Scotland could become independent if the SNP won a majority of votes in a UK election, Nicola Sturgeon has said, according to a BBC dispatch.
It said: The first minister wants a referendum in 2023, and is pushing for the Supreme Court to rule on a bill to set this up.
If this does not happen, she has said the SNP would treat the next general election as a “de facto referendum”.
Prime Minister Boris Johnson said it was the government’s “longstanding position” that it was not the right time for another independence vote.
He said: “We will look carefully at what [Nicola Sturgeon] says. Don’t forget that the longstanding position is that we don’t think this is the right time to be doing a constitutional change.”
“I think our economy is all the stronger for being together,” he added.
Johnson continued: “This is a time really now to focus on things which the union can deliver for the economic benefit of everybody.”
In an interview with BBC Scotland, the first minister said: “Scotland can’t become independent without a majority of people voting for it”.
She said: “I hope we can resolve these things in a referendum, that is the proper way of doing it. But if all routes to that are blocked then the general election will become the vehicle for people to express their view.”
Ms Sturgeon said she wanted to be clear about the principle and the practical reality “that Scotland cannot become independent unless and until a majority of people in Scotland vote for independence”.
She added: “The issue of practical reality is that when a majority vote for independence, I hope in a referendum, that will have to be followed by a negotiation with a UK government to implement that decision.”
If there were to be a vote in favour of Scottish independence – whether that be via the referendum Ms Sturgeon wants, or a de facto referendum based on a general election result – it would be followed by negotiations between the Scottish and UK governments.
Then, legislation would have to be passed at Westminster and perhaps Holyrood before Scotland became independent.
Ms Sturgeon said on Tuesday that the UK Supreme Court had been asked to rule on whether the Scottish government has the power to hold an independence referendum without agreement from Westminster.
Ahead of the 2014 referendum, the UK government agreed to a temporary transfer of powers to Holyrood to allow the referendum to go ahead.
he idea of a “de facto referendum” is a radical one, given Nicola Sturgeon’s reputation for caution and the fact her team had previously dismissed it as a strategy.
It raises many questions about how such a scheme would work, which ministers now find themselves talking about rather than their main plan – to hold an actual referendum.
After all, the first minister’s hope is that the last resort will never be needed. Her wish is still to do a deal with the UK government which would see both sides sign up to an agreed process in the style of 2014.
Bold talk of using a general election instead is chiefly a tool to force the pro-UK side to take their fingers out of their ears and engage with the issue, rather than a finalised strategy to deliver independence.
Earlier on Wednesday, Ms Sturgeon’s deputy John Swinney suggested that he considered a win to be the SNP winning the majority of seats contested in Scotland.
He was asked on BBC Radio’s Good Morning Scotland: “If you have a majority of Scottish MPs at the next UK general election, that would be a mandate to start negotiations for an independent Scotland?”
He replied: “That’s correct, yes.”
But he went on to Tweet that he had “misheard” the question, and added that his view would be that the SNP would need to win a majority of votes in a general election, not a majority of seats.
He said when he was asked about a “majority of seats”, he had only picked up on “majority”.
Mr Swinney added: “Referenda, including de facto referenda at a UK general election, are won with a majority of votes. Nothing else.”
Douglas Ross, the leader of the Scottish Conservatives, said on Tuesday that another referendum was the “wrong priority for Scotland” and would hinder Scotland’s recovery from the pandemic.
Scottish Labour’s constitution spokeswoman Sarah Boyack said the SNP were “hell-bent on gaming the electorate to suit their ends”.
She said it was “deeply embarrassing for Nicola Sturgeon to be so publicly contradicted… by her own deputy”.
The party has also asked for the Lord Advocate to make a statement to MSPs on Thursday to ascertain her views on whether the Scottish government had the power to hold a referendum without the UK government’s approval.
It was the Lord Advocate – as the Scottish government’s chief legal adviser – who was responsible for referring the matter to the Supreme Court.
A statement from Scottish Labour said it wanted the Lord Advocate to appear in the chamber to “shed some light on her views, decisions and role”.
Alex Cole-Hamilton, of the Scottish Liberal Democrats, said less than a day after Ms Sturgeon’s plan was unveiled that “the wheels are falling off the clown car”.
He went on: “They seem to have conceded that they are heading for a defeat in court and so they are brainstorming barmy schemes for what comes next.”
About Rs 3 bn paid as OT during past few months
Overtime gravy train for CPC refinery workers:
By Saman Indrajith
About Rs. 3,000 million had been paid as overtime for the employees of the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation oil refinery, during the past few months, Parliament was told yesterday.
Power and Energy Minister Kanchana Wijesekera said that he had asked for a detailed report as to whom and on what grounds the overtime payments had been made and it would be submitted to Parliament.
Fielding a question asked by Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District SJB MP Lakshman Kiriella, Minister Wijesekera said instructions had been issued to regulate overtime.
MP Kiriella demanded to know why overtime had been paid to employees of an institution that had been shut down. “There are reports that over Rs 4,000 million has been paid as overtime to the workers of the refinery that was not functioning owing to the non-availability of crude oil. This is a crime,” Kiriella said.
Minister Wijesekera: “I made inquiries after I saw newspaper reports on payment of overtime to refinery workers. I inquired from the Finance Manager of the CPC. I was told that a sum between Rs 2.5 billion to Rs 3 billion had been paid as overtime. The refinery was not closed during the months of March and April. It was closed only during the last month. They had issued refined fuel on all seven days of the week continuously. When an institution operates full time in such a manner the employees would have to be paid for their overtime work. However, I admit that could have been done with some level of management in the payment process,” the Minister said.
Wigneswaran claims RW accepted all his demands
Head of the Thamil Makkal Thesiya Kuttani (TMTK), C. V. Wigneswaran told the media recently that President Ranil Wickremesinghe had agreed to all demands he had made, including the release of Tamil ‘political prisoners’, to secure his vote during last month’s Parliament election, to elect a President.
He made this statement following a meeting with the President in Colombo to discuss the establishment of an all-party government.
“We have made several requests and if the President is ready to comply with them, we will consider taking part in the all party government,” he said.
“We met him when he was Prime Minister. Before the parliamentary vote to elect the President, I made these demands and he agreed to them. That is why I voted for him. Now, it is for him to keep his promises. I am here to remind him of this,” Wigenswaran said.
Wickremesinghe, as the Prime Minister in the yahapalana government, vehemently denied that there were Tamil ‘political prisoners’ in the country. (RK)
MPs are not immune from country’s laws – SJB
By Saman Indrajith
Opposition Leader Sajith Premadasa told Parliament yesterday that the MPs were not immune from the Penal Code despite the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Act.
Premadasa said Cabinet Spokesman Minister Bandula Gunawardane had claimed that incidents in Parliament could not be dealt with under the regular law.
“This claim sends the wrong message to people. Aren’t the provisions of the Penal Code or the Offences against Public Property Act applicable to the MPs? There were incidents in this Chamber during the 52-day coup conspiracy; some MPs damaged public property. There were investigations by the CID and also by Parliament.
The Secretary General announced the cost of the damage. When the process was on to prosecute those MPs responsible for the damage, political influence was exerted on the CID not to file cases against the culprits. It is against this background that Minister Gunawardane, in his position as the Cabinet spokesman, makes this false claim. His statement is sending a message saying that there is one law inside the Parliament and another outside it.
“He also claims that the Speaker decides whether these laws are applicable to Parliament or not,” Premadasa said.
Colombo District SJB MP Mujibur Rahuman said that people were already against the MPs and this new wrong message would further exacerbate their anger against elected members. “The Cabinet Spokesman says that the MPs have a different set of laws while the people are dealt with by the country’s laws. That is wrong. We are also liable for criminal offences that we commit,” Rahuman said.
“The CID conducted an investigation and was prepared to file cases, but that was prevented through political influence. The Cabinet Spokesman’s statement is fueling public hatred towards the MPs. Please, request the Cabinet Spokesman to refrain from making such statements,” he said.
Minister Gunawardane said that he was only responding to a question raised by a journalist and the question was about fairness of cracking down on protesters for destroying public property, during anti-government protests, when MPs, who damaged Parliament, property under the former government, are yet to be apprehended.
Minister Gunawardane said as a public representative in Parliament for the last 33 years he had only explained that the law would be implemented against those engaged in violent activities during peaceful protests.
“I said MPs had Parliament privileges and the Parliament law. I also explained that MPs attending Parliament cannot be arrested as they are engaged in legislative activities,” he said.
Chief Opposition Whip, Kandy District MP Lakshman Kiriella, said that the MPs had no such legal immunity. and Parliament privileges only cover MPs from being arrested while they are on their way to attend and when they leave Parliament. “Therefore, there is no law that says they are exempt from other laws of the country,” Kiriella said.
Speaker Mahinda Yapa Abeywardena, agreeing with Chief Opposition Whip Kiriella, said that all other laws in the country applied to the MPs.
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