time, energy and money” and that Scottish independence would “make Brexit look like a walk in the park”.

Alex Cole-Hamilton, the Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said that the Government cared “more about their independence obsession than everyone stuck on the longest NHS waiting lists in history, the cost-of-living crisis or the climate emergency.”

Final thought

While the referendum points to a “resilient” constitution, it’s clear that the majority of the population wants the Government to focus on the momentous challenges that Scotland faces. In fact, a YouGov poll carried out for the Scottish Fabians found that just 36 per cent of voters consider independence ‘one of the most important issues facing the country,’ while 52 per cent said it ‘distracts’ from other issues.

The Scottish people want the Scottish Government to focus on the issues that impact their lives, and they imagine a future where Westminster and Holyrood cooperate. The poll reports that an overwhelming majority of voters (76 per cent) would like to see the Scottish and UK governments work together on the issues that impact their lives, and only 8 per cent said the governments work well together.

So, rather than pushing ahead with plans for a second independence referendum, why not work together to tackle the worst cost-of-living crisis in a decade or the longest NHS waiting lists in history?

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