Sturgeon vows to drive hard bargain over independence

The Scottish National party would make a second independence referendum the price of its support for a minority Labour government if next month’s UK general election results in a hung parliament, Nicola Sturgeon declared on Friday.

Formally launching the SNP’s election campaign, the party’s leader and first minister said they would seek “a progressive alliance” to lock the Conservatives out of UK government if the election resulted in a hung parliament, but warned that it would drive a “hard bargain”.

“The SNP is not going to be giving support to parties that do not recognise the central principle of the right of the people of Scotland to choose their own future,” Ms Sturgeon said.

Recent polls suggest the SNP could hold the balance of power at Westminster if the Conservatives fail to secure a majority on December 12. A YouGov survey of 1,060 Scottish adults published on Friday found support for the SNP at 42 per cent, far ahead of the Scottish Conservatives on 22 per cent and Labour on just 12 per cent.

Such a result could strengthen the position at Westminster of the SNP, which took 35 of Scotland’s 59 UK parliamentary seats in 2017. It would also bolster SNP claims to have a popular mandate for a second independence referendum.

“After the last three years, it is impossible to escape the conclusion that for Scotland, Westminster is utterly broken,” Ms Sturgeon said. “My intention is that the people of Scotland will decide Scotland’s future in an independence referendum next year.”

UK prime minister Boris Johnson insisted on Thursday that he would not approve a repeat of the 2014 plebiscite — in which Scots voted 55-45 per cent to remain in the UK — even if the SNP secured another pro-independence majority in the Scottish parliament in elections scheduled for 2021. 

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Ms Sturgeon said Mr Johnson’s short record as prime minister showed he was “not a man whose word, day to day, can be taken seriously” and that ignoring Scotland’s democratic will would be politically unsustainable. 

She also waved aside suggestions by Labour that it would only allow another independence referendum after 2021. “Any minority Labour government would need the support of the SNP,” she said. 

Ms Sturgeon’s post-election bargaining power will be reduced, however, by her pledge never to put the Conservatives into power.

Labour’s Scottish leader Richard Leonard said this week that the party would make no pact or deals with the SNP. He said Labour would set out its policy programme in Westminster as a minority government and challenge the SNP to back it. 

SNP strategists hope that stressing independence will help raise turnout for the party from among the roughly half of Scots who would like to leave the UK.

But the SNP strategy may also help shore up support for the Scottish Conservatives, who have pitched themselves as the main defenders of the three century-old union with England — a position which can draw on a much bigger pool of support among Scottish voters than Brexit.


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