Scotland: Sturgeon Wins Fresh Mandate for Independence Referendum

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    In the Southside of Glasgow, you’d have been forgiven for thinking only one party was standing in last week’s Scottish election.

    The district of Scotland’s largest city is represented by Nicola Sturgeon, the leader of Scotland’s semi-autonomous government. Yellow posters of the Scottish National Party adorned windows of sandstone apartment blocks to show loyalty to the woman who can lead her country to the Promised Land.

    “Independence for Scotland is the most important thing in my life other than my children,” said Margaret Sim, 71, an SNP volunteer in Glasgow leafleting during the campaign. And she trusts Sturgeon to deliver. “In the future, she’s the best hope we’ve got for an independent Scotland.”

    For many Glaswegians—and indeed much of Scotland—the victory for the SNP declared at the weekend was a foregone conclusion. The question was by what margin and by how much it would reinforce the push for another referendum on breaking away from the rest of the U.K. In the end, the SNP and Green Party together will guarantee a pro-independence majority in the Scottish Parliament.

    But the issue for Scotland’s popular leader is where she leads her troops next as the administrations in Edinburgh and London collide over the country’s constitutional future.

    The May 6 election was a battle over whether Scotland should have another vote on unpicking more than three centuries of union with England and Wales. While the SNP prevailed, the electorate in the nation of 5.5 million was split roughly evenly between independence and pro-union parties.

    Sturgeon says she now has her renewed mandate to force the British government to acquiesce to a referendum. Prime Minister Boris Johnson is unlikely to abandon his stance that Scotland shouldn’t have one any time soon.

    On Sunday, Cabinet member Michael Gove—a Scot—repeatedly deflected questions about whether the U.K. government would block the effort to hold a plebiscite should the Scottish government legislate for one, arguing the focus across the country should be on recovering from the pandemic.

    “If we get sucked into a conversation about referenda and constitutions, then we are diverting attention from the issues that are most important to the people in Scotland and across the United Kingdom,” Gove told Sky News.

    In response, Sturgeon told the BBC that while her first task is steering Scotland through the pandemic, the SNP position on a vote had been clear to the electorate. She also said it would be “absurd” for the U.K. government to ignore the people’s wishes, and that she hopes it never ends up in a protracted court battle.

    “All this talk about legality and whether or not the U.K. government challenges the Scottish government in court, misses a point: the people of Scotland have voted for the SNP on the strength of offering, when the time is right, an independence referendum,” she said. Sturgeon said she “wouldn’t rule out” introducing legislation for a referendum in the Scottish Parliament at the start of next year.

    The SNP won 64 of the 129 seats in the Scottish Parliament, its fourth straight win after 14 years in power and one up on its performance in 2016. The pro-independence camp was further bolstered by a jump in support for the Green Party, which took eight seats, an increase of two.

    That was in sharp contrast to the rest of the U.K., where Johnson’s Conservatives made gains in English local elections and won a U.K. Parliament district in the northeast of England that had been held by the Labour Party since its creation in 1974. With Labour managing to hold onto power in the Welsh assembly, the three nations of Great Britain continued to be dominated by different parties.

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