UK

Nicola Sturgeon Speech Today: UK Would 'Shatter' Without Scottish Referendum Mandate

No more 'partnership of equals'.

18/03/2017 11:24 GMT | Updated 18/03/2017 17:52 GMT

Nicola Sturgeon has laid out how she believes Theresa May’s refusal to hold a second Scottish independence referendum will “shatter beyond repair” the UK’s constitutional structure.

The First Minister said she will press on with plans to hold a new vote and revealed in a speech to the SNP Spring Conference on Saturday that she expects to get approval from the devolved parliament next Wednesday.

A vote would need to be signed off by London to be legally binding. Sturgeon is seeking to do so once the terms for Brexit are clear but before Britain leaves the EU. 

Sturgeon used her speech to urge people across the UK to move to Scotland to avoid May’s ‘appalling’ Brexit.

Russell Cheyne / Reuters
Sturgeon on stage at the SNP Spring conference on Friday

Yet Prime Minister Theresa May has told Sturgeon that “now is not the time” for a new vote on independence.

But ignoring Scotland’s democratic wish would send the United Kingdom as a constitutional structure into crisis, Sturgeon will say according to a text of a speech on Saturday, reported by Reuters.

“To stand in defiance of [Scottish parliamentary authorisation] would be for the Prime Minister to shatter beyond repair any notion of the UK as a respectful partnership of equals,” she will tell her Scottish National Party conference.

Rebecca Naden / Reuters
Theresa May has told Sturgeon 'now is not the time' for an independence referendum

May, immersed in the huge complexities of Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, could yet change her mind, Sturgeon said.

“She has time to think again and I hope she does. If her concern is timing then ― within reason ― I am happy to have that discussion,” Sturgeon will say.

Last June’s vote to leave the EU has altered the political landscape and shaken the ties of the United Kingdom’s four nations. England, the UK’s most populous nation, and Wales voted to leave while the Scots and the Northern Irish wanted to keep their EU membership.

While Sturgeon, who leads the devolved government, told Scottish television on Friday that she still has “options” if May refuses to acknowledge her mandate, she was unwilling to say what those options were.

There has been talk by delegates at the conference of the possibility of a consultative referendum, that is, a poll not authorised by the British parliament which is sovereign on issues regarding the constitution.

“This is a step by step process. If we send an envelope to May and she returns it unopened, then we have the UK government not talking to the Scottish government,” said a senior SNP source. “That is a constitutional crisis, or something very close to it,” the source said.

Scottish voters rejected independence in 2014 by a 10 percentage point margin. But Sturgeon was elected last year on a manifesto which included the possibility of a new independence vote if there were a material change in circumstances “such as Scotland being taken out of the EU against our will.”

“We can still decide which path we take,” Sturgeon will tell the conference. “Whatever our different opinions on independence, we can all unite around this simple principle: Scotland’s future must be Scotland’s choice.”