24/01/2021 14:00 GMT | Updated 25/01/2021 08:21 GMT

Scottish Independence: Could There Be Another Referendum?

Nicola Sturgeon to seek "legal referendum" if SNP wins Holyrood election, regardless of whether Boris Johnson agrees.

SNP leader Nicola Sturgeon 

Scotland will hold a referendum on Scottish independence if the SNP wins the Holyrood elections, regardless of whether Boris Johnson agrees to a new vote. 

First minister Nicola Sturgeon told the BBC on Sunday she would first seek a “legal referendum” if, as the polls predict, her party is re-elected with a majority in May.

But an 11-point plan set out by the party last week says that, should Westminster refuse to back a second vote, an SNP-led Scottish Government would hold an advisory referendum. 

The prime minister and the Scottish Conservatives, who are the SNP’s main opposition in Edinburgh, say there should be a 40-year gap between the 2014 referendum and any other. 

Asked by BBC presenter Andrew Marr on Sunday whether the SNP planned a “home-made Scottish referendum”, Sturgeon said: “I want to have a legal referendum, that’s what I’m going to seek the authority of the Scottish people for in May. 

“And if they give me that authority that’s what I intend to do.”

As it stands, the Scottish Government requires a section 30 order under the Scotland Act, which transfers the power for an independence referendum to Edinburgh. 

The 11-point plan document, set to go before party officials this month, says that “there could be no moral or democratic justification for denying that request” and that if the UK government did so it would be “unsustainable”.

It goes on to say that an SNP-led administration would pass a bill allowing a “legal referendum” to take place after the pandemic, and will “vigorously oppose” any legal challenge in the courts. 

Sturgeon also used an interview with Marr on Sunday to accuse Boris Johnson of being “frightened of democracy”. 

Referring to polls showing a consistent increase in support for independence, she said: “It’s Robert Burns’ birthday tomorrow, our annual Burns Day.

“And when I hear Boris Johnson talk about this I bring to mind a Burns poem: ‘Cowerin’ timorous beastie, what a panic’s in thy breastie’.

“He’s frightened of democracy.” 

It comes as a poll commissioned by the Sunday Times found voters across the UK believe Scotland is likely to become independent within the next decade. 

North of the border, the poll found 49% backed independence compared to 44% against – a margin of 52% to 48% if the undecideds are excluded.

The battle for power in Holyrood, therefore, looks set to be a heavily contested affair. 

Scottish Labour is picking a new leader from candidates Anas Sarwar and Monica Lennon to succeed Richard Leonard. 

Sturgeon, meanwhile, is embroiled in claims she misled the Scottish Parliament over an investigation into her predecessor Alex Salmond. 

Scottish Conservatives leader Douglas Ross has said his party is doing slightly better in some opinion polls than it was at the same point before the 2016 elections.

He told Times Radio: “Of course the SNP went into that election with a majority and came out of it having lost their majority, because the Scottish Conservatives more than doubled their seats from 15 to 31.

“So absolutely everything’s to play for in the run-up to the elections this year.”

He was asked about the SNP’s “roadmap to a referendum” on independence, he refused to be drawn on any second vote and said: “Why don’t we have an 11-point plan to protect jobs in Scotland?

“Why don’t we have an 11-point plan to ensure businesses get the support they need?

“Why don’t we have an 11-point plan to rebuild our education system in Scotland?”

He added: “This is where the focus should be in Scotland right now, not fighting another independence referendum.”