PM urges focus on economy as Nicola Sturgeon unveils plans for indyref2

Nicola Sturgeon has insisted ‘now is the time for independence’ as she unveiled plans to hold a second referendum on Scotland’s place in the UK on October 19, 2023.

The Scottish First Minister has outlined her intention to hold an advisory vote on that date, with her government publishing a bill to allow a second referendum.

She also revealed to Holyrood MSPs that Scotland’s top jurist, Lord Advocate Dorothy Bain, will refer the Scottish Independence Referendum Bill to the UK Supreme Court, to see if such a vote would be legal.

However, Boris Johnson insisted the focus should be on the economy as he argued the UK would have a ‘stronger economy and a stronger country together’.

A Number 10 spokesman has made it clear the Prime Minister continues to believe now is ‘not the time to talk’ about a second referendum on Scottish independence.

The spokesman said: ‘Our position remains unchanged, which is that ours and the Scottish Government’s priority should be to work together with a relentless focus on the issues we know matter to people across the country.

Mr Johnson, meanwhile, said while he considered the Scottish Prime Minister’s plans, ‘the country should focus on building a stronger economy’.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson speaks to journalists en route to the NATO summit in Madrid (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

“I haven’t seen exactly what she said yet,” he told reporters as he traveled to Madrid for the NATO summit.

“We will study it very carefully and respond to it properly.

“The country should focus on building a stronger economy, that’s what we are doing with our plan for a stronger economy and I certainly think we can have a stronger economy and a stronger country together. “

Ms Sturgeon argued it was time for Scots to ‘debate and decide the future of our country’.

In a statement to Holyrood, she said: “Now is the time to put Scotland on the right path, the path chosen by those who live here.

“It’s time for independence.”

She said while she had a “clear democratic mandate” for another referendum, the UK government “unfortunately refused to respect Scottish democracy”.

Opposition MSPs in Holyrood have accused Ms Sturgeon of putting ‘Scots priorities on the back burner’ to focus instead on her ‘obsession’ with independence.

Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross has also made it clear that his party will not take part in an illegal referendum.

Ms Sturgeon, however, said her plans included holding an “unquestionably legal” referendum.

Should the court rule that the proposals fall outside the legislative competence of the Scottish Parliament, the next general election will become a “de facto referendum” on independence, she said.

She continued: ‘If it turns out that there is no legal way for this Parliament to give the people of Scotland the choice of independence in a referendum, and if the UK government continues to refuse a article 30 ordinance, my party will face the UK general election on this single question: should Scotland be an independent country?

But Mr Ross said the Prime Minister’s ‘selfish obsession’ with another ‘dividing’ referendum took precedence over issues such as the cost of living crisis and NHS waiting times.

“A potentially illegal referendum next year is not the right priority for Scotland,” he said.

He added: “We will not play Nicola Sturgeon’s games. We will not participate in a bogus poll when there is real work to be done.

“Real work on the global cost of living crisis, real work on investing in public services, real work on rebuilding our economy.

“These are our priorities and they are also the priorities of people across Scotland.

Scottish Labor leader Anas Sarwar has said the Prime Minister’s timing to launch the campaign was wrong as the Covid-19 pandemic was still claiming lives.

He said: “For households across Scotland, it doesn’t look like this crisis is over.

“Isn’t it true that the pandemic Nicola who said she wanted us out is gone, and the partisan Nicola Sturgeon who wants to divide our country is back, pursuing a referendum that two-thirds of the Scots don’t want to at the moment.”

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton asked Ms Sturgeon why her ‘fixation to breaking up the UK will always trump the needs of the people of the country’.

On Tuesday evening, the Supreme Court confirmed that it had received a “referral” from the Lord Advocate under its vesting jurisdiction.

Initially, it will be reviewed by the Chief Justice, Lord Reed of Allermuir.

He will decide if there are any preliminary issues to deal with, when the case will be heard, how many judges will consider the referral and which judges will sit on the bench.

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